hors d'oeuvre

Matbucha

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Spring has sprung and for me, that means more salad.

So I got to thinking about that word salad, which I realize means so many things that I was never able to fit all of my salad recipes into a file folder simply marked “salad.” I had to sub-categorize them into files such as “grain salads,” “tomato salads,” “fruit salads” and so on.

Over the years I’ve made salads of all sorts. Some based mostly on greens and some that had no greens at all.

I’ve made beet salads, dinner salads, fish salads and quinoa salads.

I could go on. But really, there is no one way to describe “salad,” even though a dictionary might say something like “a mixture or raw and cooked vegetables served with dressing.”

No.

Because recently I prepared some Matbucha, which is in an entirely different salad category.

Matbucha is a “salade cuit” — that is, “cooked salad.” In fact the word Matbucha, is an Arabic word that means “cooked salad".”

Cooked salad may seem odd to Western thinking except for the fact that most of us actually eat lots of cooked salads, such as potato salad and egg salad too. We just don’t think of them as “cooked salads,” but that’s what they are.

Matbucha is a Moroccan dish, especially popular in the Moroccan Jewish community, which was once large and thriving in North Africa. When good numbers of Moroccan Jews migrated to Israel, they brought their love of this dish with them and it is now wildly popular in Israel too.

For good reason: Matbucha is vibrantly tasty, easy to cook and is ideal for Shabbat because, even though it’s cooked, you can serve it at room temperature. Use it as a salad course or as a side dish with dinner. I’ve always served it with hors d’oeuvre, as a topping for crackers or pita wedges (it works well with other Middle Eastern nibbles and dips such as hummus, raheb, baba ghanoush and so on).

You can make Matbucha 3-4 days ahead. That’s handy isn’t it?

Matbucha

  • 2 large red bell peppers

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 serrano pepper, deseeded and chopped

  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 6 medium tomatoes peeled and finely chopped

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons paprika

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

Preheat the broiler. Place the peppers under the broiler, about 4-6" away from the heat, and broil for 2-3 minutes, until the skin has blistered. Turn the peppers and repeat this process until the entire surface is blistered and lightly charred. Remove the peppers and place them in a paper bag. Let rest at least 10 minutes. Remove the peppers from the bag, peel off the skin and discard the stem and the seeds. Cut the peppers into pieces. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the peppers, serrano pepper and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, paprika, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook for 30-35 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thick.

 Makes 1-1/2 to 2 cups

 

Tzatziki

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In my last post I mentioned that my New Year’s get-together is an all-day, all-hors d’oeuvre event. A dairy fest and, several hours later, a meat-fest followed, several hours later by dessert.

Some of the tidbits I serve are homemade, some not, some fancy, others plain, some elaborate, some easy.

This one is amazingly easy and you can to make it ahead, in fact, you have to make it ahead. It’s refreshing, looks pretty and fits in perfectly with some of the other stuff I’m thinking of serving: Herbed Feta Cheese with Sundried Tomatoes and Olives, Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Rollups, Herb and Cheese Gougeres (Choux Puffs), Fresh Tomato Puff Pastry Pizzas.

Happy New Year everyone.

Tzatziki (Cacik)

  • 3 cups thick, Greek style non-fat yogurt

  • 3 medium cucumbers

  • 1 large clove garlic, minced

  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoons olive oil

Place a double layer of cheesecloth in a strainer. Spoon the yogurt into the lined strainer and set it over a bowl. Let rest in the refrigerator for 4 hours. Place the yogurt in a bowl (discard the liquid that has accumulated in the bowl). Peel the cucumbers and cut them in half lengthwise. Scoop and discard the seeds. Grate the cucumber in a food processor or by hand. Strain the cucumber through a sieve, pressing down to extract as much liquid as possible. When the yogurt is ready, stir in the cucumbers, garlic, mint, dill, salt, lemon juice and olive oil.  Stir to blend all the ingredients thoroughly. 

Makes about 4 cups, serving 10-12 people.

 

Beet Tarte Tatin

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Every New Year’s Eve my brother and sister-in-law come over for the day, my cousins sleep over for a couple of days. We start our celebration early with a round of drinks and hors d’oeuvre. A few hours later we have another round of drinks and hors d’oeuvre.

No dinner.

We have dessert much later, near midnight. The anticipation of something sweet helps keep us up so we can watch the ball drop and then go to bed.

Some of the hors d’oeuvre I serve are fancy, some plain; some homemade, some from a package (like the Spring Valley or Hebrew National franks-in-blankets that everyone loves).

