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The Hors d'Oeuvre Crisis

September 30, 1998|MARION CUNNINGHAM

I have never liked thinking about or fixing hors d'oeuvres. They have always seemed to be upstaged by the meal that follows.

Of course, I am among the first to eat them whenever they are served. The problem is that so many are dips, dunks or concoctions made with sour cream, cream cheese or cottage cheese. They are flavored swaths of thick white paste surrounded with crackers or chips.

Worse are crudites, raw vegetables that really don't enhance a libation or take the edge off an appetite but are ever-present at cocktail parties. They seem much more suitable for barbecues or picnics. Even the fussy little rolled or skewered tidbits seem hard to get excited about.

Still, like traffic jams and taxes, hors d'oeuvres are here to stay. People expect them, especially during holidays.

These recipes are hors d'oeuvres I like. They are not tricky or clever, but they taste very, very good.

Swiss Cheese Spread amazes people when I tell them what's in it--just cheese, garlic and mayonnaise. They always think it can't be so simple. Just be sure to add enough garlic so you know it's there. Be generous with the mayonnaise too; it should coat the cracker or toast and make the grated cheese spreadable. The spread keeps well in a jar in the refrigerator for several weeks, and a spoonful or two in hot soup or over broccoli is nice. Sometimes I spread it over toast and melt it under the broiler. It won't go to waste.

Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes taste like a BLT sandwich without the bread. I especially like these because they are easy to eat while standing and holding a drink; they can also be made early in the day before the event.

New Red Potatoes with Rosemary should be served warm, but they too hold up admirably and can be made in the morning then heated just before serving. If you can't find the ideal size of potato--the shape of a golf ball--cut larger potatoes in half. They won't look as festive, but the taste quickly makes up for imperfect looks. If there are leftovers, dice them and add tuna and chopped hard-boiled eggs for a salad the next day.

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NEW RED POTATOES WITH ROSEMARY

2 pounds small red new or boiling potatoes, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter (about 30 potatoes)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves

Cook potatoes in boiling water until just tender in center when pierced with fork, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly.

While still warm, place potatoes in large bowl and toss to coat with olive oil, salt and rosemary leaves. Transfer to serving platter and serve warm.

About 30 potatoes. Each potato:

32 calories; 80 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 5 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.13 gram fiber.

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SWISS CHEESE SPREAD

I know it's unfashionable to use garlic powder these days, but at the risk of embarrassing myself, I'm going to tell you that I use it and like it in this recipe. If you prefer, fresh garlic can be used instead.

1/2 cup mayonnaise, about

2 cups grated Swiss cheese

1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder or 2 to 3 minced cloves

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Crackers or toasts

Stir mayonnaise thoroughly with Swiss cheese and garlic, using enough mayonnaise to make cheese spreadable. Put in bowl just large enough to hold spread, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. When ready to serve, turn spread out onto platter and mold into mound using your hands. Sprinkle with parsley and place crackers around mold.

About 1 1/4 cups. Each tablespoon:

55 calories; 64 mg sodium; 9 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 2 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.01 gram fiber.

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STUFFED CHERRY TOMATOES

The yield in this recipe may vary greatly depending on the size of the tomatoes. Smaller cherry tomatoes are best for this.

1 pound cherry tomatoes, stems removed

1/2 cup mayonnaise

4 strips cooked bacon, crumbled

Wash and dry tomatoes. Cut thin slice from top stem end of each tomato. Using small spoon, scoop out juice and seeds from inside each tomato and discard.

Stir together mayonnaise and bacon in small bowl. Fill each tomato cavity with mayonnaise mixture.

16 to 20 tomatoes. Each tomato:

58 calories; 86 mg sodium; 5 mg cholesterol; 5 grams fat; 3 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.18 gram fiber.

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