Monday, September 16, 2013

Appetizers and Wine at Tetiana's Open House

Millard's Artichoke Mini-Quiches and 
Rosemary and Pepper Cheese Coins
Yesterday I attended an Open House held by Tetiana Althoff, Broker Associate for Re/Max Preferred Choice Realtors in town. She had asked me to make some appetizers to serve and advise on some wines to have on hand. It is the first of this sort of open house in this area, and Re/Max Preferred Choice hopes to hold many more like this. The idea is to invite people in to see some of the nicer homes and the food and wine help make the experience memorable.

Tetiana Althoff with Open House Attendee


We decided on three easy savory appetizer recipes for this event, plus mini chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream icing. The savory appetizers chosen were Millard's Artichoke Mini-Quiches, Flank Steak Rolls with Gorgonzola Walnut Spread and Savory Blue Cheese Coins with Apricot Jam. While making these last, I decided to make a few more than what I had and made a half recipe using all cheddar cheese and adding in chopped fresh rosemary and fresh ground black pepper.  

Millard's Artichoke Mini-Quiches

Millard's Artichoke Mini-Quiches

Makes 6 muffin-sized quiches or 35 mini tart-sized quiches

1 (12 ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 eggs
6 saltine crackers, optional
3 scallions, chopped, optional
Dash of hot sauce, optional
Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients. Divide into 6 greased muffin cups or into greased mini-muffin pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden. If using mini tart pans (size as in the photo), bake for 15 to 20 minutes. 

Savory Blue Cheese Coins with Apricot Jam

Savory Blue Cheese Coins with Apricot Jam
Makes about 90 to 100, depending on size

1½ cups all purpose flour
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
¾ cup blue cheese crumbles (Gorgonzola, Bleu, etc.)
½ cup walnuts
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold, unsalted butter cut into ½-inch cubes
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons water

½ cup apricot jam (or use fig jam, peach jam.

In a food processor, combine the first 5 ingredients an process briefly to blend. Add in the cold butter cubes and process until the dough resembles coarse crumbs. Combine the egg yolk with the water and mix well, then add to the food processor. Process until the dough forms moist crumbs.

Turn dough out onto a surface, preferably marble or granite. Smear the dough with the hands and use a pastry scraper to bring the dough together, fold it over, turn and repeat: smear, scrape, turn - about 4 times. Divide dough in halves. Roll each half into an 18-inch long log. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 2 or 3 days.

When ready to make the coins, remove the log from its wrapper and slice thinly, about ¼-inch thick or less. Set these little rounds ½-inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Use a ¼-teaspoon measure and make an indentation in the center of each little coin. Insert a tiny 1/8-teaspoon dollop of jam into the well. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove from pan immediately, using a thin spatula.

The little cupcakes were made with my Chocolate Cake recipe and topped with Chocolate Buttercream Icing.

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Mini cupcakes with
Chocolate Buttercream Icing

Makes two 8-inch cake layers

2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup water
¾ cup buttermilk
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8-inch round pans. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment and grease or spray the parchment as well.

Measure the flour, soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl and whisk to blend; set aside. In a standing electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy, then add in the eggs and vanilla and beat well. Pour in the melted chocolate and mix. Combine the buttermilk and water. Add the dry ingredients, alternately with the liquid ingredients, until completely mixed.

Pour evenly into prepared pans. Tap pans once or twice sharply on counter top, to release air bubbles.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool.

NOTES: If making mini cupcakes, use mini cupcake papers and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. 

Chocolate Buttercream Icing

Will frost top and sides of an 8-inch cake

½ cup shortening
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
pinch salt
1 pound confectioners' sugar
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons vanilla
¼ - ½ cup water or milk

In one bowl sift together the cocoa with one cup of confectioners' sugar and set aside. Into another bowl, sift the rest of the confectioners sugar with the pinch of salt and set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat the room temperature butter and shortening. This step can be just until combined, or may be beaten for about 5 or 6 minutes for a lighter and creamier outcome. Add in the confectioners' sugar and on low speed, combine the ingredients. Beat for 3 to 5 minutes to achieve a lighter texture. Add in the vanilla and ¼ cup of water or milk (or see notes for other ideas).

Add in the confectioners' sugar and cocoa mixture and on low speed, combine well. This is where the difference between a dark chocolate color and pale chocolate color is a choice. Longer beating will lighten color. Add in up to ¼ cup more liquid if the buttercream is not of spreading consistency.

NOTES: This icing can be flavored many ways. Use ¼ cup of a liqueur to flavor, such as Chambord for a raspberry flavor or Grand Marnier for orange flavor, as long as it is not meant for children. Add in some espresso for a mocha flavor or almond extract. The choices are almost limitless.

Flank Steak Rolls and Savory Blue Cheese Coins

Tetiana wanted some easy-to-drink wines that most people might like, so we settled on Velvet Crush Pinot Noir and Folie-a-Deux Merlot for the reds, and Menage a Trois White blend and Massimo Sauvignon Blanc for the whites. The mini-quiches and the Savory Blue Cheese Coins went exceptionally well with the white wines and the altered version of the blue cheese coins with rosemary and pepper, along with the flank steak rolls went very well with the red wines.

There was a steady stream of attendees for the open house from 2 to 4 PM. Tetiana was kept busy showing the lovely, large home. When the attendees wandered to the kitchen, my husband and I served them wine and appetizers, which were well received. We also handed out wine rating sheets to the guests. This may seem an odd thing to do at a realtor's open house, but as we were serving wines, and since so many people buy wines "by guess and by golly," rating wines for oneself is a marvelous way to become accustomed to the terms associated with a wine that one enjoys. This allows finding other wines with similar attributes at later dates. It becomes easier to understand what it is about any particular wine that really appeals or what does not.

Tetiana Althoff with an Open House attendee
I feel strongly that anyone interested in drinking wine should expand their palate and try new wines, new styles and alternate grape varieties, avoiding falling into the rut of consistently ordering or choosing the same thing over and over, based on being "safe" with one particular type or flavor. There is too much wonderful wine at really affordable prices these days to not take advantage and try them out.

This concept of serving appetizers (with or without wine) for open houses can be a wonderful way for a realtor or homeowner holding open houses to expand a quick run-through for attendees to a more leisurely and pleasurable event. If you are looking for a house or property in the Aberdeen area, check out Re/Max Preferred Choice.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.