A while ago I read a blog post about Beet tarte tatins and was inspired to make some because they looked and sounded so appealing. I made up my own recipe, tried it a few times and decided that they would be perfect as one of the fancies at this year’s New Year get-together.

I wrote down whose blog it was, so I could credit her with the inspiration, but I can’t find the paper and forgot the name.

But — to that wonderfully creative person who alerted me to beet tarte tatin —- thank you.

Here’s my recipe.

Beet Tarte Tatins

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 large beet (8-10 ounces)

  • 2 small chopped shallots or 1/3 cup chopped red onion

  • 1 teaspoon Mirin (rice vinegar)

  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon crushed, dried rosemary (or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary)

  • salt to taste

  • 1/2 pound puff pastry

  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use a small amount of the olive oil to brush the insides of 6 muffin tins. Peel the beet and cut it into thin slices, then cut the slice to make them small enough to fit inside the muffin tins. Place the cut beet slices in a bowl. Add the shallots and toss the ingredients. In another small bowl, whisk together the remaining olive oil, Mirin and brown sugar and pour the dressing over the beet mixture. Sprinkle with the rosemary and salt and spoon equal amounts of the beet mixture inside the muffin tins. Cover the filled tins with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the tin from the oven. Raise the oven heat to 400 degrees. Cut out 6 circles from the puff pastry to cover the top of the muffin tins. Place over the beets. Bake for another 20 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden brown. Carefully spoon each beet mixture from the bottom and turn it over onto a dish so that the pastry is at the bottom. Spoon any remaining beets that do not come up and place them on the tarte tatins. Garnish with the orange peel and serve (may be served hot or at room temperature).

Makes 6

An Egg Roll Like No Other

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A few weeks ago I attended a dinner at Six Thirteen, a local kosher restaurant in Stamford, CT. It was a fabulous multi-course offering served as a "pop up" with the fabulous Dini Schuman Klein of "Dini Delivers" doing the cooking.

Dini is a personal chef, a caterer, food demonstrator, blogger.

Yes, she does it all. She's an energetic young woman whose enthusiasm as well as her food ---- delivers!

The entire meal was wonderful. But two courses stand out as memorable. One was a chicken dish that my friend Liz Arronson Rueven will be blogging about.

The other was an egg roll like you've never had egg roll.

With avocado and cumin. Herb marinated mahi-mahi. Pineapple Salsa. Jalapeno peppers.

That kind of egg roll.

Oh my.

I could have eaten 4 of them, but I was trying to be polite and besides I was at a table with several other people, including Liz and her husband as well as Rabbi Yehuda Kantor and Dina Kantor, so I didn't want to appear gluttonous.

But I did ask Dini if she would give me the recipe.

And so she did.

And so, here it is. It's an ambitious recipe, to be sure. But so, so delicious!

Herb Marinated Mahi Mahi-Avocado Eggroll Served with Papaya Salsa, Chili Lime Sace, and Jalapeño Chimichurri

Marinade:

  • 1 large bunch parsley
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 4 medium fillets mahi mahi (24 oz), thinly sliced in 1-inch thick strips

Papaya Salsa:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 papaya peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • salt to taste

Chili Lime Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup sriracha
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 8 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder

Jalapeño Chimichurri:

  • 2 jalapenos
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  •  salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

To assemble Eggroll:

  • 10 eggroll wrappers
  • 1 avocado sliced
  • pickled onions (optional)
  • canola oil for frying

Directions:

Combine all marinade ingredients in saucepan and bring to simmer. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Add fish and let marinate for 1 hour. 

Meanwhile prepare the sauces:

Papaya Salsa: Saute the onion and garlic in oil in a small pot. Add in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes until thickened and all the flavors have mixed together. Use an immersion blender to create a slightly smoother salsa. Let chill until ready to serve.

Chili Lime Sauce: Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. 

Jalapeño Chimichurri: Using a food processor, puree all ingredients until well blended. Transfer to a bowl and cover. 

To assemble the eggrolls:

Lay out an egg roll skin with a corner pointed toward you. Place 1/4 cup fish (straining off as much marinade as possible), 2 slices of avocado in the center, and a tablespoon of pickled onions (if using). Sprinkle the avocado with a touch of salt. Fold the corner closest to you over the filling. Fold left and right corners toward the center and continue to roll. Wet the top corner with a drop of water to help seal the egg roll. Continue rolling egg rolls until you've made 10. Place in the oil and fry until golden brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and let cool on a rack or paper towel lined plate. Serve immediately with all three sauces. 

