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Appetizers in Eichlerville
A Quick Lesson
on Commencing Social Gatherings With Something
Good To Eat
by
Beth Ladove 

Gracious living includes cocktails and appetizers

The dilemma was this: What to serve for a housewarming cocktail party in my new Eichler home when the theme was the year the house was built --- 1958. I didn't want the food to be a camp ‘50s joke with "pigs in blankets" and deviled eggs. I was searching for something a little less trite and with a lot more taste. The resulting menu was an assortment of simple canapés, spreads and hors d'oeuvres that captured the essence of the period yet held its own against more contemporary fare. These appetizers were such a success that I think they'd be a hit at any affair. After all, there's more to life than salsa and chips.

Canapes
Simply defined, canapés are savory little morsels of food on a toast or cracker base. These can be served hot or cold and are designed to be eaten gracefully from the fingers. A variety, served in the living room with cocktails, starts any party off on a happy note. Note: it's important that the canapé tray look irresistible to the eye as well as the taste. Small cocktail napkins are all that is necessary to offer for these appetizers.

Step One – Prepare the Toast Beds
Shopping for Appetizer Ingredients
In the era when full-time wives spent the day preparing for guests, the process of toast-making was multi-stepped --- slicing and trimming the crusts of the individual rounds, toasting them in a buttered skillet and then spreading them with assorted toppings. If you've got the time, then this is still a great way to begin, but happily there are also time-saving alternatives. A simple shortcut is to buy ready-prepared toast points or small sandwich rounds. Slice the store-bought rounds with cookie cutters into the shape of stars, crescents, etc., to make the presentation a little more festive. For variety, mix white bread with dark rye or even forego bread altogether and use slices of boiled beets or sweet potatoes. These colorful vegetable beds provide visual interest and a pleasant taste surprise for the mouth.

Step Two – Easy to Make Spreads
Once you have your bases you can easily prepare several different toppings. Many of the original popular spreads of the ‘50s seem a tad odd today – most of us wouldn't dream of serving deviled ham or minced canned clams let alone a combination like peanut butter and bacon. However, there are some classic interpretations of the canapé that seem as savory today as they did forty years ago. Mix and match on different breads, crackers or cooked vegetable slices. Although this will only take you minutes it will seem as though you've created a great many choices for your guests.

Mix & Match Slices
1950s canapés evoke images of pimentos and hard cooked egg yolks (which actually can be very tasty despite the associations we may have) but there are many more modern combinations of items you can layer such as:

  • smoked salmon, cucumber, red onion & capers (on pumpernickel)
  • blue cheese, pimiento and green onion
  • brie, lettuce and onion (on rye bread)
  • fresh mozzarella cheese and roasted red peppers (on Melba toast) Note: You can buy good inexpensive roasted red peppers canned in olive oil at any supermarket.
  • salami and dill pickle (on baguette slices)

Caviar
Although we'd all love to indulge in the high-quality beluga or sevruga caviar available refrigerated in gourmet and specialty shops, I've found that the inexpensive salmon, flying fish and whitefish roe available at most supermarkets is just fine for most uses. I like to serve a combination of the yellow, red, and black caviar to give even greater variety to the presentation. This can be served straight but if you feel the flavor of the caviar needs enhancement you can liven it up with a little lemon juice or finely chopped onions. Top your toast or vegetable base with a small dollop of sour cream, followed by a tiny spoonful of caviar. This looks especially beautiful on beet or yam slices. A sprig of fresh dill on top is a delicate and flavorful garnish.

Hot Cheese Puffs
There's nothing that says canapés must be cold. It's just as important to vary the temperature of the food you're serving as it is the taste and appearance. After "pigs in blankets" hot cheese puffs are probably one of the most notorious ‘50s hot appetizers. They may be corny but they're also delicious! Some hosts don't like serving hot canapés because they require spending time in the kitchen during the party. The beauty of these little sandwiches is that they can be prepared (except for the heating) well in advance. Once the party is underway just pop them in and out of the oven. You won't have to miss out on more than five minutes with your guests. Instead of the American cheese variety that was so popular in the ‘50s, I've updated this classic by using a sharp cheddar or even Gruyere. Simply beat 2 egg whites until stiff. Beat in ½ tsp. baking powder, ¼ tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. paprika (use the real Hungarian paprika that adds a spicy flavor, not just color). Fold in 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese. Heap on 1 ½-inch rounds of toast beds. Broil about five  minutes until delicately browned.

Now let's move on to:
Appetizer Spreads

 

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