April 20, 2018
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Tasty bites of this and that for winter gatherings

Jessica J. Trevino, Detroit Free Press | MCT
Jessica J. Trevino, Detroit Free Press | MCT
Pasilla marinated flank steak (from left), bacon-wrapped shrimp, ham and cheese mini quiche, yakitori chicken, crab-stuffed mushroom caps, and herbed cheese crostini with smoked salmon (center) can all help make a winter gathering tasty.
By Susan M. Selasky, Detroit Free Press

Let your appetizers shine this winter. Who can resist incredible little edibles to swallow in a bite?

Any way you look at it, says Jim Bologna, executive chef at the Townsend Hotel in Detroit, serving appetizers allows you to have a more free-flowing party. “A sit-down dinner is a bit more formal. With appetizers, all you want to do is sit back and enjoy your guests.”

So let’s gather and nosh!

It’s time to celebrate with the annual selection of fast and fabulous appetizers. This year, we’re featuring six easy and pleasing appetizers that go together with a few steps or minimal prep work. Turn inside for the scoop on three dips with three serving suggestions. And there you have it, 12 options to delight your guests.

Pasilla-marinated flank steak skewers

Makes: 16 / Preparation time: 45 minutes / Total time: 1 hour

You can do this recipe in several stages and make it in advance because you can serve it hot or at room temperature. Figure about 1 ounce of meat per skewer. Any dried chili will work for this recipe.

For skewers:

6-inch skewers, about 16 or more as needed

1 flank or flat-iron steak, at least 1 pound

For marinade:

12 garlic cloves, peeled

½ cup vegetable oil

6 (about 2 ounces total) dried pasilla chilies, stemmed, seeded and torn into flat pieces

1 cup hot water (reserved from chilies)

2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon cumin

1 cup honey

6 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

For serving:

Pasilla Sauce (recipe below)

Soak skewers in water for 10 minutes before threading the meat.

Slice steak against the grain into ¼- to ½-inch-thick slices. (Freezing the steak for about 20 minutes first will make this easier.)

Weave one piece of meat (about 1 ounce portion) onto each skewer. Place the skewers, meat end down, into a small bowl. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a pan over medium heat, roast the garlic in the oil until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Spread chili pieces on a sheet pan and toast in a 350-degree oven for two minutes. Or toast in a skillet over medium heat on the stove until just fragrant.

Place chili pieces in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Soak about five to 10 minutes or until soft. Remove chilies and reserve the water for the marinade.

In a blender, combine the roasted garlic and oil with all the remaining marinade ingredients; blend until smooth.

Pour all but ½ cup of the marinade over the meat and allow to marinate while your grill heats up. Grill the steak skewers on high, about two to three minutes per side.

Make the pasilla sauce while the meat marinates. Combine the reserved ½ cup pasilla marinade, ⅔ cup water and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir well, serve on the side or drizzled over the skewers.

From Jim Bologna, executive chef at the Townsend Hotel, Birmingham.

Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. Analysis per 1 skewer with pasilla sauce.

131 calories (42 percent from fat), 6 grams fat (1 grams sat. fat), 11 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams protein, 167 mg sodium, 16 mg cholesterol, 1 grams fiber.

Bacon-wrapped shrimp with tangy mustard sauce

Makes: about 20 / Preparation time: 30 minutes / Total time: 45 minutes

For mustard dipping sauce

½ cup reduced-fat mayonnaise

3 tablespoons Dijon or spicy brown mustard

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

Salt and black pepper to taste

For shrimp

Wooden cocktail picks at least 3 inches long

Vegetable oil cooking spray

1 pound extra-large shrimp (about 20-25 count per pound), peeled and cleaned; tails intact

Zest and juice of 1 lime

2 teaspoons chili powder

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil

10 to 15 slices applewood smoked (or favorite) bacon, halved crosswise

In a small bowl, stir together all the sauce ingredients. Cover and chill at least one hour. Before serving, let sauce rest at room temperature 20 minutes so flavors meld.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Soak cocktail picks in water 30 minutes. Line a baking sheet with foil and coat with nonstick spray. Set aside.

Put shrimp, lime zest and juice, chili powder, salt, pepper and oil in a bowl. Toss gently. Cover and refrigerate at least 15 minutes and up to one hour. Remove picks from water. Wrap each shrimp with half a slice of bacon and secure with a pick. Put skewers on prepared baking sheet and bake about 15 minutes, turning skewers about halfway through.

Turn on the broiler and broil five minutes. Remove from the oven. Serve with dipping sauce.

Adapted from “On a Stick” by Matt Armendariz ($16.95, Quirk Books). Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. Analysis includes dipping sauce.

70 calories (52 percent from fat), 4 grams fat (1 gram sat. fat), 2 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams protein, 254 mg sodium, 40 mg cholesterol, 0 grams fiber.

Crostini with smoked salmon and herbed cheese spread

Serves: 20 / Preparation time: 15 minutes / Total time: 30 minutes

You can easily double this recipe. To make the bread easier to slice, place it in the freezer for 20 minutes.

