Beer Cheese Balls
Note: These are mini-versions of a holiday party classic, made a bit more interesting with the addition of a full-flavored brew and Worcestershire sauce. From Bonnie Benwick.
• 8 oz. aged Cheddar, in chunks
• 8 oz. Swiss or Emmental cheese, in chunks
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 tsp. powdered mustard
• 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
• 3/4 c. beer
• 8 oz. small pecan pieces or pine nuts
Combine Cheddar and Swiss or Emmental cheese in a food processor; pulse until crumbly. Add minced garlic, mustard and Worcestershire sauce; pulse to incorporate.
With the motor running, gradually add beer to form a fairly smooth purée. Form the mixture into 24 to 26 small balls.
Place pecan pieces in a zip-top bag. Add 1 or 2 balls at a time and gently press to coat. Refrigerate until ready to serve, with toothpicks.
Sweet and Salty Onion Triangles
Note: This is a crunchy and thrifty riff on James Beard’s famous onion sandwiches. From Bonnie Benwick.
• 1 small sweet onion, cut in very thin half-moons
• 12 slices white bread, crusts trimmed off
• 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
• 1 tsp. ground turmeric
• 3 tbsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
• Flaky sea salt
Soak onions in cold water for 5 minutes, then drain; this will reduce their pungency. Toast the trimmed bread lightly, if desired.
Mash together butter, turmeric and parsley.
Spread the parsley butter on each piece of bread. Cut the bread in half on the diagonal, then top with a few pieces of onion. Sprinkle each piece with flaky sea salt.
Saucy Roasted Potatoes
Note: The small, round, yellow-fleshed potatoes sold in mesh bags are perfect for this rendition of Spanish patatas bravas. From Bonnie Benwick.
• 1 1/2 lb. very small yellow-fleshed round potatoes
• 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• Coarse or flaky sea salt
• Crushed red pepper flakes
• 1/4 c. mayonnaise
• 3 tbsp. red pepper sauce
• Chopped fresh chives
Rinse and drain potatoes. Spread them on a rimmed baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch or two of sea salt and red pepper flakes. Roast in a 450-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until just tender.
Meanwhile, whisk together mayonnaise and red pepper sauce.
Transfer the potatoes to a serving bowl. Top with spoonfuls of the mayo-pepper sauce and an optional sprinkling of chopped chives.
Note: These can be assembled and refrigerated, without the drizzle, a day in advance. From Bonnie Benwick.
• 16 dried apricots
• Mascarpone (from 8-ounce container)
• 1/3 c. shelled, chopped, unsalted pistachios
• 1/3 c. honey
• Flaky sea salt
Use a small serrated knife to make a horizontal split two-thirds of the way around each of the apricots.
Fill each one with a teaspoon or two of mascarpone so that the cheese is showing at the edge, arranging them on a platter as you work.
Press the cheese sides into a bowl of the pistachios, coating the mascarpone. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with sea salt.
Chorizo Turkey Kebabs
Note: You can simplify them further by omitting the toasted bread cubes. Panko breadcrumbs are larger and lighter than the traditional version. From Bonnie Benwick.
• 6 (1-in.-thick) slices of brioche or challah
• Olive oil
• Cooking oil spray
• 4 oz. ground turkey
• 3 tbsp. apricot or cherry or peach preserves
• 1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs (see Note)
• 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 3 thin (6-in.) cured/cooked chorizo sausage links
• Pesto sauce (prepared or homemade)
Trim the crusts from brioche or challah, then cut the bread into cubes; you will have scraps left over. Brush the cubes with olive oil and toast at 375 degrees for 5 minutes, until golden brown.
Meanwhile, use cooking oil spray to grease your clean hands, then use them to combine ground turkey, preserves, panko, thyme leaves and a pinch or two each of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper in a bowl.
Flatten a third of the turkey mixture into a rectangle about 2 1/2 inches wide and 1 inch longer than the chorizo sausage. Wrap the turkey mixture around the chorizo, covering the links completely and rolling like logs.
Use cooking oil spray to grease the logs, then cook them in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, browning on all sides. Let cool for 3 minutes, then trim off rounded ends. Cut each log into 8 slices. Thread rounds onto toothpicks with bread cubes; place on platter. Dollop pesto for dipping.