Easy New Year's Eve party nibbles could include bacon-wrapped dates… (Kirk McKoy, Los Angeles…)
Whether your New Year's festivities include planning a big cocktail party or hosting a simple dinner, odds are you'll want something to feed your guests over the hours as they count down to 2012.
Here are 25 easy-to-make little dishes to choose from — they're not recipes really, but ideas you can adapt to make your own. No matter whether you're planning fancy hors d'oeuvres or are looking for some simple nibbles to keep the natives from getting restless as the clock winds down, we should have you covered.Many can be prepared hours — even a day or two — in advance. A couple — the jumbo shrimp and quick-pickled carrots — require a day or so of marinating. At least one, the baked brie, needs a little oven love before the guests arrive. Nothing complicated, just a little planning.
You'll still have time to worry about the more important things, like outfitting the bar and chilling the Champagne.
Roasted almonds: Sauté raw almonds in a hot skillet with a tiny bit of olive oil until they are fragrant. Remove from the heat and season with coarse salt and a dash of smoked paprika or minced fresh herbs.
Charcuterie plate: Slice a dried sausage fairly thick and a fatter dried sausage as thinly as possible. Arrange them on a platter with sliced prosciutto or Serrano ham.
Tapenade with crostini: In a food processor, purée pitted Greek-style black olives with an anchovy or two, chopped fresh garlic and a few tablespoons of capers. Season with a pinch of cayenne and thin as desired with olive oil. Serve with baguette slices brushed with olive oil, lightly seasoned with coarse salt and toasted.
Roasted pepper hummus with pita triangles: In a food processor, purée drained canned garbanzo beans with peeled roasted red peppers, chopped fresh garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of cumin. Thin with olive oil and adjust the seasonings and flavorings as desired. Serve in a bowl alongside toasted pita chips.
Bacon-wrapped dates: Slice dates open lengthwise and remove the pits. Stuff with a chunk of good blue cheese. Wrap with a quarter strip of bacon, skewer with a toothpick and bake at 350 degrees until the bacon is crisp and the cheese is melted.
Marinated jumbo shrimp: Marinate cooked shrimp between layers of thinly sliced onion, garlic, lemon and fresh herbs (such as tarragon, parsley and/or dill) with olive oil drizzled over just to cover. Refrigerate one day before draining and serving.
Roasted squash bruschetta: Top grilled or toasted baguette slices with seasoned roasted squash purée topped with slivered Parmesan and sliced prosciutto.
Frittata: In an oven-proof frying pan, sauté sliced onion, garlic and peppers with fresh crumbled sausage, pour over eggs beaten with a little grated or crumbled fresh cheese, cook gently on the stove until almost set, then run under a broiler until puffed and browned on top. Mix up the flavorings as desired. The frittata can be served hot or made ahead and served at room temperature.
Quick-pickled carrots: Simmer equal parts of vinegar and water with crushed garlic, toasted fennel seeds, sliced lemon and a little salt. Pour the liquid over peeled, sliced and blanched carrots. Set aside to cool completely, then cover and refrigerate overnight before serving.
Seasoned breadsticks: Roll prepared pizza dough through a fettuccine cutter on a pasta machine, or cut it by hand as thinly as possible. Brush lightly with beaten egg white and season with salt, pepper and a sprinkling of chile pepper or chopped fresh herbs. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown.
Fried tofu with dipping sauce: Cut extra-firm or packaged fried tofu into cubes. Pan-fry in vegetable oil until crisp on all sides and drain on paper towels. For the dipping sauce, whisk together soy sauce with a little rice vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, minced fresh garlic and sliced green onion (add a little crushed dried pepper for heat).
Cheese platter: Gather a few assorted cheeses (semi-soft, firm, aged; goat, sheep and cow's milk) and serve alongside fresh or dried fruits, honey or toasted nuts.
Smoked salmon mousse: Purée smoked salmon in a food processor with just enough softened goat cheese to make a silky smooth consistency (lighten the consistency if desired by folding in a little whipped heavy cream). Serve on toasts garnished with fresh dill sprigs.
Gingered crabcakes: Combine lump crab meat with grated fresh ginger, cilantro, green onion and tobiko (fish roe). Fold in a little mayonnaise and season to taste. Form into small crabcakes, then toss first in flour, then beaten eggs, then seasoned panko crumbs (panko with a little salt and cayenne pepper). Pan-fry in vegetable oil or place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until golden.
Fried sage leaves: Rinse whole fresh sage leaves and pat them dry with a paper towel. Dust with flour and fry in 2 inches of hot olive oil.