Category Archives: appetizers

Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers

Turkey and pie may take all the Thanksgiving glory, but I’m on a mission to nab a tiny bit of it for holiday cheese plates. You know, the stuff you snack on while you make…everything else. They’re frequently overlooked or taken for granted, which is a shame because the holiday cheese plate says something about the person who made it. Specifically, that they like cheese.

While there is nothing wrong with just putting out cheese and crackers, I’ve made it a point over these last several Thanksgivings to turn my cheese plate game up to 11. These twists, shortbreads and slumping blocks of feta aren’t difficult or overly flashy—nobody has time for that on the fourth Thursday in November!—but they sure are delicious. Here is a definitive list of your favorite cheesy food blogger’s favorite cheesy appetizers.Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers Rosemary-Parmesan Cheese Straws

These flaky homemade cheese straws are the perfect thing to serve alongside an assortment of cheeses and fresh fruit. They’re perfumed with rosemary, have a little funk from grated Parmesan, can be prepped ahead (!), and they’re absolutely gorgeous.
Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions

Baked Brie is a classic holiday party treat, and it couldn’t be simpler to make. Just wrap a wheel of brie in puff pastry and bake until golden and gooey—that’s it! This version has added sweetness and depth from caramelized onions and a smear of dijon mustard. Yum!Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers
Spicy Cheddar Shortbread

These shortbread are like Cheez-Its all glowed up. They’ve got a rich cheddar flavor with hits of spicy cayenne and black pepper, and are outrageously good. Serve them by themselves or pair with a tart apple for a bright, rich finish.Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers
Baked Feta with Sautéed Dates

I made a whole Christmas dinner for my family last year, including a porchetta, but this easy appetizer stole the show. An entire block of feta is painted with olive oil and honey before being baked until soft and slumping, then broiled to a golden finish. While Baked Feta would be delicious served on its own with water crackers, you’d be remiss to skip the sweet & savory Sautéed Dates. They’re chewy, caramelized, and get finished with a a good hit of coarse salt before being piled on the Baked Feta and fully devoured.Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers
Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil

This year’s cheese plate offering is low-brow and high-brow and completely delicious. Two sheets of flaky rough puff pastry are sandwiched together with southern pimento cheese, gently twisted into a sun shape (“soleil”) and baked until bubbly and golden. While everything else on this list works well as part of a cheese plate, this Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil *is* the cheese plate.

Have you made any of these or any of my other cheesy appetizers? What’s your favorite thing to put on a holiday cheese plate? Let me know in the comments or on social media!Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers

Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil

Hello from the recent past! I’m writing this post ahead of Election Day, so I have no idea what fresh hell is going on in this country upon publishing, nor am I going to address it. This blog has no political views of its own, but you can guess which side I’m on.Pimento Cheese Tarte SoleilI had a very difficult time deciding what to post today. The election has zapped any creative energy I had left, and just…what do I want to talk about post-Election Day? Do I go straight into pie? Thanksgiving sides? Not post a recipe and tell everyone to make one big cookie everyday until we know the actual results? Disappear without a trace for two months and re-emerge only after January 20th of next year? They all seem like good options.Pimento Cheese Tarte SoleilInstead though, I’m going with Pimento Cheese: straight-up cheesy, spicy, sweet, tangy, mayo-bound southern comfort food. While it’s normally served with crackers or celery or on a sandwich, today I’m wrapping it up in two circles of puff pastry, slicing and twisting it so it looks like the sun (“soleil”), and baking until good and flaky with multiple textures of melted cheese. Yesssss.Pimento Cheese Tarte SoleilWhile Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil sounds fancy, it’s really quite simple, as most things made with puff pastry are. As usual, I went with easy from-scratch rough puff pastry here, but the frozen stuff works too. If you’re going the rough puff route, I find it much easier to make the two sheets separately than I do to make one big one and divide it.Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil No matter which dough you use, roll your sheets out about as big as you can (mine were 12×14”) and cut out two 12-inch circles. Top one with a batch of homemade pimento cheese, then seal the edges together with a swipe of water.Pimento Cheese Tarte SoleilPimento Cheese Tarte SoleilPimento Cheese Tarte SoleilNext up, create the soleil (sun shape). Place a 2.5-3 inch cutter or vessel in the center of your pastry circles, then use a sharp chef’s knife to slice the edges into sixteen rays. Twist them up for beauty reasons, then brush the whole tarte with egg wash and bake until golden all over.Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil
When I started working on this recipe, I had some concern that I’d open the oven after 35 minutes to find pimento cheese melted and burnt everywhere, but those fears were unfounded. The pimento cheese gets bubbly on top, gooey in the center, and a little crisp on the bottom.Pimento Cheese Tarte SoleilThis tarte, y’all. This. Tarte. I love that it’s both low brow and high brow–“Pull-aparts, but make it fashion.” It’s a guaranteed showstopper, and one of those things that’s good warm or at room temperature (or cold, honestly), as most flaky, cheesy things are. I had zero trouble putting away a quarter of it after this little photoshoot.Pimento Cheese Tarte SoleilPimento Cheese Tarte SoleilI usually post something to be a part of a Thanksgiving cheese plate, but this fancy finger food? It *is* the cheese plate. No need for crackers or bread or anything else, except maybe a sliced apple and a glass of something festive. And since Thanksgiving is but once a year, know that this would also be welcome in a game day spread. Heck, you could even just make one, slice up some raw vegetables and call it dinner any old time. Basically, it’s appropriate for any pimento cheese and puff pastry-eating occasion, including eating your feelings while waiting for things to sort themselves out, which is the exact route I will be taking.Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil

Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil
makes one tarte

Rough Puff Pastry (makes 2 sheets):
2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt, divided
10 ounces (20 tablespoons) unsalted European-style butter, very cold, cut into small pieces, divided
1/2 cup water or milk, very cold, divided

Pimento Cheese:
8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 4 ounce jar pimientos or roasted red peppers
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons mayonnaise

Egg wash:
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water

If you do not wish to make the Rough Puff Pastry, you may use two sheets of frozen all-butter puff pastry that you have thawed according to package directions. Begin the recipe at “Make the pimento cheese.”

Make the first sheet of rough puff pastry. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Use a pastry blender or two forks to cut 5 ounces (10 tablespoons) butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Pour in 1/4 cup of cold water or milk and stir with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms.

Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Turn dough out onto surface, and use your hands to pat it into a rough rectangle. Roll the dough into an 8×10″ rectangle. Fold dough in thirds, and give it one quarter turn. Roll into an 8×10″ rectangle again, fold, and turn. Repeat rolling, folding, and turning until it has been done six times total. Wrap folded dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 48 hours.

Make the second sheet of rough puff pastry. Repeat the mixing, rolling, folding and chilling process with remaining 1 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 5 ounces (10 tablespoons) butter, and 1/4 cup cold water and milk.

Make the pimento cheese. Grate the cheese on the large-holed side of a box grater. Transfer to a small mixing bowl.

Drain the pimientos and blot with paper towels. Mince pimentos and transfer to the mixing bowl. Add black pepper and mayonnaise. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold it all together—it will seem dry, but should hold together.

Make the tart. Place an oven rack in the center position. Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed half-sheet pan with parchment.

Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Unfold one sheet of dough. Roll out to at least 12×14-inch rectangle, or a bit larger. Place a 12 inch round item (I used the lip of a large mixing bowl) on top. Use a thin, flexible knife to cut out a circle. Refrigerate. Repeat rolling and cutting process with the second sheet of dough.

Place one circle of dough on prepared pan. Drop spoonfuls of pimento cheese over the dough and spread to cover, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all the way around. Dab or brush some water along exposed dough, then place the second circle of dough over the top. Press edges together all the way around.

Place a light 2.5-3-inch object on the center of your tart (I used a biscuit cutter). Leaving the area covered by the object alone, use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice the pastry into quarters, then eighths, then sixteenths. Remove the round object to see that your tart looks like a sun.

Taking one “ray” (strip of dough) at a time, gently twist it a few times. Repeat with all “rays.” If the dough becomes soft or sticky at any point in the assembly process, refrigerate the entire tart for 15 minutes.

Make egg wash. Combine egg and water in a small bowl and whisk together with a fork. Use a pastry brush to paint egg wash over the entire tarte.

Bake tarte for 35-40 minutes, until completely golden. Let cool 10 minutes before carefully removing to a serving plate.

