When my sister and I plan a girls’ night out, chances are we’ll skip a big meal and stick with a lineup of appetizers.
After all, those bite-size delights are too small to count calories, even if tray after tray mysteriously empties.
Over the years, I’ve developed a few go-to options when company’s coming and I want to impress. Basil-sausage stuffed mushrooms have convinced more than a few fungi-doubters to change their tune. Hummus-and-olive filled cherry tomatoes look great on a plate or platter and taste even better. And bocconcini cheese balls make for a gooey surprise in the centre of my Italian meatballs.
Rosemary pork tenderloin skewers
- Approx. 20 sturdy sprigs of rosemary, washed and patted dry
- Pork tenderloin, cubed
- 1 small zucchini, cubed
- 20 mushrooms, washed, dried, stems removed
- 2 red sweet peppers, cores, stems and seeds removed, cut into 1-inch squares
- Marinate pork, mushrooms, zucchini and pepper in a mixture of:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp. garlic
- 1 tbsp. lemon zest
- 1 tbsp. dried oregano
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 1 tsp. dijon mustard
- Leaving a 2-inch “tuft” of leaves at the top, remove remaining leaves from rosemary skewers. (Reserve and dry for future use.)
- Using a sharp knife, slice bare end of rosemary skewer into a sharp diagonal point
- Slide pork, mushroom, zucchini and pepper chunks onto skewers and place on a cookie sheet
- Grill on barbecue approx. 10 minutes, ensure meat is thoroughly cooked OR bake at 350 F for 20 minutes
Basil-sausage stuffed mushrooms
- 1 package cremini or white mushrooms
- 20 medium-to-large basil leaves
- Balsamic vinegar
- Olive oil (lemon-infused is lovely)
- 1 lb. Italian sausage
- ½ cup feta cheese
- 1 tbsp. garlic
- Black pepper
- Wash and stem mushrooms, place tops-down in a 9×13 oven-safe dish
- Wash basil leaves and pat dry
- Drizzle mushrooms with balsamic vinegar and olive oil
- Press a basil leaf into the hollow of each mushroom
- In a large bowl, combine sausage meat (remove from casings if necessary); crumbled feta; 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar; garlic; and 1 tbsp. each of dry oregano, parsley and thyme.; and any extra basil leaves, finely chopped. Mix well.
- Press approx. 1-2 tsp. sausage mixture into each mushroom cap
- Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and top with fresh-ground black pepper
- If you have extra sausage mixture, form into small meatballs and place among the mushroom caps
- Bake at 350 F for 20-25 minutes
Hummus and olive-stuffed mini-peppers
- Start with approx. 2 cups washed mini sweet peppers (this works well with cherry or grape tomatoes, too)
- Cut off tops and remove ribs and seeds
- Place hummus in an icing bag or small freezer bag with 1-cm piece cut off bottom corner
- Pipe hummus into cored peppers
- Top with a slice of Kalamata olive and 2-3 rosemary leaves
- Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and serve
Bocconcini meatball surprise
- Drain one container bocconcini cheese pearls. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine:
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 lb. Italian pork sausage meat
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp. garlic
- 1 tbsp. fresh basil, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
Mix well. Form meatballs with a cheese pearl at the centre of each. Press tightly, ensuring cheese is completely covered. Place in a 9×13” over-safe dish, ensuring meatballs don’t quite touch.
Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, until browned. Pour 2 cups of tomato sauce over meatballs and cook 10 minutes longer.