Appetizers for the festive season

Recipes that can be used a number of ways are a great addition to your Christmas file – their versatility will stand you, as a host, in good stead. These three recipes can be used three ways: as an appetizer – always popular and necessary during the season, especially if easy to prepare and doubly delicious as these are – but for lunches or brunches too! What a bonus. For best flavour, bake and serve the recipe the same day. Thank you Foodland Ontario for these holiday suggestions.

Zucchini Ribbon Tart

In Christmas colours of red and green this festive tart can be cut into small squares for an appetizer and larger squares as a main course. The recipe can be served hot or at room temperature. For best flavour use quality butter puff pastry available at Loblaw’s and No Frills.

1 or 2 8-inch zucchini
1 sheet of frozen butter puff pastry, thawed and refrigerated
2-3 tbsp (45 mL) pesto
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup (125 mL) coarsely shredded Gruyere cheese, more if desired
Freshly ground black pepper

Slice and discard the ends of zucchini. Using wide vegetable peeler, peel strips of zucchini lengthwise to form ribbons. After slicing a few ribbons, turn zucchini and peel another side for better shaped ribbons. Place ribbons in measuring cup; you will need 2 cups (500 mL) for this recipe.

Unroll puff pastry and leave on parchment paper. Place on baking sheet. Using fork, leave 1/2 inch (1 cm) border around edge of pastry, prick pastry many times. Thinly spread pesto over pastry. Arrange zucchini ribbons over pesto, curling, overlapping and weaving strips; leaving border bare. Place cherry tomatoes, cut side up on zucchini and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake in preheated 400 F (200 C) oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until pastry is a deep golden brown. Sprinkle with pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 4-6 main course servings and 12 appetizer servings.

Leek, Apple and Brie Tart

Impressive but simple to make and very tasty, this is the ideal holiday appetizer. For eye appeal use red skinned Cortlands, Spartans or Northern Spy apples.

2 tbsp (30 mL) butter
1 cup (250 mL) thinly sliced leeks, white part only
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp (5 mL) chopped fresh thyme leaves (if possible) or 1/2 tsp dried
2 tsp (10 mL) cider vinegar
1 sheet (225 g) frozen butter puff pastry thawed and refrigerated
1 tbsp (15 mL) Dijon mustard
1 cup (250 mL) thinly sliced and cored red-skinned apples
1/2 cup (125 mL) to 1 cup (250 mL) diced brie cheese
Drizzle:
4 tsp (20 mL) honey
1 tsp (5 mL) chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 tsp (2 mL) dried
1 tsp (5 mL) Dijon mustard

In medium nonstick skillet, melt 1 tbsp (15 mL)butter over medium heat; cook leeks, covered, with 1 clove garlic, 1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and pepper stirring frequently until leeks are tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in thyme; cool about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile in saucepan melt remaining 1 tbsp (15 mL) butter with 1 garlic clove minced; stir in vinegar and 1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper. Set aside.

Unroll puff pastry and leave on parchment paper. Place on baking sheet and with fork poke entire surface. Brush mustard over pastry leaving 1/2 inch (1 cm) border. Scatter leek mixture over pastry and arrange apples slices on top. Brush with butter mixture and scatter cheese over top. Bake in 400 F (200 C); for 15 minutes or until pastry is golden.

Drizzle: In small bowl, combine, honey, thyme and mustard. Cut tart into pieces, small squares for appetizer or larger squares for main course and drizzle with honey mixture just before serving.

Makes 4 – 6 main course servings or 12 appetizer pieces.

Maple Garlic Chicken Wings

Baking then broiling chicken wings keeps the chicken moist, yet crisps up the skin. Be sure to serve these with plenty of napkins for sticky fingers.

2 1/2 lbs (1.25 kg) chicken wings (tips removed)
Salt and pepper
Glaze:
1/2 cup (12 5m L) maple syrup
1 tbsp (15 mL)     each, Dijon mustard and soy sauce
1/4 tsp (1 mL) crushed red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, minced

Line large rimmed baking pan with parchment paper. Arrange chicken wings evenly on pan. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Bake in preheated 400 F (200 C) oven for 30 minutes. Meanwhile whisk together maple syrup, mustard, soy sauce, pepper flakes and garlic. Drain fat from pan. Pour sauce evenly over wings. Bake 20 minutes turning once and basting. If desired, broil wings to crisp up 1 – 2 minutes. Makes 6 appetizer servings.

Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer. Connect with her at janmainskitchen@gmail.com.

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