Serve immediately. This tarte is best warm or room temperature, but leftovers may be wrapped tightly with foil and stored in the refrigerator for a day or two. Reheat in the oven for best results.Pimento Cheese Tarte SoleilPimento Cheese Tarte Soleil

Baked Feta with Sautéed Dates

Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesI’ve been making Thanksgiving food since mid-October, and while that’s my idea of a good time, it’s a bit of a relief that I’m not going to be anywhere near an oven on Thursday. My family traditionally travels and makes reservations for this particular holiday, so all I have to do is pack that skirt I marked as my “Thanksgiving outfit” back in September, get on a bus to D.C., and leave the cooking to a bunch of chefs.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesWe’ve been doing this routine in different cities since 1997, so it’s second nature now. In fact, the only issue I have with my family’s Thanksgiving tradition is that I’ll have to wait til Christmas to make them this Baked Feta with Sautéed Dates.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesPoor them—they don’t know what they’re missing. I do, though, and so I am here to tell you that you absolutely, unequivocally should make this three days from now.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesI know. I know! The menu’s set. You’ve made the list. But just go ahead and add a brick of feta and some dates to the tail end. I promise it’s worth the change in plans.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesYou’ll only need five ingredients (plus something carby for serving) and fifteen minutes to put this appetizer together, and I would be utterly shocked if it lasts more than another fifteen minutes. I was alone when I made the feta and dates pictured here, and I had trouble keeping myself from eating half the brick in one go.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesBaked Feta with Sautéed DatesBaked Feta with Sautéed DatesThe feta is baked for ten minutes and broiled for a couple more. It turns soft and salty with crispy edges and corners that slump in the most pleasing way. It’s brushed with olive oil all over and honey on top before going into the oven, so it gets brown and blistered and…seriously, good luck not hoarding this all to yourself.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesIt won’t melt—feta doesn’t do that—but it will soften to the point where you can practically slice it with the edge of a cracker. Frankly, you could serve the feta by its lonesome and it’d disappear in minutes, but then you’d be denying yourself the magic of Sautéed Dates, and that’d be a real shame.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesBaked Feta with Sautéed DatesI mean, if there’s anything in the world that can stand up to the wonder that is Baked Feta, it’s these dates. They’re sautéed in olive oil for a minute or two while the cheese is in the oven, just until the edges begin to caramelize. The results are mostly sweet and a little savory—they’re great with yogurt, labneh and hummus. Here, they’re spooned over the warm feta and sprinkled with finishing salt before being scooped up with crackers or baguette or whatever and shoveled into your mouth as quickly as possible because—oh my goodness—this stuff is delicious.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesSalty, sweet, cheesy, savory, fruity, eyes-rolling-back-in-your-head good. You’re not going to want to share, but you should because…manners, I guess? But go ahead and plan to make this for every party between now and January 2nd, because if you can’t eat a brick of cheese during the holidays, when can you?!Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesHappy Thanksgiving, dear readers!Baked Feta with Sautéed Dates

Baked Feta with Sautéed Dates
dates adapted from Renee Erickson
makes about 8-10 servings

Baked Feta:
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 8-ounce brick feta cheese, blotted with paper towels
1 teaspoon honey (or maple syrup)

Sautéed Dates:
1 tablespoon olive oil
10-12 medjool dates, pits removed, sliced in half
coarse or flaky salt, for garnish

For serving:
water crackers
pita or pita chips
sliced baguette

Preheat oven to 400F.

Bake the feta. Use a pastry brush to apply 2 teaspoons olive oil to an 8-inch broiler-safe dish. Place gets brick in the center. Brush exposed feta with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Brush the top of the feta with a teaspoon of honey. Bake feta for 10 minutes or until soft and slumping. Feta will not melt.

Preheat broiler. Broil feta for 2-4 minutes, until the top is blistered.

Meanwhile, sauté dates. Heat 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add halved dates and cook, flipping once or twice, until they have all been coated in a thin layer of oil and some are beginning to caramelize (about 2 minutes). Do not burn.

Spoon sautéed dates over baked feta. Sprinkle with coarse or flaky salt. Serve warm with crackers or bread of choice.

