It was my mom’s birthday last week. It was one of those big birthdays–the kind that ends with an O. I don’t know if she would have me share the number, but I will say she was very young when she had me. We talked about having a big party but eventually my mom requested that we celebrate as a family. True to tradition, this still meant a lot of food.
I agreed to come up with the appetizers and for days I wondered what I would make, formulating lists and discarding them, looking through my cookbooks only to discover that I didn’t have a lot of recipes for them. I mentally made a note to myself to put a new book on my ever growing wishlist on Amazon and began a search on the Internet. The possibilities for appetizers are endless–just look at Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook and its three hundred recipes, every one of them a miniature work of art. Yet when party time comes, I somehow draw a blank, unable to think beyond a cheese plate and deviled eggs.
Eventually I settled on Ina Garten’s panfried onion dip served with rustic kettle-cooked potato chips, a cheese and fruit tray, melon wrapped with prosciutto, caprese salad, and Devils on Horseback–dried dates stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped with bacon. I was the toothpick lady, I realized as I was preparing the appetizers. My three main appetizers all required toothpicks to hold them together–including the caprese salad, which was a tray full of sliced tomatoes layered with basil leaves and bocconcini cheese.
Even so, they were all a hit, and the nine of us gobbled up more food than I thought we would, even before my brother hit the grill with his tiger prawns and sockeye salmon marinated in brown sugar and whiskey.
My favourite appetizer was the Devils on Horseback. When I first came across the recipe on Martha Stewart’s website I laughed out loud. How can you resist an appetizer with such a name? It’s a conversation starter in itself.
Here is the recipe:
Devils on Horseback
Adapted from Martha Stewart Online
24 dates, pitted
12 slices bacon, halved crosswise
1/4 cup blue cheese (or Stilton)
1) Preheat oven to 400F. Place 24 toothpicks in a bowl of hot water and soak for 15 minutes so that they do not leave slivers in the food. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2) Cut a deep slit into each date but do not cut through. Place a small amount of cheese in the center. Wrap each date with a slice of bacon. Secure with a toothpick.
3) Place dates evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until cooked through.
4) Drain each appetizer on paper towel before transferring to serving tray. Makes 24 portions.