Sunday, December 13, 2009

"H" is for Holiday Appetizer

When it comes to entertaining family and friends over the holiday season, it’s sometimes difficult to choose between the idea of creating extravagant appetizers that are sure to WOW the crowd or appetizers that are fast, simple and inexpensive. Obviously, it depends on one’s budget and time.

Being a food and wine lover, I have often gone for exotic and extravagant with the intention of impressing my guests. But, on a few occasions the results did not meet my expectations, especially when I attempted a new recipe for the first time. There’s always that chance of failing to create the masterpiece that is celebrated in the cookbook.
Also, I’ve learned that, beyond my wine and food companions, many family members and friends do not like exotic tasting foods.

An old adage claims that, “If you listen to your mother, you’ll never go wrong.” This is certainly true for me in almost all areas of my life, but especially when it comes to cooking. Some of my mom’s most incredible tasting dishes are brilliantly simple and come from the darndest places – like the sides of butter containers and cereal boxes.

She tries out a recipe herself, and if it’s good, she’ll then serve it to the family. If family members enjoy the recipe, it is dubbed “worthy” and then is placed into her crafted, homemade cookbook. My mom will then serve the dish to friends and at family gatherings for years to come, knowing well that the results are predictable and that the majority of guests will love it.

Here’s a deliciously simple and inexpensive appetizer from my mother’s cookbook. (Note: she did not CREATE this recipe herself. In fact, if you recognize the dish, no doubt you also noticed it on the side of some container.)

Cold, Veggie Pizza
Two packs of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
One cup of mayonnaise
One envelope of original ranch dressing (dry)
One package of cream cheese
Three stalks of fresh broccoli, chop into small pieces
One head of cauliflower, chop into small pieces
Four carrots, chop into small pieces
One small box fresh mushrooms, chop into small pieces
Cheddar cheese (to taste)

Spread crescent rolls over jelly role pan. Press together seams to seal into one whole crust. Bake at 350 F for ten minutes. Let cool. Mix together mayonnaise, dry ranch seasoning, cream cheese and chopped vegetables. Spread mixture over crust. Sprinkle with desired amount of cheddar cheese. To serve, cut pizza into desired size squares.

This simple and tasty appetizer is a crowd pleaser. It requires a brut (bone dry) bubbly or crisp, dry white wine that complements the tanginess of cream cheese without overpowering the delicate taste of fresh vegetables. Sauvignon Blanc, with its inherent refreshing citrus and grassy character is ideal. Dry Riesling or Pinot Blanc will also do the trick.

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