Baked feta will firm up as it cools. To rewarm, place in a 350-400F oven for 5 minutes or until soft again.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesBaked Feta with Sautéed DatesBaked Feta with Sautéed Dates

Puff Pastry Pigs in Blankets

Puff Pastry Pigs in BlanketsWhen I think back on the Super Bowl parties of my youth (and since I am Texan, there were a lot), I don’t remember who played or much else, except for the food. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (probably on Friday): I don’t care about football or the Super Bowl at all, but I *love* football food. If it’s rich, salty, creamy, cheesy, meaty and/or buttery, and can be used to distract me from a sporting event in which I’m uninterested, I. am. in.Puff Pastry Pigs in BlanketsSometimes when I am bored, I tune out and think about recipes. That said, you won’t be surprised to learn that the idea for these Puff Pastry Pigs in Blankets popped into my head during the last Super Bowl.Puff Pastry Pigs in BlanketsThese are the sorts of things I think about instead of thinking about things that are actually important. I mean, *someone* has to think about the game day food, right? No? Just me? Anyway…Puff Pastry Pigs in BlanketsPuff Pastry Pigs in Blankets are exactly what they sound like: classic pigs in blankets (aka cocktail wieners wrapped in yeast dough), made with puff pastry. Miniature hotdogs wrapped in flaky, buttery pastry? Sign me up!Puff Pastry Pigs in BlanketsThese little morsels are super easy to make. Start by rolling out a sheet of puff pastry. I like to use Rough Puff, but any all-butter puff pastry will do.Puff Pastry Pigs in BlanketsSpread a thin layer of dijon mustard over the top and then slice the pastry into strips. Wrap each strip around a cocktail wiener…Puff Pastry Pigs in BlanketsPuff Pastry Pigs in Blankets…then brush them all with egg wash and sprinkle them with poppyseeds and/or sesame seeds. This is purely for aesthetics, but I like the added texture it provides.Puff Pastry Pigs in BlanketsBake the pigs in blankets for 15 minutes at 450F. The pastry will be gorgeous and golden when they’re done.Puff Pastry Pigs in BlanketsServe ‘em with ketchup and more dijon mustard, or any condiment you like. Make sure to hoard a few for yourself before putting them on your Super Bowl table though because they’ll disappear before you know it, especially if I’m invited.Puff Pastry Pigs in Blankets

Puff Pastry Pigs in Blankets
makes about 40 pieces

Rough Puff Pastry:*
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
5 ounces unsalted European-style butter, very cold, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup water or milk, very cold

For assembly:
1 1/2 tablespoons (4 1/2 teaspoons) prepared dijon mustard
1.5 packages cocktail weiners (about 30 per package)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon poppyseeds (optional)
1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)

For serving (optional):
ketchup
mustard

Make Rough Puff Pastry. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Use a pastry blender or two forks to cut butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Pour in cold water or milk and stir with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms.

Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Turn dough out onto surface, and use your hands to pat it into a rough rectangle. Roll the dough into an 8×10″ rectangle. Fold dough in thirds, and give it one quarter turn. Roll into an 8×10″ rectangle again, fold, and turn. Repeat rolling, folding, and turning until it has been done six times total. Wrap folded dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 48 hours.

Preheat oven to 450F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Assemble the pigs in blankets. Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Unfold dough. Roll dough out to 10×14-inch rectangle. Use a large, sharp knife to trim any uneven edges. Brush surface of the dough with dijon mustard.

Use a floured chef’s knife to slice the sheet of dough in half lengthwise, and then into 3/4-inch thick strips. Working with one strip at a time, place a cocktail wiener at one end and roll it toward the other end, so that most of the wiener is coiled in dough. Place each piece, dough ends down, on prepared pans. Repeat until you run out of strips, chilling dough for 15 minutes if it becomes warm or soft.

Make an egg wash. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together egg and water. Use a pastry brush to brush all exposed dough. Sprinkle with poppy and/or sesame seeds, if desired.

Bake pigs in blankets for 15-17 minutes or until pastry is golden. Let cool a few minutes on pans before removing to a serving platter.

Serve with ketchup and/or mustard, if desired. Pigs in blankets are best the day they are made. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Note:

You may use frozen all-butter puff pastry instead. Thaw according to package directions and begin the recipe at the paragraph that begins “Preheat oven to 450F.”Puff Pastry Pigs in Blankets Puff Pastry Pigs in BlanketsPuff Pastry Pigs in Blankets

Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions

Baked Brie with Caramelized OnionsIf you go back and look at the order of recipes on this blog, you can clearly see my train of culinary thought. Last week, I posted three pies back-to-back. Last month, I posted a cake per week. Earlier in the year, I was making doughnuts right and left. I can’t help that my inspiration is so obviously linear.Baked Brie with Caramelized OnionsThis week, I’m caramelizing everything. On Wednesday, it was Brussels sprouts. Today, it’s onions. But they’re not just any old caramelized onions. Nope. These are nestled with a wheel of brie, wrapped in buttery pastry, and baked into a puffy, golden appetizer worthy of any Thanksgiving spread!Baked Brie with Caramelized OnionsBaked brie is always a holiday hit—what’s not to love about the combination of melty cheese and flaky pastry?!—but I am all about the sweet addition of caramelized onions here. They’re cooked low and slow until they’re soft, sweet, and deeply browned. I like to add some minced garlic and fresh rosemary (it’s another thing I’m into right now) at the end of cooking, just for a little dimension.Baked Brie with Caramelized OnionsBaked Brie with Caramelized OnionsAfter the onions cool, it’s time to assemble the baked brie. Roll out a sheet of puff pastry (I use rough puff, but the frozen all-butter stuff works too) and pile the onions on top.Baked Brie with Caramelized OnionsSmear a little dijon on one side of a wheel of brie and place it on top of the onions. The mustard flavor isn’t too pronounced here, but it’s sharpness helps offset the richness of the cheese and pastry.Baked Brie with Caramelized OnionsBaked Brie with Caramelized OnionsWrap everything up tight, give it an egg wash glaze, and decorate with some little pastry leaves, if that’s the sort of thing you’re into.Baked Brie with Caramelized OnionsBaked Brie with Caramelized OnionsBaked Brie with Caramelized OnionsBaked Brie with Caramelized OnionsBake the brie until the pastry puffs and turns golden. Wait a few minutes before serving it with seasonal fruit and the crackers you made your roommate go get from the overpriced cell-phone-dead-zone grocery store behind your building (and you didn’t even complain when he came back with some weird flavor instead of plain because you’re an adult and someone did you a favor)…Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions…um, what was that? Oops. Back to baked brie.Baked Brie with Caramelized OnionsBaked Brie with Caramelized OnionsYou’re going to love this brie, y’all! It’s rich and buttery, and oozes in the best possible way. One bite of this melty, cheesy, salty-sweet treat is worth every second it takes to cook those onions, I promise. I know all your holiday guests will agree.Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions
Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions
makes one 5-inch (13.4 ounce) baked brie

Rough Puff Pastry:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
5 ounces unsalted European-style butter, very cold, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup water or milk, very cold

Caramelized Onions:
2 medium sweet onions, sliced into thin half-moons
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary

For Assembly:
1 5-inch (13.4 ounce) wheel of brie
1-2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water

For Serving:
seasonal fruit
bread or crackers

Make the pastry. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Use a pastry blender or two forks to cut butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Pour in cold water or milk and stir with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms.

Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Turn dough out onto surface, and use your hands to pat it into a rough rectangle. Roll the dough into an 8×10″ rectangle. Fold dough in thirds, and give it one quarter turn. Roll into an 8×10″ rectangle again, fold, and turn. Repeat rolling, folding, and turning until it has been done six times total. Wrap folded dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 48 hours.

Caramelize the onions. Melt butter in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they reduce in volume and are deeply browned (but not burnt!). Add garlic and minced rosemary and cook just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Do not rush this process. Set aside to cool completely.

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.

Assemble the baked brie. Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Unfold dough. Roll dough out to 9×12-inch rectangle. Slice off a 2×9-inch strip and refrigerate it for later. Place onions in a 6-inch circle in the center of the remaining dough.

Spread mustard on one side of the brie. Place the brie, mustard-side-down, on top of onions. Fold pastry over the top, leaving no exposed cheese. Place wrapped brie, smoother-side-up, on prepared pan. Refrigerate.

Make an egg wash. In a small bowl, combine egg and water. Whisk with a fork until smooth.

Remove reserved strip of dough from the refrigerator. Use a knife or decorative cookie cutters to cut decorative pieces, if desired.

Remove brie from the refrigerator. Paint with egg wash. Top with decorative pieces and paint with more egg wash. Bake brie for 25-30 minutes, or until puffed and golden.

Let cool for at least 15 minutes before removing to a serving platter. Serve with fruit, bread, or crackers, if desired.

Baked brie is best on the day it’s made, but may be wrapped tightly in the refrigerator for a few days.
Baked Brie with Caramelized OnionsBaked Brie with Caramelized OnionsBaked Brie with Caramelized Onions