Recipes for Great Tastes Served on Small Plates

Local food and wine experts offer inspired appetizer ideas for entertaining guests in small doses.
A spread of scrumptious treats offered by local food and wine experts.

You’ve picked a date, created a guest list and sent your invitations. Now it’s time to plan the menu for your holiday soiree. No need to make it complicated. Small-plate appetizers and desserts are often the best options for entertaining. To make your life easier, we’ve enlisted the help of local foodies, Byerly’s cheese specialist Dorothy Neubauer and Haskell’s wine sommelier Mark O’Connor for delectable recipes, cheese-plate options and wine selections sure to delight most any appetite.

Morgan Wood has a background in radio, does commercial voice-over work and has a national Sunday night radio show on KLOVE. Her blog, Raisin and Fig, is a creative outlet directed at her passion for encouraging people to get back into the kitchen. She believes cooking is love and that there are many benefits to caring about where food comes from, cooking it from scratch, and sharing it with family and friends.

Lisa Patrin is a freelance
food and recipe writer who has contributed to several publications, including Southwest Metro Magazine, the Food
Network’s holiday magazine and numerous food blogs. She especially enjoys cooking
for family and friends.

Rob Barrett, Jr. is an award-winning composer and producer,
and an associate professor of music production and music business at
North Central University in Minneapolis. He is also a dad who shares his
favorite recipes on his viral YouTube cooking show, Cooking For Dads.

Red Pepper Soup Shooters
Recipe courtesy of Morgan Wood
Soup in shot glasses is not only delicious served hot or cold, it looks beautiful.

8 red/yellow/orange peppers quartered and seeded
6 tomatoes quartered and seeded
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion chopped
2 cups vegetable broth
1 Tbsp. honey
Salt & pepper to taste
Cilantro Oil
1 bunch fresh cilantro (about 1 cup leaves + additional for garnish)
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Pinch sugar
Kosher salt to taste

Turn oven to broil. Place top oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Distribute the peppers skin side up on two of the sheets. Place tomatoes skin side up on the third sheet.
Broil peppers one sheet at a time until lightly charred. Remove and place in tightly covered bowl for 15 minutes to allow peppers to continue steaming; remove skins.
Broil tomatoes until they begin to wrinkle and blacken. Remove from oven. Cool slightly, then remove skins.
Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion. Cook, stirring occasionally until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add peppers, tomatoes, broth and honey, and stir. Using an immersion blender, puree soup until smooth. Alternatively, you can carefully transfer the soup to a blender.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Place soup into shot glasses, and drizzle cilantro oil over each serving. Garnish with cilantro leaf.

WINE PAIRING: Best to offset the spicy heat of peppers with a fruity off-dry white wine like the Domaine de Vaufuget Vouvray ($11.99 at Haskell’s).

Mini Reuben Sandwiches
Recipe courtesy of Morgan Wood
Morgan Wood’s perfect party food can be made in advance and reheated as needed. Easy to eat and guy-friendly, these bite-size sammies are also great for football parties.

1/4 cup mayonnaise
4 Tbsp. ketchup
1 tsp. caraway seed
1/2 can sauerkraut, drained and chopped
1 lb. shaved pastrami
1/2 lb. Swiss cheese in medium slices
1 loaf cocktail pumpernickel bread such as Rubschlager

Heat large griddle or skillet to medium high. Mix mayonnaise, ketchup, caraway seed and sauerkraut together in a small bowl. Cut or tear cheese slices to fit bread slices. Spread sauerkraut mixture over 24 slices of the bread. Add shaved pastrami and cheese slices. Top with remaining bread slices.
Grill sandwiches until brown, about 1 minute on each side. Cut diagonally, and serve immediately, or cool completely for freezer storage until ready to use.

WINE PAIRING: A lightweight red like Le Rovole chianti ($12.99) or a German wheat beer like Weihenstephaner Hefe-Weizen ($11.49) or Paulaner Hefe-Weizen ($10.99), available in six-bottle packs.

Easy Chicken and Macadamia Lettuce Wraps

Recipe courtesy of Rob Barrett, Jr.
Chicken breasts cut into strips lengthwise, then cut into bite-size chunks.

1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce

Combine and marinate for 1-4 hours. (If in rush, forgo marinade and cook chicken with hoisin sauce.)

1 tsp. minced garlic
3 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 /4 cup macadamia nuts chopped
1 cucumber chopped.
1/2 yellow pepper chopped

Heat up a little sesame oil in a frying pan. Add garlic, and cook for 1 minute. Add chicken. Cook until done, about 2 minutes (since chicken is cut into bite-sized chunks). Remove from heat, and add hoisin sauce. Stir.
In a medium bowl, combine cooked chicken with nuts, cucumber and yellow pepper. Spoon mixture into 4 large romaine lettuce leaves.

