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.
Such cute finger-food!! :0D
How do you pit the dates? Do you have a special tool, or do you cut them with a knife and fish them out? I’ve gotta say that part sounds pretty labour intensive to me!
fawn, i just used a knife to pit the dates. it’s not difficult at all since the dates are really easy to pull out (they almost fall out). i did 2 boxes worth while watching the colbert report, so it didn’t seem like work 🙂
Dates with lemony feta…wow!! I wouldn’t think to put lemon zest into the cheese but I bet it makes a world of difference AND I also like that you added pecans too! I’ve tried the same approach with tofutti cream cheese and prunes…totally addictive and so delicious. I’m going to make the date with feta one day for a hike or a picnic.
It all looks fantastic! I loove dates and I love goat cheese, what a great combo! In fact I think I have those two things in my kitchen right now…must go check!
I ma so glad you posted these, when you were talking about them on Sunday… I was really intrigued. Yum! I love your variation of the dates with the addition of lemon…can’t wait to try that. And the wrapped bundles…yum too! I have made a somehting simillar from a Jamie Oliver recipe … I wrap asparagus with proscuitto and then place it under the broiler…but In love your version…it looks fresher! Can’t wait to try this too!
THAT is an excellent idea to use green beans in addition to (or instead of) the asparagus. The goat cheese filling would be good on dried apricots too. And the balsamic glaze would be yummy there.
Wow, these do look like quite the crowd pleasers… and I love that first picture, it’s very captivating.
What great appetizers! Very classy and tasty looking, too.
mmm, i think broiling them would be awesome hag! definitely more a winter thing since turning on the oven would really suck now 🙂
the lemon zest worked really well, bijoux. it gave it a lovely kick 🙂 i bet this would be awesome with prunes!
laura, give this a try. it’s a keeper!
sue, the green beans are definitely a cheaper alternative! mmm, i think they’d go lovely with apricots or figs too! yum.
thanks lynn! i think they were just the right amount of class 🙂
thanks jennie! i definitely agree that pitting and shelling does legitimize time in front of the tv 😉
It all looks fabulous, dahling! A tip- when asparagus (or green beans) is out of season, you can still (almost) enjoy the same dish with bacon wrapped salsify. We actually call it the poor man’s bacon here, haha.
Looove the dates. I buy mine pitted, but I’ve used shelling pecans for making my tv watching legit 🙂
Oh man!! I could totally skip dinner with a plate of all of these beauties in front of me! Those stuffed dates look fantastic. I used to work at a restaurant where they made something similar, and just looking makes me almost able to taste them.
How fun to get to make up some appetizers like this! I’d love to try those dates.
These apps look like perfect finger foods. I’d love to make the dates but I don’t know if I have the patience to slice and stuff each one. I’m sure if I had a taste, I’d change my mind. Great post!
yum, I love dates! I’ve been meaning to try cream cheese in dates, but goat cheese sounds even better! Great shots, I’m sure everyone loved your fingerfoods even more than I loved looking at them.
The stuffed dates were delicious and super easy! Thanks for the recipe.
cakespy, i was amazed at how easy they were to make. and just how “fancy” they tasted. mmmm.
eatme, it was fun! the dates were pretty wonderful!
sharon, just sit yourself down in front of some guilty tv and start slicing and stuffing. you’ll be done before you know it!
jo, so glad you tried them! hooray!!
Oh my god I’m TOTALLY going to make these for the next party I have to make food for! All sounds so yummy….I just discovered this blog, and I love it. 🙂
In my Favourites now!
thanks heidi! enjoy 🙂
Would love to toss those beans and asparagus onto the grill! (using one of those veggie ‘pans’ so they don’t fall through). I think a quick grill off would really up the flavors.