1 small baguette (8 ounces), cut into 20 slices about ¼-inch thick

¼ cup olive oil

1 large clove garlic, cut in half

¾ cup herbed cheese spread such as Rondele

8 to 12 ounces lox-style smoked salmon, thinly sliced dill for garnishing Preheat the broiler.

Arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet. Brush each slice with olive oil. Broil about five minutes, watching carefully, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and rub each slice with the cut side of the garlic.

When slices are cool, spread each with about 2 teaspoons of the cheese spread and top with a slice of salmon. Garnish with a small piece of dill.

From and tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

101 calories (64 percent from fat), 7 grams fat (3 grams sat. fat), 6 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 293 mg sodium, 12 mg cholesterol, 0 grams fiber.

Miniham and cheese quiches

Makes: about 30 / Preparation time: 15 minutes / Total time: 45 minutes

2 ready-to-roll refrigerated pie crusts

½ cup shredded Italian cheese blend

⅓ cup finely chopped sweet red pepper

½ cup finely chopped peppered or smoked cooked ham

2 thinly sliced green onions or 2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon Italian seasoning, crushed

⅛ teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper

3 eggs, slightly beaten

½ cup low-fat or fat-free half-and-half, light cream or milk

Fresh herb sprigs, such as basil, oregano or thyme, optional

Follow package directions for bringing pie crusts to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack set in the lower third of the oven.

Cut each pie crust into 12 circles, 2-3 inches in diameter. Reroll the scraps of crust if needed to make more. Press pie crust circles into the bottom and up the sides of minimuffin cups. The top edge should come about ¼-inch past the edge of the cup. Flute the edge if you like.

In a medium bowl, combine Italian cheese blend, red pepper, ham, green onions, flour, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Divide mixture evenly among pastry shells.

In the same bowl, beat together eggs and half-and-half. Pour egg mixture over filling mixture in each pastry shell. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until filling is set. Remove and arrange on a platter garnished with herb sprigs.

Adapted from bhg.com.

Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

77 calories (59 percent from fat), 5 grams fat (2 grams sat. fat), 5 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 111 mg sodium, 28 mg cholesterol, 0 grams fiber.


Makes: about 24 small skewers/ Preparation time: 20 minutes / Total time: 40 minutes

You can substitute a good teriyaki sauce for the sauce in this recipe.

2 chicken breasts (about 1½ pounds total)

2 medium leeks (white and pale parts only)

Small skewers soaked in water (or suitable heavy-duty toothpicks)

Marinade and basting sauce

¼ cup sugar

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons sake

3 tablespoons mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine)

½ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds, optional

Cut chicken breasts into bite-size pieces. Freeze the chicken for 20 minutes so it’s easier to slice. Cut the leeks into 1-inch lengths. (You can substitute sliced green onions for the leeks.) Skewer the chicken and leek pieces in alternating order. Place in a baking pan.

Mix sugar, sesame oil, sake, mirin and soy sauce in a bowl. Set aside half of the sauce. Pour the rest over the skewered chicken and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the broiler on high. Place the skewered chicken on a baking sheet and brush with some of the reserved sauce. Broil about 10 minutes (depending on the size of the skewers), and brush with more sauce about halfway through.

Remove from the broiler. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

Adapted from “On a Stick” by Matt Armendariz ($16.95, Quirk Books).

Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

70 calories (41 percent from fat), 3 grams fat (1 gram sat. fat), 3 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams protein, 196 mg sodium, 18 mg cholesterol, 0 grams fiber.

Crab-stuffed mushrooms

Makes: about 24 / Preparation time: 25 minutes / Total time: 45 minutes

24 white or cremini mushrooms, at least 2 inches in diameter

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 ounces special or lump-style crab meat

½ cup reduced-fat cream cheese

⅓ cup finely diced red pepper

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

½ cup green onions, chopped

⅓ cup Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons reduced sodium Old Bay (or favorite) seasoning

½ cup whole-wheat saltine crumbs (or bread crumbs)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Wipe the mushrooms clean and remove and discard the stems. Hollow out the mushroom caps, removing some of the gills so you have a cavity that will hold the crab mixture. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Working in batches, add the mushrooms, top sides down, to the skillet and saute about four minutes. Turn them over and saute another three minutes, just until the mushrooms release their juices.

Remove the mushrooms and place on a baking sheet.

In a medium bowl, combine the crab meat, cream cheese, red pepper, parsley, green onions, Parmesan and seasoning.

Stuff the mushroom caps with the mixture and top with saltine or bread crumbs. Lightly spray the tops with nonstick spray. Bake about 20 minutes, or until the filling is hot and melted.

Adapted from foodnetwork.com.

Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

43 calories (45 percent from fat), 2 grams fat (1 gram sat. fat), 2 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 92 mg sodium, 11 mg cholesterol, 0 grams fiber.


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