12 June 2009

Cocktail Food

Every publisher and their wicked stepchild subsidiary has published a mixology. One publishing company, Mud Puddle Books was founded with the sold intention of publishing out of print drink books. But once we have all these drinks mixed what do I nibble on? Cocktail Food: 50 Finger Foods with Attitude by twins Mary Barbor and Sara Witeford serves as a friendly accompaniment to the staggering number of “drink” books that flooded the market like cheap Merlot.

Cocktail Food is filled with easy, straightforward recipes beautifully photographed. The recipes have catchy little names like, Spear Ecstasy which is blanched asparagus and a dipping sauce. Easy? Yes! Have you done it before? Yes. Does the photograph show you a cool way to present it? Yes.

Bold innovation this cookbook is not. But everyone has that moment when friends are dropping by and you have beer and you have wine but you are at a loss for what else to have. Pick up Cocktail Food. It’s a no brainer. Frankly, the recipes are beyond tedious and there are very few recipes in the book that you couldn’t “make” by simple looking at the picture. While the snacks are familiar, the ideas they inspire should make your cocktail hour THE place to be.

Caprese Skewers

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into twenty-four 1/2 inch cubes (fresh mozzarella is best)
24 small (or 12 large, cut in half) cherry tomatoes, preferably Sweet 100’s
24 small to medium fresh basil leaves
24 five inch bamboo skewers

Combine balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper and 1/8 teaspoon of kosher salt in a small bowl using a whisk. Set aside.

Toss the mozzarella with the reaming 1 teaspoon of olive oil and the remaining pepper. Season to taste with kosher salt, if necessary, depending on the taste of the mozzarella.

to assemble: slide one cherry tomato onto a skewer. Fold 1 basil leaf in half; slide onto the skewer. Add one piece of mozzarella. Repeat until all the ingredients have been used. Place skewers on a plate and brush with balsamic vinaigrette. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately.

do-ahead tips: The balsamic vinaigrette can be prepared 3 days in advance and refrigerated. Assemble the skewers and cover with plastic wrap up to three hours in advance. Do not refrigerate. Serve as directed.

I do think this is a nifty little book, but seriously, how tedious is that recipe. You can make the damn skewers in less time than it takes to READ the recipe. Few people have a measuring spoon calibrated for 1/8 teaspoon. The 1/4 teaspoon of pepper is DIVIDED during the recipe. They specify mozzarella CHEESE as opposed to what, mozzarella candy?

I adore the direction to: “Repeat until all ingredients have been used.” I’m going to stop making skewers with three tomatoes left and dump them in the compost? Is there any wonder that I wish recipes writing would return to the common-sense style of Elizabeth David.

Caprese skewers are a riff on a caprese salad; mozzarella, basil and tomatoes dressed in vinaigrette. Make a vinaigrette with equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar, about 1 tablespoon of each and season with salt and pepper. For two dozen skewers you will need equal amounts of bite-sized tomatoes (grape or sweet 100’s work nicely), basil leaves, and cubes or small balls of mozzarella roughly the same size as the tomatoes. Dress in the vinaigrette and thread on skewers: one tomato, a leaf of basil and finally the cheese.

You didn’t even have to get out you 1/8 teaspoon measuring scoop! After all that, I need a drink!

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