Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Dinner of Summer Appetizers

With the dog days of summer finally upon us, I'm looking for meals that are easy to make and keep my kitchen cool.  We'll be dining al fresco tonight even with the warm temperatures, as summer in Chicago is too short and I do enjoy having meals out of doors when possible.  But with the heat, you don't want to serve a heavy meal and I'm not even wanting to serve hot food.  So tonight I've decided on a variety of hors d'oeuvres that will be appealing as well as filling.
Julian's Summer Appetizer Buffet
This was a very easy dinner to prepare.  Only microwave warming on the day of meal preparation.  I  already had chicken cocktail meatballs in the freezer (you can buy them already prepared and frozen if you prefer) as well as shrimp (the 50-70 count variety I mentioned several weeks ago.)  The mini cheese tortellini came frozen from Valli Produce, where I do most all of my weekly grocery/produce shopping.   From there just having a few sauces and seasonings on hand made for a quick, easy to prepare dinner of room temperature appetizers enough to make a full meal.

Spicy Shrimp with Black Olives and Hot Peppers
Crackers help to calm the fire!
The above spicy shrimp were prepared simply by tossing them in some hot Giardinera mix, which I always keep on hand in the refrigerator.  It's great to add to Panini and dresses up the shrimp as well.  After letting them soak in a few spoon fulls of the spicy mixture, I put them on knotted bamboo skewers with some of the vegetables and plain black olives.  I then sprinkled them with a little basil, and added some crackers to the platter, as I knew they would have a kick.

If you don't have serving pieces or need to add to your tasting spoons and small plates, I  would recommend Bed Bath and Beyond as well as World Market.  Both stores have a nice selection of tasting spoons and small plates suitable for an appetizer party.  You can also pick up bamboo skewers at World Market, which as you can see in these photos, I used quite considerably.

Asian and BBQ Cocktail Chicken Meatballs
To make the meatballs shown above, remove them from the freezer and microwave them until heated through.  While they are heating, warm some barbecue and Teriyaki sauce separately.  When the meatballs are warmed through, toss half in each sauce.  Return to microwave for a brief heating, turning several times to coat.  Place on ceramic spoons and garnish to differentiate the two varieties.

Cheese Tortellini with Pesto Sauce and Grape Tomatoes
For a vegetarian option, consider these tasty items served on bamboo picks.  Earlier in the week I was making spaghetti for dinner.  After they finished boiling, I tossed in a hand full of these mini cheese tortellini.  They were done in about 4 minutes.  I drained and rinsed them, put them in a container and stored them in the refrigerator.  On serving day, I cut some fresh basil, added some pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, fresh garlic and olive oil and processed it until finely chopped.  Then I warmed the the tortellini slightly in the microwave and tossed with the sauce.  I quickly assembled them with a grape tomato and dill pickle piece and they were ready for the table.  Really quite tasty!

Shrimp on Cheese and Crackers with Salsa Topping
Shrimp is always popular at my gatherings and so I usually try to prepare several dishes that include them.  There was a day when shrimp alone on a big platter with some cocktail sauce was enough.  But today with shrimp being so common, you need to find different ways to serve it.  Unlike the shrimp shown at the top of the page on skewers, these shrimp are not spicy.  I simply took a cracker, added a thinly cut piece of Swiss cheese (to keep the cracker crisp) and topped the shrimp with some mild salsa.  This was the first platter to be emptied.

From these photos and descriptions I hope you too consider a cold appetizer supper during the hottest part of summer.  After they finish these off and have a few glasses of your best Sangria, they'll be ready for a bit of a siesta.  While they are resting, we can slip out and prepare dessert!

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