New Year's Eve is the night for all hors d'oeuvre lovers to come to the aid of their party. Rise up, supporters of sushi and tapas and dim sum; gather together your toast points and join forces. This is not the night to be burdened by big food or overflowing plate. Do you want to be stuck at some table when the new millennium arrives? No, you want to be on your feet, with a drink in one hand and the other hand free to nibble. This is an occasion for small bites.
Here are some recipes that incorporate the food we are happily taking with us into 2000.
Roasted Vegetable Crostini
(Makes about 32 crostini)
This simple recipe will please vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.
Do-ahead note: The vegetables can be roasted hours ahead of time. The vegetable mixture should be slightly warm when served; simply reheat, if necessary, covered, in a 350-degree oven. Toast the bread slices 1 or 2 hours in advance.
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded*
1/2 pound carrots
1/2 pound zucchini, preferably small
1/2 pound white mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, or more to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1 loaf French bread, preferably a thin crusty baguette, cut into 1/4-inch slices
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the peppers, carrots, zucchini and mushrooms into 1/4- to 1/2-inch dice.
In a large bowl, combine the diced vegetables with the thyme, oregano, salt and pepper to taste and oil. Toss to thoroughly coat the vegetables with the herbs and oil.
Transfer the mixture to a rimmed baking pan, spreading the vegetables in an even layer. Roast the vegetables in the preheated oven just until they begin to brown and are cooked through, 35 to 40 minutes.
While the vegetables are roasting, toast the bread slices just until golden. Set aside.
Top each bread slice with a generous tablespoon of the vegetable mixture. Serve immediately.
* Note: To roast a bell pepper, place it on a piece of aluminum foil under the broiler, about 4 inches away from the flame. Let the pepper become charred on one side, then rotate it so a new side is exposed. Continue in this fashion until most of the skin is charred. Place the charred pepper in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 15 minutes. Then remove the charred skin; it will slip right off. Remove and discard the core and the seeds, and dice the remaining flesh.
Per crostini: 57 calories, 1 gm protein, 8 gm carbohydrates, 2 fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 87 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber
(Makes about 32 skewers)
The hardest thing about this simple recipe is threading the chicken onto the skewers. It helps to think of the chicken strips as lengths of ribbon. The hoisin sauce is so flavorful that there is no need to serve a dipping sauce on the side.
Do-ahead note: The skewers can be assembled 1 hour before cooking. Refrigerate until ready to broil or grill.
32 thin bamboo or wooden skewers
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into long strips, about 1 inch wide and no more than 1/4 inch thick
1 cup hoisin sauce
Soak the skewers in water for at least 30 minutes before using.
Preheat the broiler or grill. If using the broiler, place the oven rack just a few inches below the heat.
Lay the chicken slices onto a clean surface or baking sheet. Brush both sides of the chicken with the hoisin sauce.
Thread 1 chicken strip onto each skewer so the chicken strip lies almost flat. Repeat with the remaining skewers and chicken until done.
Broil or grill the skewers, turning once, until cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Serve immediately.
Per skewer: 35 calories, 5 gm protein, 2 gm carbohydrates, trace fat, 12 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 100 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber
(Makes 32 small sandwiches)
Here's a way to make a little caviar go a long way. Even better, the sandwiches use the relatively affordable salmon (also known as red) caviar. The large fish eggs are sprinkled over a simple egg salad. As you bite into the sandwich, the caviar bursts with an explosion of flavor.
Do-ahead note: The egg salad can be prepared a day in advance. Assemble the sandwiches as close to serving time as possible.
8 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
3 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
Pinch of salt
White pepper to taste
16 slices firm white sandwich bread
3 ounces salmon (red) caviar
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the eggs, sour cream, mayonnaise and salt and pepper to taste. Pulse until the eggs are chopped and the mixture combined. Do not over-process; the mixture should retain some texture and should not be a paste.
Lay out 8 of the bread slices. Divide the egg mixture evenly among the slices, spreading it neatly over the bread. Sprinkle the caviar over each of the egg-topped bread slices. Top each sandwich with one of the remaining 8 bread slices. Working with one sandwich at a time, trim the crusts and cut each sandwich into quarters. Repeat with the remaining sandwiches. Serve immediately.
Per sandwich: 68 calories, 3 gm protein, 6 gm carbohydrates, 4 gm fat, 70 mg cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 136 mg sodium, 0 gm dietary fiber
Tapas of Garlic Shrimp
With Serrano Ham
(Makes 6 small servings)
This is my version of a classic tapas dish, and a favorite of garlic lovers. For those less enchanted with garlic, you can reduce its impact by adding a bit of parsley. Usually, this recipe calls for tiny shrimp, but in American supermarkets baby shrimp are usually sold frozen and precooked and I just don't like the way they taste. I use medium shrimp and give them a short salting to restore their fresh taste, a tip that I picked up from Susanna Foo in "Chinese Cuisine" (Chapters, 1995).
Serrano is a Spanish version of dry-cured ham. It has a sweet mild flavor and can now be purchased in many specialty markets. Prosciutto di Parma is a good substitute.
Do-ahead note: The shrimp can be peeled, deveined, salted, rinsed and refrigerated until ready to cook. Chop the garlic and slice the ham.
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt as needed
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 pound very thinly sliced Serrano ham or prosciutto di Parma, cut into 1/4-inch strips
Place the shrimp in a colander. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Set aside for 15 minutes. Rinse the salt off with cold water; pat the shrimp dry.
In a large saute pan over medium-low heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic has softened and is just about to turn golden, about 4 minutes. Add the shrimp, increase the heat to medium-high and saute until the shrimp are just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes.
