Ideas for Appetizers on Toothpicks
All Topped Up | L Aruna Dhir
MOM: THE PERFECT HOSTESS
My earliest brush with snacks sexily served up as a statement of presentational style was in the early 70s. As a little girl I would often see my Mother rustle up interestingly plattered short eats for her Services’ Husband’s cocktails every other evening at home.
Neatly cut squares of bread were deep-fried and topped with deliciously prepared scrambled eggs and garnished with a drop of sauce and a sprig of coriander. I also fondly remember fish cutlets, lamb mince cocktail cutlets and devilled eggs.
My mother kneaded, chopped, whisked, beat, rolled and sliced a host of ingredients to present her delectable pieces of astonishing art. And I watched her with awe. And just like that, I was initiated into the fine art of passionate cooking.
EARLY TRYST WITH HOSTING
Source: Uma’s Kitchen Experiments
The other time, I, a 4 or 5 year old then, really enjoyed hors d’oeuvres was at the houses of two of my Father’s dear friends who formed part of the coterie. The first was Uncle Kalsi, whose cook and man about the house – Daata Ram – would painstakingly put out his fare with pride, having put in a thought for us little guests too.
And the second was at Ustaad Vilayat Khan’s impromptu, casual, cozy and just-for-friends musical Baithaks at Surbahar – his Dehra Dun home of 70s and 80s. Along with the mandatory coated peanuts, there were always these mini cubes of cheese served on a toothpick.
I think, at that age, having realized my fondness for cheese; I looked forward to those musical get-togethers more for the cheese snack than the ethereal music itself.
MY CREATIVE ESCAPE
More than cooking over slow stove or labouring over a curry or tightening the apron to get ready for a baking drive, I personally love putting together hors d’oeuvres. It brings to me far greater satisfaction and joy than any other kind of cooking.
Working on crafting out these bite-sized goodies or antipasti or snacks or hors d’oeuvres – whatever name you want to call them by – makes me feel like an artist. Being an overly creative person, I find the ideas for appetizers exercise artistically appealing.
I, first, create the tidbits in my head; thinking up novel combinations and conjuring interesting ways to present them. Once the blueprint is sort of ready in my head, I seek out the able hands of my skilled home staff to ready the mise-en-place for me.
MISE EN PLACE
Meanwhile, I get busy pulling out the requisite plates and platters from the Cabinet to lay out my oeuvre in style. As if a sculptor, I begin my creative work on the assemblage and preparation. Come to think of it, the end products are, after all, edible sculptures crafted with a sense of passion and a flair for artistry.
In addition the flatware is an important first step in presenting your artworks. The material, be it glass, ceramic, stoneware, wood, terracotta or metal must be conducive to the food you wish to lay out. Furthermore, the style of the platter should blend well with your creations for an aesthetic expression and serve to uplift it.
And the colours of the plate and the food – whether same or in contrast – must be striking and pleasing. My mother always maintained that you first ate with your eyes and with your sense of smell; and she could not be farther from the truth.
Pay a quick heed to the flowers that you wish to do up your setting with for an evening of fun and finger food. Always use fresh flowers as fake ones are a big no-no for looking tacky and bringing the style quotient down.
IDEAS FOR APPETIZERS ON TOOTHPICKS
Here’s listing a few ideas for appetizers of my sought after High Teas that are appreciated as much for the range of my repertoire as for the love and enthusiasm that has gone into presenting it.
Play With Cheese
Since I love cheese, I end up doing a lot of hors d’oeuvres around it – I do Bread roundels topped with Cheese and tomato or simply cubes of hard cheese like the Gruyere or Cheddar on toothpicks, or I will wrap lightly sautéed asparagus sticks in thin blankets of a cheese slice.
Then, I present my version of Caprese salad with grilled potato slices topped with tomato, Cheddar and garnished with basil.
And my take on the Melanzane is done with tiered grilled tomato slices alternated with grated cheese. It is herbed up with sea salt, oregano, freshly ground pepper and drizzled with EVOO.
Source: Ruchi’s Kitchen
Being a Vegetarian I work a lot with cottage cheese too. I love serving my Paneer and Cabbage wraps with chutneyed Paneer cubes wrapped in iced cabbage leaves. Or I will make Mint Paneer tikkas and thread them with green olives on a toothpick.
RELATED: Kachhe Kele Ke Kebab Recipe
By and large, I try to stay away from the ordinary ideas for appetizers and create something new. For instance, I will shy away from just dishing out crudités with dip. I will, instead, lay out Papdi topped with Hung Curd dip, or Cucumber rounds with dip.
For the sweet-toothed, I like topping tea rusks with berry compote or cinnamon flavoured fruit salsa in organic honey. Or I will present Mini Gulab jamuns and Rasgullas strung on a pick. Or cut big Gulab Jamuns in halves and top them with a dollop of Vanilla Ice Cream.
Finally, as much thought and ingenuity must go into planning the beverage to compliment your artworks. A choice of drinks that should blend well and serve to enhance the taste of your tantalizing tidbits.
In fact, I like to do a big punch bowl of Sangria or shake out a Vodka-based Lemon drop Martini. Similarly, you could also go for a sparkling splash with Mimosa or a Litchi flavoured Champagne flute.
SIGNING OFF.. BE WARNED!
Finally, put your heart into crafting your eatworks and let your passion play out to the fullest. In addition, get talked about for that drool worthy – or in today’s times Instagram-worthy – splash of sexilicious soiree.
But be warned, your friends and family would want to visit you far too frequently; that being the only downside!
CRAFTED WITH LOVE