Start your festivities off on the right foot
RECIPES AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY SYLVIA FOUNTAINE
Nothing gets a party started quite like food. When feeding a crowd, simple is usually best, yet sometimes too simple can end up boring and uninspired. Here are four go-to recipes that deliver a high-impact result with relatively little fuss — perfect for this busy holiday season. Whether you’re hosting a party or packing food for a gathering, these flavorful appetizers are sure to bring warmth to the holiday spirit.
Roasted Fig and Cambozola Bruschetta
This very simple appetizer only requires four ingredients, yet when it comes together, pure magic happens. Figs love to be paired with both salty and sweet, and blue-veined ambozola cheese, together with honey, is a perfect combination. Toast the bruschetta ahead, then right before serving, quickly assemble and warm. The aroma that wafts from the oven will make your guests melt. If bringing this with you to a party, warm it up right before leaving your house, platter, and wrap with foil for easy travel.
1 small baguette, sliced into 16–18 pieces, about 1/2-inch thick
1/4 cup olive oil for brushing
4–6 ounces cambozola cheese, sliced 1/8–1/4-inch thick
8 ripe figs, cut in half lengthwise
honey for drizzling
fresh cracked pepper, to taste
toasted nuts or balsamic reduction (optional garnish)
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Place the baguette slices on a sheet pan and brush both sides with olive oil. Bake in the oven until toasted and crisp, about 15–20 minutes. You can do this up to 2 days ahead.
When you are ready to serve, place the baguette pieces on a sheet pan and top each with a thin slice of cambozola cheese.
Place half of a fig, cut side up, on top of the cheese.
Drizzle the figs with a little honey and sprinkle with cracked pepper.
Bake or broil in a 400°F oven until cheese is melty, about 8–10 minutes.
Top with optional garnishes.
Place on a platter and serve.
Moroccan Lamb Meatballs with Pomegranate Glaze
These flavorful lamb meatballs are infused with fresh mint and earthy Moroccan spices, then topped with the most beautiful, tangy pomegranate sauce. Make these ahead and warm in the oven before serving.
1 shallot, very finely chopped
1 pound ground lamb
4 large garlic cloves, minced or crushed through a press
3/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped, tender stems OK
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4–1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs (gluten-free is OK)
1 tablespoon olive oil for searing
1 small shallot, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
pinch salt and pepper
Garnish: pomegranate seeds, fresh herbs (cilantro, parsley, or mint), or optional toasted pine nuts
Place all meatball ingredients, except olive oil, in a medium bowl and, using hands, combine well, adding enough breadcrumbs to make the mixture easy to roll into balls.
Using wet hands, roll into ping-pong-sized balls (about 2 inches in diameter) and set aside. You should have 12–16 meatballs.
Preheat oven to 350°F
Start the glaze. In a small sauce pan or pot, sauté the shallot in a drizzle of olive oil, over medium heat, for 2–3 minutes, until fragrant and tender. Add pomegranate juice, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, allspice, and salt and pepper
Bring to a simmer, turn heat to medium, then gently simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until it reduces to 1/2 cup. Turn heat off.
While the glaze is reducing, cook the meat balls.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Working in batches (don’t overcrowd), sear the meatballs on most sides. Place in an oven-proof dish, and place in the oven to cook through, 20 to 30 minutes. Pour glaze over top and keep warm until ready to serve, or refrigerate and reheat. Right before serving, sprinkle with fresh pomegranate seeds, herbs, and optional pine nuts.
This brightly hued, roasted red pepper dip hails from Syria, and its signature ingredient is sweet and tangy pomegranate molasses. Toasted walnuts and bread crumbs give the flavorful dip delicious texture and earthiness, while Aleppo chili flakes add heat. Make this ahead, and right before serving, top with crushed walnuts, parsley leaves, a drizzle of olive oil, and fresh pomegranate seeds.
3 large red bell peppers, roasted and peeled (or use from a jar)
1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves, picked
1 fat clove garlic
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo chili flakes (or regular chili flakes), more to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons honey, more to taste
1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
Garnish: olive oil, crushed walnuts, pomegranate seeds, Italian parsley leaves
Serve with warm pita bread
If using canned roasted peppers, rinse and pat dry well. Place all ingredients except the walnuts and bread crumbs into a food processor, and pulse repeatedly until combined, but not too smooth.
Add walnuts and bread crumbs, and pulse until combined, but again, not too smooth.
Taste and adjust salt, honey, and chili flakes to your liking.
At this point, you can refrigerate, covered, up to 2 days.
Right before serving, place in a medium bowl. With the back of a spoon, make a circular well in the dip and drizzle with olive oil. Top with more crushed walnuts, fresh pomegranate seeds and a few parsley leaves.
Mini Potatoes with Smoked Salmon, Chive Cream, and Salmon Roe
A staple at holiday gatherings, smoked salmon gets a bit of a makeover here with the addition of mini potatoes and salmon roe.
As fancy as this appetizer may look, it’s very simple to make.
10 small new-crop potatoes 1 1/2–2 inches long
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, warmed
1/4 cup sour cream
zest from one small lemon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 cup fresh chives, minced
1/8 cup fresh dill, minced
4–6 ounces smoked salmon (lox), in thin slices
4 tablespoons salmon roe or caviar (optional)
chives for garnish
Cut potatoes in half lengthwise and place in a medium pot of salted water. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until just fork tender, about 15 minutes, being careful to not overcook. Rinse in cold water, pat dry, and place on a plate in the fridge to continue cooling.
In a medium bowl, whisk warmed cream cheese with a fork until smooth. Add sour cream, zest, salt, and herbs. Stir until combined.
Using a small spoon, place a dollop of the herbed cream cheese mixture carefully in the center of each potato. Top with a piece of lox folded over a couple times, again in the center of the potato. (Centering the chive cream and lox should keep the potatoes upright and will help prevent them from falling over.)
At this point, you can refrigerate them on a platter and wrap in foil to transport. Right before serving, add a tiny dollop of salmon roe (optional) and chives.
Sylvia Fountaine, author of Feasting at Home Blog, is a Pacific Northwest chef, recipe developer, and food photographer. Find more of her work at feastingathome.com.