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Prepping for a party: make-ahead appetizers make summer entertaining easy

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Posted: Monday, May 19, 2014 10:00 pm | Updated: 1:35 am, Sun Sep 21, 2014.

(BPT) - Don’t let the first “ding-dong” of the doorbell catch you up to your elbows in dirty dishes and half-finished appetizers.

For your next party, prepare your appetizers ahead of time with these simple tips and recipes:

“Let’s not reinvent the wheel. Take items you already know how to make and turn them cool and trendy with some add-ons,” says Chef Richard Worthen, culinary instructor at The Art Institute of Seattle. You can dress up egg, tuna or chicken salad with a variety of flavors and spices. He recommends chopped cilantro instead of chopped parsley, adding chipotle to egg salad or adding almonds, walnuts or pistachio nuts for some crunch.

For a gluten-free appetizer, try lettuce cups. “You could do a quick chop of a variety of three-to-four items and put it in a lettuce cup,” says Chef Brian Shulse of The Art Institute of California – San Francisco, a campus of Argosy University. “It can also go traditional Asian – ground pork with some spices that can just be popped in the microwave to heat before serving.”

“You could do a flat bread with seasonal vegetables on it,” Shulse says. “Make the bread in advance, roll it out, put olive oil on it, add seasonal vegetables, and bake.” Worthen recommends tomato toast, which is made by taking cut tomatoes and rubbing the juice and pulp into french bread slices. This can serve as a base for any type of spread.

Shulse says people tend to go to proteins, such as shrimp cocktail and cubes of steak, and not to the veggie tray. He says you can make all kinds of skewers with different meats, then add fresh chopped herbs and citrus to Greek yogurt for a quick and easy sauce. Another great make-ahead protein is tuna tartar, which can be made with a high-quality ahi tuna steak and served with store-bought kettle chips.

Phyllo-wrapped asparagus, made with store-bought phyllo dough, is another easy recipe, along with water chestnuts wrapped in bacon. Simply wrap one third of a slice of bacon around each water chestnut, roll in brown sugar and bake at 425 degrees until brown and crisp.

Try these easy make-ahead recipes courtesy of Shulse:

Spicy Ahi Tartare             

Yield: 10 servings

Ingredients:

2 pounds Yellow fin/Ahi tuna, diced in 1/8-inch pieces

1/2 cup cucumber, washed, dried, diced in 1/8-inch pieces(optional- peel)

1-2 garlic cloves, crushed, peel removed and minced

1-2 serrano or jalapeno pepper, seeded, minced fine

1 shallot, finely minced (substitute 2 green onions)

1 orange, washed, dried, zested, juiced

1 lime, juiced

1 teaspoon dry oregano (or 2 teaspoons fresh)

2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)

1 teaspoon sugar

1 bag thick potato chips (like Kettle chips) or crackers

Directions:

Gently mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. This will hold for two to four hours (or up to overnight). To serve, gently mix and place in a serving bowl with a spoon, with the chips on the side.

Lettuce Cups     

Yield: 15 bites

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1/2 yellow onion, small dice

1 tablespoon garlic, smashed, peeled, minced

1 tablespoon ginger, peeled, grated fine (or use micro plane)

1/2 bunch green onions, minced, white and green kept separately

1 pound ground pork

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 cup water chestnuts, small dice

2 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoon Hoisin sauce

1-2 tablespoons Chinese hot mustard

1/2 cup peanuts, crushed or chopped

15 Iceberg lettuce cups, cut into 3-inch squares

Directions:

Over medium-low heat, preheat a medium size saute pan for 30 seconds. Add the sesame oil and swirl the pan until it is fully coated with oil. Add the onion, garlic, white part of the green onion and ginger. Sweat for several minutes until the mixture begins to look translucent. Turn up the heat to high and add the ground pork. Cook on high, stirring until the meat turns pale brown. Turn the heat back down to medium-low and add the salt, diced water chestnuts, soy sauce and Hoisin sauce. Cook until moisture evaporates. Turn the pan off and add the Chinese hot mustard to taste. After this has cooled down, cover and refrigerate. Can be made up to four days in advance. Reheat gently in a microwave or saute pan until just warmed through. Place in a serving bowl, top with peanuts, and serve with lettuce cups.

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