Gabriella
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Mama’s Kitchen: Holiday Dinner Appetizers


prosecco cocktail

Since either my mom or my husband’s mom hosts Thanksgiving I never had the chance to make a Thanksgiving meal – until last year. I started an annual tradition called “Friendsgiving” where I host a meal the weekend before Thanksgiving for all of my friends since we are usually with our respective families on the actual holiday. We had a great time last year and this year was even better. I made some adjustments based on last year’s dinner and even accepted some help – that says a lot from a control freak like me!

I didn’t want to serve the same thing as last year but there’s only so much leeway for a traditional Thanksgiving meal so I kept the main course the same (for the most part) and switched up my starters. I made citrus and fennel marinated Castelvetrano olives and two savory tarts (mushroom and zucchini) all accompanied with a Pomegranate Prosecco cocktail. These starters were a hit and were gone within minutes of putting them out for guests. The great thing about these is that they are super easy to make and are great for any holiday gathering from Thanksgiving to Christmas to anything in between.

citrus and fennel marinated olives

Citrus & Fennel Marinated Olives
Inspired by the olives at Cane Rosso SF and recipe adapted from Warm Marinated Olives from Fine Cooking

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fennel seeds
Zest of 1 orange in strips
Zest of 1 lemon in strips
2 cups Castelvetrano olives

Heat the oil, fennel seeds and citrus zest in a small pan over medium-low heat for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place the olives into a bowl, add the olive oil mixture and toss to coat. Let it cool, then cover and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, for at least 2 days and up to 1 week. Take out of the refrigerator twenty minutes before serving. Right before serving toss the olives and grate some fresh orange and lemon zest over the olives. Make sure you have a bowl out for pits.

zucchini savory tart

Savory Zucchini Tart

I posted this zucchini tart recipe once before and loved it. I’m reposting it for you below:

Adapted from Zucchini Tart with Lemon Thyme and Goat Cheese by Fine Cooking

Ingredients

1 sheet of puff pastry, defrosted
1-1/2 lb. zucchini, trimmed and sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
8 oz. Boursin cheese (I used garlic & herb flavor), brought to room temperature so it’s easy to spread

Unfold the puff pastry and roll out a little bit.

In a colander, toss the zucchini with 2 tsp. salt and drain for 30 minutes. Gently squeeze the slices with your hands to release excess water and transfer to a medium bowl.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Toss the zucchini with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil and pepper to taste. Spread the cheese over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Arrange the squash rounds in tightly overlapping concentric circles all the way to the edge of the dough. (The rounds will shrink as they cook.) Drizzle with 1 Tbs. olive oil and bake until the zucchini is golden-brown, 40 to 50 minutes.

mushroom savory tart

Savory Mushroom Tart

I loved the zucchini tart above that I decided to try something similar with mushrooms. I followed the same basic recipe as the zucchini tart and I found another recipe to make the mushrooms. This was very popular with the guests.

Adapted from Zucchini Tart with Lemon Thyme and Goat Cheese by Fine Cooking and Savory Mushroom Tart from Fine Cooking

2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 lb. crimini mushrooms clean, trimmed, and thinly sliced
2 Tbs. finely chopped shallots
1 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry white wine (something you would drink)
1 sheet of puff pastry, defrosted
8 oz. Boursin cheese (I used garlic & herb flavor), brought to room temperature so it’s easy to spread

In a pan, heat the butter and olive oil over high heat. When the butter is foaming, add the shallots and mushrooms, and stir. When lightly browned add the salt, pepper and thyme and cook for another minute. Add the wine and cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Set the mushrooms aside.

Unfold the puff pastry and roll out a little bit.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Spread the cheese over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Arrange the mushrooms over the cheese and bake until the puff pastry is golden-brown, 15 to 25 minutes.

pomegranate prosecco cocktail

Pomegranate Prosecco Cocktail
Adapted from Pomegranate and Cranberry Bellinis by Giada de Laurentis and Sparkling Pomegranate Cocktail from Fine Cooking
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar

2 750ml bottles of Prosecco (since it’s for a cocktail use something under $10), chilled
1 160z bottle of Pom (I used Pomegranate Cranberry flavor to tie in the cranberry flavors of the dinner), chilled
2 limes, thinly sliced
1 pomegranate – seed only

Combine the water and sugar in a sauce pan and bring to a boil over high heat until the sugar is dissolved. After boiling for one minute, set aside, let cool and refrigerate for later use.

Right before serving add the Prosecco, simple syrup and Pom juice into a punch bowl. Garnish with lime slices and pomegranate seeds. Save some pomegranate seeds to garnish each glass too. Serve immediately. Salute!
roasted butternut squash soup
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

For the first course I made a roasted butternut squash soup but I broke two rules…(1) I tried a new recipe for the first time for guests; and (2) I had never tried the recipe from that source before. The recipe for the soup came from a blog that was cited on the Fine Cooking blog so I thought it would be ok. Also, I’ve cooked enough that I could look at an ingredient list and guess that something will be tasty. I will admit I was not the biggest fan of this soup. It was way too thick and had too much of a smokey flavor from roasting the leeks for my taste. Recalling how in My Big Fat Greek Wedding the mom “fixed” the Bundt cake by adding a flower pot to the center, I “fixed” my soup by watering it down with apple juice which served two purposes – it liquified the soup and added a bit of sweetness which I felt it needed. I will probably not make this soup again but I’m showing you a pic because it did look pretty and the guests all liked it.

Stay tuned for the rest of the recipes tomorrow.

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