Divide the shrimp and the garlic-oil mixture among the serving plates. Top each portion with ham strips. Serve immediately.
Per serving: 113 calories, 8 gm protein, 1 gm carbohydrates, 9 gm fat, 7 mg cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 390 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber
Golden Carrot Risotto Fritters
(Makes about 60 fritters)
These fritters are delicious but, admittedly, somewhat difficult to make. First, a risotto must be prepared that is creamy but not soupy. Then, the chilled mixture is spooned out, coated with a bread crumb and cheese mixture and formed into small patties. The fragile patties are transferred to hot oil and cooked until well browned.
Why go to all this trouble? The finished fritters are a melt-in-your-mouth cheesy indulgence.
Do-ahead note: The risotto must be prepared in advance and chilled.
About 4 cups chicken stock or broth
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 pound carrots, coarsely grated or finely diced
1 cup Arborio rice (may substitute any medium-grain rice)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese (may substitute any Parmesan cheese)
Peanut or canola oil for frying
2 cups dried bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the chicken stock or broth just until it simmers. Reduce the heat to low and continue to heat.
Meanwhile, in a 3- to 4-quart pot over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and carrots and cook until the onion softens, about 6 minutes. Stir in the rice and salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Add 1 cup of the hot chicken broth to the rice mixture and stir until the broth is almost completely absorbed. Add additional broth in 1/2-cup increments and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the broth is absorbed before adding another 1/2 cup stock or broth. After 3 cups of stock or broth have been added, taste to see if the risotto is almost done. The rice will be just slightly firm to the bite and the rice mixture will look creamy. Continue adding broth as necessary.
When the rice seems almost done, add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until fully absorbed.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan. Transfer to a shallow dish and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
When ready to make the fritters, in a large, shallow, straight-sided pan, heat about 1 inch of the peanut or canola oil. The oil is ready when a cube of bread dropped into the oil sizzles and starts to brown. Have ready a baking sheet or plate lined with paper towels.
While the oil is heating, combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan in a shallow dish.
Stir the egg into the cold risotto.
Have 2 spoons ready. Using one of the spoons, scoop up a generous tablespoon of the risotto mixture. Using the other spoon, slightly flatten the scoop. Drop the patty into the bread crumb mixture and turn to coat. If necessary, use your hands to re-form the patty. Using a spatula, slide the patty into the hot oil. Repeat until the pan is full but not crowded. Let the risotto fritters cook until the side in the oil is well browned. Using the spatula, loosen the bottom of the fritters from the pan, if necessary, and turn; cook the fritters until the second side is brown. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Serve immediately.
Per fritter: 48 calories, 1 gm protein, 4 gm carbohydrates, 3 gm fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 46 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber
Five-Spice Grilled-Pork Egg Rolls
(Makes about 32 mini egg rolls)
Banish all memories of dry egg rolls stuffed with tiny pieces of red-tinted pork and lots of cabbage. These rolls are a spicy mixture of grilled pork and still-crunchy vegetables. Be careful: They are addictive.
Prepackaged egg roll wrappers are a bit too large for these egg rolls, so trim them into 5-inch squares. I prefer to deep-fry egg rolls because it is easy to keep a large amount of oil at a constant temperature, but if you prefer you can shallow-fry them in just a little oil.
Do-ahead note: The filling can be made a day in advance. The rolls can be assembled 1 hour ahead of time. The rolls can be fried and reheated, but, like most things, they taste best served right after cooking.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound boneless pork cutlets (about 1/4-inch thick), trimmed of all visible fat
About 3 tablespoons peanut or canola oil, plus additional for frying
About 20 snow peas
1 carrot, coarsely grated or julienned
1/2 pound napa cabbage, shredded
2 teaspoons Asian (dark) sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder*
32 egg roll wrappers, trimmed into 5-inch squares
Preheat a grill pan or grill.
Lightly salt and pepper the pork cutlets and then brush them with some of the peanut oil. Grill the cutlets until cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove from the heat; set aside to cool slightly. Cut the pork into strips no larger than 1 inch long and 1/4 inch wide and place in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the snow peas and cook until the pods turn bright green, 2 to 3 minutes. Immediately drain the snow peas and rinse with cold water or transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Pat the snow peas dry and cut them into very thin slices, no more than 1 inch long. Add the snow peas to the pork slices.
In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the peanut oil. Add the carrot, cabbage, sesame oil and five-spice powder. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage wilts, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the vegetable mixture to the pork and snow peas; combine thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Have a small bowl of cold water ready. Working with 1 wrapper at a time, place the wrapper on a clean surface so it is positioned like a diamond. Place about 1 tablespoon of the pork-cabbage filling about 1 inch above the lowest point of the diamond. Fold that point over the filling. Fold the points on both sides in over the filling. The egg roll should now look like the back of an open envelope. Dip a finger or a pastry brush into the water and moisten the edges of the upper, exposed, point. Roll the egg roll tightly, finishing with the sealed side down. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.
While the egg rolls are being assembled, heat about 4 inches of peanut oil in a deep pot. The oil is ready when a small piece of an egg roll wrapper added to the oil begins to sizzle immediately. Have ready a baking sheet or plate lined with paper towels.
Add the egg rolls to the oil in batches, being careful not to crowd the pot. Cook until the egg rolls are golden brown on all sides. Transfer to baking sheets or plates lined with paper towels to drain. Cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.
* Note: Five-spice powder is a frequently used ingredient in Chinese cooking. It is available in Asian markets, specialty stores, many supermarkets and online at www.penzeys.com.
Per egg roll: 86 calories, 5 gm protein, 5 gm carbohydrates, 5 gm fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 73 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber