Last week, my mother-in-law asked if I wouldn’t mind making some appetizers as she was having a garden party to launch her latest book. Although I responded enthusiastically, I was a bit worried since I don’t really have much experience making finger foods en masse. While I did make much of the food for our wedding 3 years ago, the day was such a gloriously happy blur that I can’t really remember much of it at all! So I did a bit of research and figured out a few things that would be cost effective and easy to prep and that would be a bit different than the cheese and fruit plates that would already be there.
The goat cheese stuffed dates were made the day before the party and the green bean and asparagus bundles the next morning before the party. They weren’t labour intensive and were actually fun to put together with my stereo turned up loud. But really, the main question was how did the garden party ladies like the appetizers? Well, let’s just say that they were quickly gobbled up and everything got rave reviews.
For the westfalian ham wraps, I do include a balsamic glaze that can be drizzled over the bundles. While I did prepare the glaze, I accidentally left it sitting on our kitchen table and only realized that I had forgotten to bring it along when we were well into the suburbs. Oops! The bundles were really tasty plain but I can only imagine that they’d be spectacular with that little drizzle of tangy-sweet goodness. For the recipes below I do use the measurements used for the garden party, but these would be really quite simple to scale down for a small dinner party.
lemon & goat cheese stuffed dates
1 large log of creamy goat cheese, room temperature
2 boxes of fresh dates
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 c roasted pecans, roughly chopped
Pit the dates and don’t worry about the fibrous insides…that’s just how dates are. In a medium sized bowl, mash up the goat cheese and the lemon zest together and start stuffing about a teaspoon (or a bit less) into each date. Arrange stuffed dates on a platter and sprinkle with the roasted pecans.
asparagus & green bean bundles
4 bundles of asparagus
2 lbs fresh green beans
1 large Costco-sized package of westfalian ham or prosciutto*
freshly ground pepper
1/2 c balsamic vinegar (optional)
In batches, steam the asparagus until bright green and still crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Cool immediately in a separate bowl filled with ice water. Drain and repeat with the process with the remaining asparagus and green beans. You may only need to steam the green beans for 2-3 minutes.
Wrap the ham around bundles of 2 stems of asparagus or 3 green beans until you have pretty looking bunches. Grind some black pepper over top and plate or set aside in refrigerator.
Reduce the balsamic vinegar in a small pot until it has become a little bit syrupy and reduced by almost half. Drizzle over asparagus and green bean bundles and serve.
* If your ham is quite wide, you can slice in half lengthwise. This is not only thrifty since you’ll end up using less ham but a thinner ribbon looks nicer wrapped around the greens.