Party seasons come and party seasons go, but there are always birthdays and anniversaries not to mention unexpected occasions for celebration. So it pays to know how to keep the snacks and nibbles coming.
Not just any old nibbles, mind you. And certainly not the usual dreary parade of dips and dunks. What we have in mind is something a little more original, a lot more elegant, yet equally easy to prepare.
All it takes is a little microwave know-how. Plus some party-perfect recipes that can be made partly or wholly ahead of time. The microwave also does any last-minute warming--while you mix the drinks.
The two recipes that follow, though altogether different, demonstrate the importance of the proper arrangement of food in a microwave oven to insure speedy, even cooking.
The pate bakes in a ring mold (no messy water bath needed), and the mushrooms are arranged doughnut-fashion so that the heat can penetrate from both the outer and inner edges. In a way, it's the same principal used when baking tube cakes (angel, food, sponge, chiffon) in a conventional oven. With more surface area exposed to the heat or microwaves, all the food will be done--throughout--at the same time.
PATE DI MARE
1/2 pound flounder, cod or haddock fillets, cut in 1-inch chunks
1/2 pound cooked shrimp, crab or lobster meat
2 egg whites
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup tender white bread crumbs
2/3 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash white pepper
Dash ground nutmeg or mace
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
Combine fish and shellfish in food processor and process 15 to 20 seconds until very finely minced. Add egg whites and process 10 seconds. Add mayonnaise, bread crumbs, cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg and process 4 to 5 seconds to blend.
Mix gelatin and water in custard cup and microwave, uncovered, on HIGH (100% power) 40 to 50 seconds until gelatin dissolves. Add to fish mixture and process 2 to 3 seconds to blend.
Spoon into well-oiled 1 1/2-quart microwave-safe ring mold and tap lightly on counter to expel air bubbles. Cover with wax paper and microwave on HIGH 4 minutes, turning mold 180 degrees after 2 minutes.
Reduce power to MEDIUM-LOW (30% power) and microwave, covered, 7 to 9 minutes, turning mold 90 degrees every 3 minutes, until pate is almost firm but still slightly moist.
Cover with foil and let stand 30 minutes. Chill several hours or overnight.
To serve, loosen pate with spatula and invert on platter. If pate sticks, dip mold briefly in hot water. Serve as spread for crackers. Makes 12 servings.
MOZZARELLA MUSHROOM CAPS AL PESTO
12 medium-sized mushrooms
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced celery
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/3 cup finely shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup minced pine nuts
1 tablespoon milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Carefully remove mushroom stems from caps, chop fine and place in ungreased 1 1/2-quart casserole with olive oil, onion, celery and garlic. Cover with wax paper and microwave on HIGH (100% power) 3 1/2 to 4 minutes, stirring at half time, until onion is transparent.
Mix in basil, bread crumbs, Mozzarella, pine nuts, milk, salt and pepper. Stuff mushroom caps with mixture, mounding up in center. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.
Arrange caps in single ring around edge of 12-inch round, shallow microwave-safe serving dish. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH 5 to 7 minutes, turning dish 180 degrees at half time, until stuffing is hot. Makes 1 dozen.
Note: In ovens of less than 600 watts, increase cooking times about 15%.