Monday, February 27, 2012

Oscar Bites

I was hoping to add a crunchy, cheesy finger food to my repertoire when I found this recipe for "Baked Cous Cous Poppers."  They seemed like a healthier version of arancini (risotto balls), which are one of my favorite savory indulgences, and can also be customized with different cheeses, spices, and dipping sauces.  

The 1/2 cup of panko that was supposed to be sufficient to coat all of the balls disappeared rapidly as I tried to form the first three.  The cous cous wasn't staying together at all, and I ended adding most of the panko to the mix to help it bind.  That helped a little, and with wet hands, I managed to shape half of the mixture with panko on the outside, and half with regular breadcrumbs.

Not bad, right?  I thought a couple of them might fall apart while baking, but all I could do was laugh when I pulled both sheet pans out of the oven.  I kept the baked cous cous with the hope that I'd find a way to make use of it, but I haven't come up with anything yet. 

Thankfully I had a back up plan, and since I subbed cavatappi for macaroni, I didn't even need to go back to Kroger for ingredients for these macaroni and cheese "muffins."  They were sufficiently crisp on the top, and had a nice flavor from the cheddar and parmesan cheese I used, but I would have liked them to be a little creamier.  They do seem to stay together pretty well, which makes them a good option for party food.

These baked chicken meatballs, which I first saw on Smitten Kitchen, are one of my go to recipes for a party.  They get a great deal of flavor from smoky ham, which is a deviation from the pancetta in the original ingredient list, and tomato paste.

In an effort to have something green on the menu, I got two pounds of broccoli with which to make a salad.  The "Garlicky Sesame-Cured Broccoli Salad" wound up being a unexpected hit, and there wasn't nearly as much left at the end of the night as I'd hoped.  

Cumin seed, sesame oil, chili flakes and garlic are an earthy combination of seasonings for the broccoli. It's tossed in a little salt and vinegar to start the "curing", and then cooks down in the hot oil that's poured over top.  I'm always looking for alternate ways to make vegetables, and I would highly recommend trying this method while we wait out the end of winter.  It's much easier than fighting with a big bowl of cous cous.