WINE PAIRING: A flavorful dry rosé like the Cuvée Royale Tavel ($16.99) will stand up to the chicken and lettuce.

Easy as 1-2-3
Quick canapés courtesy of Rob Barrett, Jr.

Cucumber Appetizer:
1.    Slice one cucumber.
2.    Spread slices with cream cheese.
3.    Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, bacon bits, salt and pepper.
Pecan Appetizer:
1.    Take one package of rice crackers.
2.    Spread crackers with cream cheese, then raspberry jelly.
3.    Top each with a pecan.
Kiwi Appetizer:
1.    Slice a kiwi.
2.    Spread slices with sour cream.
3.    Top each with a raspberry.

Teriyaki Steak Skewers
Recipe courtesy of Rob Barrett, Jr.

1 lb. flank steak
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup sugar
¼ ginger root, thinly sliced

Combine soy sauce, sugar and ginger in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, and stir until sugar is combined. Lower heat, and let simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened.
Slice flank steak across the grain and on an angle. Place steak slices into a plastic bag with cooled sauce. (Bottled teriyaki sauce can be substituted.) Marinate overnight.
Thread marinated meat on skewers the long way. Grill or broil until just pink on the inside. Serve with a side of your favorite peanut sauce.

WINE PAIRING: Sweet and spicy food likes fruity and spicy reds: Try Bogle Petite Sirah ($12.99) or Four Vines “Truant” Zinfandel ($12.99).

Brownies with Chocolate Ganache and English Toffee

Recipe courtesy of Lisa Patrin

1 box fudge brownie mix and required ingredients, enough for a 9-inch by 13-inch pan
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
10 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup English toffee bits

Bake brownies according to package instructions; cool.
Bring heavy whipping cream and corn syrup to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove, and add chocolate chips; stir until smooth. Cool for 15 to 20 minutes or until room temperature.
Spread chocolate ganache over the brownies. Scatter English toffee bits over the top. Cut into small squares, and serve.  

Chocolate desserts love to be served with the red dessert wines of Portugal, like Warre’s Warrior Reserve Ruby Porto ($22.99).

Grilled flatbread with fig jam, caramelized onions and blue cheese

Recipe courtesy of Lisa Patrin

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 large Vidalia onions, peeled, halved and sliced
½ tsp. sea salt
¼ tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 8.8 oz. package (two-count) naan flatbread, either plain or garlic
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. fig spread
4 oz. crumbled blue cheese
2 cups fresh arugula
Balsamic vinegar

Sauté onions in melted butter with ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. fresh ground pepper in a large sauté pan over medium high heat until caramelized and golden in color. Remove from heat.
Melt fig jam over low heat in a small saucepan.
Set gas grill or stovetop griddle to medium heat. Brush naan on both sides with olive oil.    
Grill over direct heat until lines form, approximately 2–3 minutes. Turn using tongs until both sides are golden. Remove naan, and place on a large baking sheet.   
Brush tops of grilled naan with melted fig jam. Top each with 1/2 caramelized onions, and sprinkle with crumble blue cheese. Return to grill and cover. Cook until cheese is partially melted, and remove. Top each with a cup of fresh arugula and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.  Serve warm. (This recipe can be served as an appetizer or a main course.)

Sandemans 20-year Tawny Porto ($59.99) is sweet enough to match the jam and complement the Bleu while the toffee-nut-candied fruit flavors add their own layer of flavor to this experience.

Blogs: Cooking for Dads; Raisin and Fig

Cheese-plate suggestions from Dorothy Neubauer, certified cheese specialist at Byerly’s in Chanhassen. 800 W. 78th St., Chanhassen; 952.474.1298.

Wine and beer recommendations offered by Mark O’Connor, sommelier at Haskell’s in Chanhassen. 19900 W. 78th St., Chanhassen; 952.345.1115.

Around the Cheese Wheel
•    Cranberry LeRoule—a French cream cheese with spirals of cranberries ($22.99/lb.)
•    Cranberry cheddar from Wisconsin ($16.99/lb.)
•    Delice de Bourgogne brie—a triple creme brie with crème fraiche ($19.99/lb.)
•    Old Amsterdam gouda ($19.99/lb.)
•    Humboldt Fog ($22.99/lb.)or Truffle Tremor goat cheese from Cyprus Groves ($29.99/lb.)
•    French Pyrenees with green peppercorns ($17.99/lb.)
•    Spanish Manchego ($18.99–$27.99/lb.)
•    Madrigal Swiss cheese ($12.99/lb.)