Makes 10

Celebrate! with Sun-dried Tomato Dip

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A colleague of mine, Elizabeth Kurtz, who blogs at GourmetKosherCooking, has written a beautiful cookbook.

"Celebrate" celebrates not only good food and the beauty of Shabbat, but also benefits an organization called Emunah, a social service agency that helps families in physical or emotional distress -- at-risk teens, lonely seniors, young children who may have been neglected or abandoned. And much more. 

The book is filled with interesting recipes. Like the Everything Bagel Chicken, which I made for dinner last weekend. You know that bagel topping that has poppy seeds and sesame seeds and garlic and all? That's a really good coating for boneless chicken breasts!

I also loved the Butternut Squash Soup with Curry and Sweet Apples, a comforting dish on cold winter days.

There's lots to love here, including the luscious photos.

But my cooking mind is turning to Superbowl this week, so I looked for a recipe that I could bring to my brother and sister-in-law's annual party. I picked the Sun-Dried Tomato Dip -- it's easy to make, you can cook it a couple of days ahead, serve it with crudites or crackers. Elizabeth says it's also wonderful as a spread for challah (I liked it with warm pita) and even as a topping for chicken or salmon (I think it would be terrific, mixed with some mayo, on a burger). I made this for my New Year's Eve get-together and everyone gave it a thumbs up! (I used vegetable stock, not pareve chicken broth).

Whether it's a day of rest, a day together with friends and football, a birthday or anything else, it's always good to celebrate with good food. Like this:

Sun-Dried Tomato Dip (from "Celebrate" by Elizabeth Kurtz)

  • 1 (8-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained and chopped, 1 tablespoon oil reserved
  • 1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup pareve chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

 

Heat reserved sun-dried tomato oil in a large skillet over medium. Add tomatoes, onion, and garlic; cook 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently until onion is soft and beginning to brown at the edges.

Add water, broth, vinegar, wine, sugar, thyme, salt, and pepper to skillet; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook 30 minutes. Uncover and continue simmering another 5 to 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated and mixture is the consistency of jam.

 With an immersion blender or food processor, puree until blended but still a little chunky.

Serve warm or at room temperature with pita chips or vegetable crudite. Store refrigerated in a clean glass jar (the one from the sun-dried tomatoes works great!) if not using immediately. It will keep 2 weeks.

Makes 1-1/2 cups

 

Savory Herb and Cheese Sufganiyot

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I've always been more of an hors d'oeuvre person than a dessert person. So, given the choice (if I HAD to choose) of franks-in-blankets or potato puffs versus chocolate cake, it would definitely be the franks-and-potatoes for me.

This does not mean I am immune to dessert and during Hanukkah I do love to get my fill of sufganiyot, especially the tiny fried choux puffs that I make with a bit of sugar and lemon. And also a jelly doughnut or two. Or three.

But, I am who I am, so this year I decided to make savory sufganiyot.

Can that really be a thing?

Anyway, it went over bigtime at my house. I had thought about serving them with a bourbon before dinner, but it got late and we were hungry so we actually ate these as a side dish with some roasted salmon and broccoli. 

Either way, for cocktails or with dinner.

We polished these off.

 

Herb and Cheese SufganIYot

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mixed herbs, or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • vegetable oil for frying

Place the water and butter in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, add the flour and salt all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is well blended and begins to come away from the sides of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Mix in the herbs and cheese. 

Heat about 1-1/2-inches of vegetable oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough to make a tiny piece of dough sizzle, drop mounded teaspoons-worth of dough into the pan, cooking about 8 at a time. Move the puffs around using a wooden spoon, for about a minute or until the bottoms are golden brown. Turn the puffs over. Cook another half minute or until golden brown. Lift the puffs out with a large frying basket or other tool onto paper towels. Repeat with the rest of the puffs. When all the puffs have been fried, refry all of them for about one to 1-1/2 minutes, moving them around in the pan with a wooden spoon (alternately, you can fry the puffs, lift them out for 15-20 seconds and put them back in the pan for the second fry, then repeat with the rest).

 Makes about 60

 

 

The Birthday Dinner Dilemma

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It's my daughter Gillian's birthday today. A round numbered one. And she asked if, instead of going out to dinner at some fancy shmancy joint to celebrate, whether I would make a special dinner at home.

Of course!

With the fancy shmancy china and silverware and different size wine glasses for different wines for different courses.

Of course!

So, okay, I have the china and silverware and wine glasses. All I have to do there is make sure I have candles for the candlesticks, iron the napkins, fill the salt cellars, set the table and so on. Ed will take care of the wine.

It's all good.

