Six Simple Summer Tapas
Blue Cheese & Quince Paste Beet Bites Marinated Olives Baba Ganoush w/tomatoes Cucumbers w/Dill Grilled Artisan Bread
I hadn't tried a round of tapas before, but I am increasingly a believer of less is more. If I can get a serious bang for my buck---very little time, very few ingredients, very big results---then I am the first in line. Each appetizer is just a few simple ingredients with little to no preparation required. By the way, just one or two of these appetizers is all you need to start a great meal!
My neighbor was over the other day and I served her a wedge of blue cheese with a dabble of quince paste. Alone or with crackers, this easy ensemble is big results for little effort. (A bold red wine smooths the edges of this robust starter). I noted how easy it was to put two ingredients on a plate; an effortless way to impress guests on the front end of a dinner party. With a muffled laugh, she said people would think she was so gourmet to serve blue cheese with quince. Brilliant---let's toast to that!
I was at dinner for the first time at Harvest Vine, an impressive and oft-written up restaurant in Madison Park (Seattle). Two food experiences came home with me and are now a part of my kitchen: the first is the Blue Cheese & Quince Paste. For the record, I bought the quince paste from Whole Foods. It was in the cheese deli, and it comes as a loaf of quince paste, they cut slices off like you would slice bread. Because I find the paste to be firm and a bit granular, I opt to mix equal parts quince paste with equal parts grapeseed oil. Then, the quince becomes a smooth gel, and better compliments the soft yet pungeant cheese.
Blue Cheese & Quince Paste 1 T grape seed oil 1 T quince paste 2 oz. slice of blue cheese
Feel free to double or triple quantities. Mix oil and paste with back of fork. Place on plate with cheese.The second, and happy surprise was the small square of beets placed in front of us as we took our table:Beet Bites 2 Beets, yellow and/or red Good olive oil Kosher/coarse salt
Scrub beets, cut off stem and tail ends. Steam for 15 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove skins by hand or with peeler (See top photo of two yellow beets). Cut beets in shape of rectangular box, slice long way into 1/3" slices. Place toothpick in short end, place beets on plate and drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt on top. (Optional: sprinkle fresh herbs like thyme, oregano or marjoram).
Cantelope w/Prosciutto Cantelope Prosciutto Toothpicks
Cut cantelope in half, remove seeds and core. Slice off rind and cut into small bites. Tear 2-3 slices prosciutto into 4 x 1 inch lengths. Wrap around cantelope, secure with toothpicks and serve.
Cucumbers w/Dill Cucumbers Fresh dill Course salt Olive oil
Wash cucumbers, slice half or more of skin off with peeler (I usually leave on some green for show). Cut in half lengthwise if it is a large cucumber, scooping out seeds along length with spoon. If small, slice round disks for serving. Place on plate, cut fresh dill on top with scissors, drizzle with oil , salt and serve. My niece calls these "cukes."
Olives Buy mixed olives from store: place on plate.
Baba Ganoush You could substitute hummus; I bought Baba Ganoush from the store (Whole Foods). It is eggplant with tahini, olive oil, lemon and salt. I placed it in a bowl, drizzled it with olive oil and served with a bowl of cherry tomatoes and cucumber moons/slices. It was also tasty with the grilled bread.
Grilled Artisan Bread Good bread Olive oil Mixed herbs Salt Optional: garlic
Slice bread, half slices. Place olive oil, mixed herbs (use dry or fresh combo of your choice, no herbs is fine too) on plate. Rub both sides of bread in oil, skewer, sprinkle with salt and grill. Optional: add fresh minced garlice to olive oil in plate.