Saturday, March 20, 2010

"V" is for Vegetarian Appetizers

When entertaining I always suggest you begin with lighter dishes and move to heavier ones. Nowadays people are apt to enjoy vegetarian dishes in an attempt to cut back on animal fat. Meat can also be expensive, especially if you're incorporating it into many dishes throughout a meal.

I enjoy preparing an array of vegetarian appetizers. You are sure to please most guests and keep costs relatively low. It's also pleasurable to buy fresh vegetables at the local farmer's market, thus adding a seasonal approach and a level of quality and sophistication to the evening.

About a week ago I attended a fund raising, women-only event for one of my best friends, Terri Catlin. The profits from the evening were to fund her upcoming trip to the WOMEN'S INTERNATIONAL FILM & ARTS FESTIVAL in Miami where Terri's short film would be celebrated. The Dirty Truth is about a 1940s detective duo and how they discover that their new case may be more than they bargained for. When a domestic dispute turns out to be a matter of global proportions, Vic & Vera find themselves out of their league.

Back to vegetarian appetizers...

We chose four appetizers from my latest cookbook entitled Orgasmic Appetizers and Matching Wines -- Tiny Bites with the MOAN FACTOR.

We paired one wine style each with four appetizers. However, when entertaining, the key is to do the opposite -- choose three to five appetizers that partner with one wine.

Dining became with a sheep's milk feta dip incorporating olive oil, fresh oregano, black olives and artichokes. The tangy and bitter taste sensations in this dip called for a bone dry (brut) sparkling wine offering similar characteristics.
This dip is very easy to prepare. Lay out 2 pieces of tin foil in a "cross" formation. Drizzle the tin foil with quality olive oil. Add a handfull of chopped black olives (from a jar), artichoke hearts (from a can) and about a half cup of fresh oregano. Pull a large piece of sheep's milk feta from its way and lay it on top of the other ingredients. Wrap the cheese tightly in the tin foil and refrigerate for a couple of hours, allowing the flavours to meld.

About 45 minutes before guests arrive, place the tin foiled cheese in the over at 350 F. Upon guests arriving, open a bottle of brut sparkling wine or Champagne. Pull the cheese from the over. Open the tin foil and convert the cheese into a bowl. I like to slice a French baguette and fry the slices in oil in a fry pan. Serve the fried bread with the feta dip.

We also enjoyed sweet potato and curried latkes with a dollop of apple sauce. Another easy and inexpensive and tasty appetizer. The sweetness from the sweet potato and apple sauce and heat and spice from the curry demand a white wine with sweetness to match. The key is to ensure that the wine is sweeter than the potato and apple. An off dry Riesling with a sugar code of 2 will serve as ideal.

Our farmer's market features a mushroom vendor who supplies the most fabulous variety of fungi! The great thing about mushrooms is that they are high in the fifth taste sensation of umami. This makes them compatible with every style of red wine.

Wild mushroom and three cheese bruschetta complemented its accompanying red wine, an Ontario Shiraz.

We also enjoyed a Shitake Mushroom and Cashew Pate with an Ontario Merlot Reserve.

Spring is on the horizon and there are many Ontario grown fruits and vegetables available at this time of year, such as apricots, beets, carrots, mushrooms, onions, cabbage, etc.

All of these ingredients can be highlighted in appetizers. How about substituting the apple sauce for spicy apricot chutney on the sweet potato latkes? Or prepare a curried carrot and apple soup served in small portions inside cappuccino cups? Caramelized onions can be the centre piece of flat bread topped with brie or blue cheese and paired with Pinot Noir.

When considering ideas for appetizers think fresh and local vegetables. By doing so you can feature your meat in the entree -- perhaps Roasted Rack of Lamb with Spring Succotash and Wilted Spinach. Be sure to pair this lamb dish with a South African Cabernet Sauvignon.

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