BUT WHAT SHOULD I COOK?

Something new and glamorous? Fancy shmancy?

Or old favorites like Pearly Meatballs? Fried Chicken Wings? Sticky Spicy Chicken Wings? with pre-dinner cocktails.

Should I make a soup? Like Beet Soup with Orange and Mint (even the name sounds fancy doesn't it?).

For the main course I'm thinking maybe lamb. Everyone in the family eats that. But she really does like turkey. Unfortunately turkey is not the universal family favorite, so maybe no? Plus -- Gillian is our family carver, so could I really ask her to do all that slicing and deboning for her birthday dinner?

Another dilemma is that Gillian is not such a big dessert person. Or at least what people consider the usual kinds of dessert. This dessert thing would be easy if the birthday person was my son-in-law Greg. He likes chocolate cake.

Ed would always welcome chef Raymond Oliver's Normandy Ice Cream (coffee with Grand Marnier).

For me, birthday dessert is always apple pie

We are celebrating in a few weeks, so I have some time to finalize the menu plus make sure I buy those candles. 

If anyone has suggestions -- I am all ears.

In the meantime, should I also make some candy? Like chocolate dipped dried fruit?

Chocolate Dipped Dried Fruit

  • 2-1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 ounce unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons orange-flavored brandy or rum
  • 50 pieces (approximately) dried fruit such as crystallized ginger, apricot halves, candied orange peel (about 6 ounces)

Melt the semisweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate and butter in the top part of a double boiler over barely simmering water. Let the ingredients melt, remove the top part of the pan from the heat, pour in the brandy and stir to make a smooth, uniform mixture. Dip each piece of fruit in the chocolate mixture, shake off the excess and place on waxed paper or parchment paper to dry.

Makes approximately 50 pieces

Quickie Hors D'oeuvre

Warmer weather means more company. At least at our house. Whether it’s Passover or Memorial Day or just a nice, sunny afternoon or balmy evening, there’s more entertaining to do.

And that means more food. Including hors d’oeuvre. Quickies. The kind you can make when you weren’t even expecting company. The kind you can whip up with a few household staples.

Like Temp Tee Whipped Cream cheese, which you can mix with all sorts of ingredients to create almost instant spreads and dips for crudites, chips, crackers, matzo. Whatever. 

I confess that Temp Tee hooked up with JoyofKosher.com and several food bloggers, asking us to create recipes using their product. It was amazingly easy for me to do though because I had been a fan for ages. I recently mentioned it in a post about when my mom “discovered” this product, and gave recipes for Inside Out Strawberries Romanoff and Baked Stuffed Potatoes.

For hors d’oeuvre it couldn’t be easier. Here’s how: place some of the cream cheese in a food processor (blender, hand mixer and bowl), add some flavoring ingredients and mix away until the spread is more or less uniform. To make a spread into a dip, mix in dairy sour cream or plain yogurt until it becomes the consistency you need.

Most of the time I use smoked or cooked salmon as the primary flavoring ingredient. (btw, you can buy the MUCH cheaper smoked salmon pieces that some stores sell rather than the expensive, hand sliced slices). But any smoked fish will do: trout, mackerel, bluefish. Because the smokey taste and the cream cheese richness are perfect together.

I always add some sort of onion: scallion, shallot, cooked leeks, red onion, plus citrus juice to give the spread a fresh zip of taste.

The other ingredients? You really don’t need any, but I always have horseradish or mustard in the house and frequently have dill or parsley in the fridge, so I add some for extra flavor. Or use freshly ground black pepper or a chili pepper.

It all works so well. You taste a little, add an ingredient, taste again and you make the spread the way you want it.

You don’t actually need fish. Deli items will do too: olives, marinated artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, capers, pickles, and so on.

Same process: place the cream cheese plus deli item(s) in the food processor, add something oniony plus citrus juice and whirl away.

And there you have it.

Make entertaining easy on yourself with these recipes for Smoked Salmon and Dill Spread and Herbed Cheese Spread. You can use either spread as is or stuff into hollowed out vegetables like cherry or grape tomatoes, cucumber rounds, zucchini and so on.

