What We’re Cooking Now: Pre Theater Snacks

We had some friends stop in the other night for a quick glass prior to us all going to the theater.  Knowing how we are, that meant a few snacks had to be created to go with our wine. Nothing too fussy, just some quick bites that went well with the wine.  I knew we would be opening a few whites, starting with an Inama Soave and possibly a Miner Chardonnay. I love a Soave!  Beautifully rich white wine from the Veneto region of Italy that is maybe a cross between a Pinot Grigio and a Chardonnay.  We had a dinner party the night before where we made a sundried tomato risotto and being the constant saver I had kept the left over risotto, though I knew it was impossible to reheat in its present form, but I knew I could do something with it.  I had a mixture of raw nuts that I wanted to jazz up, a brick of aged Gouda and the makings for what I thought might be a tasty tapenade.  Boom…quick appetizers created.  Though it is always easier to just open some prepared hummus, chop a few carrots, and heat a pita or two, sometimes it is nice to create a few special appetizers for your friends to show you love them.

Sun Dried Tomato Risotto Balls with Basil Pesto Aioli
Like I said, we had already prepared risotto from the night before.  I will have the recipe up soon, or just make your favorite risotto from scratch or a package.  I have done these a few times and it helps if you are making it that day to let the risotto cook a little longer than you normally would to get as much liquid out as possible, otherwise the balls fall apart when frying. 

Ingredients –
Makes about 20 risotto balls about the size of a large cotton ball.
2 cups cooked and cooled sundried tomato risotto
1 ½ cups flour in a small bowl
2 large eggs
2 cups Panko breadcrumbs in a small bowl
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups vegetable oil for frying
½ cup Basil Pesto (see recipe here) or use your favorite prepared
1/3 cup low fat mayonnaise
1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon black pepper or more to taste
Sea salt – season to taste (some prepared pestos can be salty so season to your taste)

Preparation –
Be prepared to get a bit messy.  With a spoon or small ice cream scoop scoop out and form  20 risotto balls on to a wax paper lined baking sheet.  Lightly roll each ball in the flour, just enough to help the egg wash stick.  Whisk the two eggs together in a small bowl with a bit of water to make an egg wash.  Season the Panko breadcrumbs with the Italian seasoning and pepper.  Roll each ball in the egg wash and then the Panko and place back on the wax paper.  After all balls are completed place in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to firm up.  In the mean time whisk together the pesto, mayo, lemon juice and season to taste.  I like an aioli that is bright and not too dense, slowly add the lemon juice in to create the consistency you like. After 20 minutes bring your oil to a boil and fry your risotto balls until they are golden brown, turning once (about 3-5 minutes) and drain on paper towels.  Season with sea salt immediately while they are still nice and hot.  And don’t over crowd the pan, make sure they have room to do their thing.  Serve with the aioli. 

Roasted Spiced Mixed Nuts
This will make enough for a few cocktail hours. 
Ingredients –
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup raw pecans
1 cup roasted cashews
1 cup raw walnuts
4 egg whites
Salt, Pepper, Cayenne, Cinnamon, Cumin, Coriander, Smoked Paprika, Sugar, Red Pepper Flakes

Preparation –
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl combine a medium palm full of all the spices except the sugar, where I would suggest 2 good palm fulls, and the red pepper flakes and Cayenne – do these to your taste.  I like it spicy, so I usually put a good dose of both, but don’t overdo it.  Mix together.  Whisk the egg whites together with a little water making an egg wash.  Add to the spices.  Add in the nuts and stir to cover all the nuts.  Lay out on a baking dish covered with parchment paper.  Bake for about 30 minutes until the nuts are golden and the mixture has almost formed a brittle.  Remove and let cool.  Once cooled break the nuts apart into individual bites.  Serve in a pretty bowl.

Black Olive and Anchovy Tapenade
I had a small tub of Kalamata olives in the fridge that were lovely on their own, but I love tapenade so here goes. 
Ingredients –
1 cup Kalamata olives
1 tablespoon anchovy paste – I keep tubes of anchovy paste in the fridge for occasions like these or for dressing.  Whole anchovies can work also but these are so convenient. 
2 tablespoons capers
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced garlic
teaspoon minced shallot
¼ cup Olive Oil
1 teaspoon pepper
Salt to taste – don’t salt until after you have blended everything.  The anchovies, capers and olives can be salty so don’t over do….

Preparation –
In a food processor blend the above ingredients together until you have almost a paste consistency, but still has some texture. Season if necessary and serve with a baguette on a cheese plate. 

Snacks are served…..


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