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In much of the world it is time for picnics and outdoor parties, and whether you make amuse-bouche or appetizers or just "snacks," millions of home cooks are looking for new ways to make tasty and nutritious bite-sized morsels to impress party guests.
None of the simple suggestions in this article will get you an invitation to star on Top Chef, but all of them are easy to make and full of what's good for you. Let's start with little things on toast.
Citrus flavors on bruschettaYou have probably seen the little slices of toasted Italian bread dotted with a smash of garlic and a dollop of tomato sauce. Another way to serve this familiar appetizer is with lemon, lime, and ricotta. Slice a baguette or loaf of Italian bread into finger-length slices, brush with olive oil, and toast under the broiler. Top with a mixture of ricotta cheese, lemon zest, lime zest, thyme, freshly ground black pepper, and sea salt. You can set these up for serve-yourself at a picnic.
Leek and lemon mini-pizzasStart by preheating your oven, preferably in which you have set a pizza stone. Saute julienne slices of the white stem of a well-washed leek with julienne slices of a washed and peeled Russet potato and a few sprigs of thyme until the leek is translucent and the potato is tender. Set aside. Prepare pizza dough as you would for making mini-pizzas, spreading each with ricotta cheese and then the leek and potato mixture. Shave lemon zest on top for additional color. Bake your mini pizzas until the crust is crispy and the cheese is bubbly and then serve right away.
Kalamata olives on bread, toast, or crackersMake a Kalamata olive salad to serve on crackers or slices of baguette. Put Kalamata olives, anchovy fillets (if desired), 2 or 3 tablespoons of pine nuts, a clove of garlic, a peeled shallot, the juice of half a lemon, and 1/4 cup (10-20 grams) of fresh basil or rosemary. Pulse until roughly chopped. Add enough virgin olive oil, usually about 1/4 cup (60 ml) to give the olive salad a spreadable texture, and serve at room temperature. You can make this salad up to 5 days ahead of time and store in the refrigerator in a closed container. The flavors will actually improve.
Fava bean and radish bruschettaDid you know that fava beans contain dopamine, the happiness chemical? You can make an interesting bruschetta from boiled fresh fava beans and julienned radish. Boil the beans, drain, and set aside to cool. Make a salad from 2 or 3 large radishes you have julienned (daikon would also work), and about a teaspoon (2-3 g or 2-3 ml) each of lemon juice, lemon zest, chopped fresh mint leaves, and chopped fennel fronds. Add salt and pepper to taste and toss with the fava beans. Slice a baguette and then brush the slices with olive oil before toasting. Take the toasted baguettes out of the over and immediately top with a thin layer of riccota cheese and a generous serving of the fava bean and radish salad.
Cream cheese and arugula toastsArugula isn't just a vegetable to make jokes about. It's also a great digestive stimulant that helps your stomach deal with barbecue later. You can make an easy hors d'oeuvre by spreading (spreadable) cream cheese on toast rounds (the kind you buy in the package is fine) and the sprinkling with chopped arugula, chopped chives, salt, and pepper. A light brush of olive oil before you add the other ingredients adds extra flavor.
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