Rumaki

Would you believe this is kosher? 
 I mean — looks like bacon doesn’t it? 
 But it’s Facon. Fake bacon. A new product from  Jack’s Gourmet . It’s made with beef. It is salty, smoky and with just the right amount of fat to give it a rich, smooth feel. 
 I used it to make these Rumaki, which I served at my Academy Awards get-together. I can tell you this: some of my guests were not kosher, not Jewish. Everyone ate these and raved about them. 
 When people come to my house for dinner they know they’re usually going to get some experiment (or two or three) and are always wondering when it will come in the meal. But they didn’t think this was it and when I told them what this stuff was the y were all flabbergasted  .  
 So here’s the recipe: 
 Rumaki 

  1/2 pound chicken livers  
  1/4 cup soy sauce  
  2 tablespoons molasses  
  2 tablespoons honey  
  2 tablespoons water  
  1 tablespoon vegetable oil  
  2 tablespoons crumbled crystallized ginger  
  1 clove garlic, finely chopped  
  1/2 star anise (or use 1/4 teaspoon anise extract)  
  1/2 pound Facon  
     
  Cut the chicken livers into bite-sized pieces. Combine the soy sauce, molasses, honey, water, vegetable oil, ginger, garlic and anise in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Add the livers and poach them for 5 minutes. Preheat a grill or broiler. Remove the liver pieces with a slotted spoon and let cool. Cut the Facon slices into smaller pieces that are large enough to wrap around each piece of poached liver. Secure each Facon-wrapped liver with a toothpick. Broil or grill the rumaki for several minutes, turning occasionally, until the Facon is browned and crispy. Makes 18-20 pieces

Would you believe this is kosher?

I mean — looks like bacon doesn’t it?

But it’s Facon. Fake bacon. A new product from Jack’s Gourmet. It’s made with beef. It is salty, smoky and with just the right amount of fat to give it a rich, smooth feel.

I used it to make these Rumaki, which I served at my Academy Awards get-together. I can tell you this: some of my guests were not kosher, not Jewish. Everyone ate these and raved about them.

When people come to my house for dinner they know they’re usually going to get some experiment (or two or three) and are always wondering when it will come in the meal. But they didn’t think this was it and when I told them what this stuff was they were all flabbergasted.

So here’s the recipe:

Rumaki

1/2 pound chicken livers

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons molasses

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 tablespoons crumbled crystallized ginger

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1/2 star anise (or use 1/4 teaspoon anise extract)

1/2 pound Facon

 

Cut the chicken livers into bite-sized pieces. Combine the soy sauce, molasses, honey, water, vegetable oil, ginger, garlic and anise in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Add the livers and poach them for 5 minutes. Preheat a grill or broiler. Remove the liver pieces with a slotted spoon and let cool. Cut the Facon slices into smaller pieces that are large enough to wrap around each piece of poached liver. Secure each Facon-wrapped liver with a toothpick. Broil or grill the rumaki for several minutes, turning occasionally, until the Facon is browned and crispy. Makes 18-20 pieces

Blue Cheese and Almond Stuffed Dates

Here’s a quickie hors d’oeuvre you can make if you’re having people over the watch the Superbowl. I’m actually bringing some to my brother Jeff’s house. He and Eileen always are the Superbowl hosts and we usually don’t eat real dinner until much later than we get there, so we need some nibbles for the pre-game show and the pre-pre-game stuff. 
 These take about 5 minutes to make and best of all, you can eat them as is or heat them in a 375 degree oven until they’re hot. 

 Blue Cheese and Almond Stuffed Dates 

 24 large dates, preferably Medjool 
 1/2 cup blue veined cheese  
 1/4 cup chopped smoked almonds 
 3 tablespoons brandy 

 Slit the dates open lengthwise and remove the pits. Combine the cheese, almonds and brandy in a small bowl and mix to blend them. Use equal portions of the cheese mixture to stuff the insides of the dates. Eat as is OR, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the stuffed dates on a cookie sheet and bake for 2-3 minutes or until just hot. Can be prepared ahead up to the point of heating. Makes 24

Here’s a quickie hors d’oeuvre you can make if you’re having people over the watch the Superbowl. I’m actually bringing some to my brother Jeff’s house. He and Eileen always are the Superbowl hosts and we usually don’t eat real dinner until much later than we get there, so we need some nibbles for the pre-game show and the pre-pre-game stuff.

These take about 5 minutes to make and best of all, you can eat them as is or heat them in a 375 degree oven until they’re hot.

Blue Cheese and Almond Stuffed Dates

24 large dates, preferably Medjool

1/2 cup blue veined cheese 

1/4 cup chopped smoked almonds

3 tablespoons brandy

Slit the dates open lengthwise and remove the pits. Combine the cheese, almonds and brandy in a small bowl and mix to blend them. Use equal portions of the cheese mixture to stuff the insides of the dates. Eat as is OR, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the stuffed dates on a cookie sheet and bake for 2-3 minutes or until just hot. Can be prepared ahead up to the point of heating. Makes 24