Perhaps you already know that I love appetizers. And even if that little known fact happens to be within the scope of your knowledge, please allow me to reiterate – I LOVE APPETIZERS. Love to make them, love to eat them, love serving them; love everything about each perfect little morsel of delectability! Even the word “appetizer” is delicious because it implies that there are more yummy dishes to follow. (Food fanatic, not me!)
So when I was planning an appetizer for our recent dinner club get-together, I decided to group several of my favorite before dinner munchies together in the form of a Mediterranean “antipasto” plate. And boy did I have fun. I went on a pantry and refrigerator raid and found all kinds of scrumptious items to add to the platter. The only item I didn’t have was a small bunch of grapes. But with all the other munchies, I thought it would be fine without that one item. But next time, when I actually plan ahead, I definitely will include grapes. Grapes would have fulfilled that juicy component I felt was missing from the total “Mediterranean” experience.
Now granted, when you serve a platter like this one, you don’t have to go nuts like I did. Even three items would make a lovely before dinner treat. I just happen to like to fuss in the kitchen. (And yes I do know there are some out there not quite as crazy as I am.) But you don’t have to make your own hummus and feta spreads or pita bread. But I had the time, the energy, and it was for our cooking club and guests (no pressure there). So I wanted everything to be perfect. Besides I knew that I would be grilling the main course – Cedar Planked Salmon and Grilled Marinated Prawns (both recipes are on site already) so my intimidation level was already on red alert. To date, grilling has definitely not been my forte. Jim, Ken, and Paul (the other men along with Mr. C. in our cooking club) are all grill masters, so when grilling for them I always feel less than adequate. But I should have known better than too worry. Ken and Paul did all the grilling, and bless them for that. (Jim would have been helping too, but he and Margo were off cruising the waters of Puget Sound. And Mr. C. was too busy playing mixologist and sommelier to even know the grill was fired up!)
So next time you have a gathering, assemble a group of little bits of this and that, place them on a platter or tray, throw some lettuce around the edges, and impress your family and friends with your culinary and presentation expertise. It’s really the simple things, like a bit of garnish here and there, and a variety of taste treats that please both the eye and our taste buds. So much more appetizing and interesting than a big old bowl of dip and some potato chips. (Generally more nutritious too.) Plus, when you take the time to go those few extra steps, your family and friends will think you are the kitchen diva or divo, whichever the case may be. And really, isn’t that all we want anyway? Now, let’s see, where did I leave my tiara this time?
To assemble your platter:
- hummus (see 3 hummus recipes on blog under “Hummus a tune Mr. C.”)
- Feta Cheese Spread (see recipe below)
- green or red grapes
- kalamata olives or mixed olive medley
- Marcona almonds
- marinated artichoke hearts
- Peppadew peppers (sweet piquanté peppers grown in the Limpopo province of South Africa) or roasted red peppers cut into small strips
- dried figs, cut in half
- wedge of chèvre, room temperature
- spears of English cucumber
- carrot sticks
- celery sticks
- anything other ingredient your heart desires
- Pita Bread (see recipe below) or pita chips
- assorted crackers
FETA CHEESE SPREAD
- 4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
- 2 oz. cream cheese
- 1/3 c. sour cream
- 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
- 1 small garlic clove
- ¼ tsp. dried basil
- ¼ tsp. dried oregano
- 1/8 tsp. dried dill weed
- 1/8 tsp. dried thyme
- freshly ground black pepper (not too much)
Whirl together in blender or food processor until smooth. Refrigerate. Serve at room temperature.
- 1 1/3 c. lukewarm water
- 1 T. or 1 pkg. active dry yeast
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil + more for coating the dough
- ½ c. whole-wheat flour
- 2 c. bread flour or more as needed (or should I say – kneaded)
Place water in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the yeast, sugar, salt, and olive oil. Stir to dissolve. Place bowl in a warm (not hot) place, uncovered, until mixture is frothy and bubbling, about 15 minutes.
Add the whole wheat flour and just about all of the 2 cups of bread flour. Using your bread hook, work until the mixture has incorporated all of the flour. (Use remaining or additional flour as needed.) Work for about 5 minutes.
Round dough up in the bowl, pour a small amount of olive oil over the ball (about a teaspoon), turning dough as required to coat the entire surface. Cover with a tea towel and let rest for an hour or until doubled in bulk. Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll into balls.
Roll each ball out on a floured surface until about 1/8-inch thick. Place on a very lightly greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes. Bake in a pre-heated 500 degree oven for approximately 5 minutes or until puffed and lightly browned. Allow to cool before serving.