Sunday, May 18, 2014

Pretty In Pink - Seasonal Fruits in Drinks & Hors D'oeuvres

Mother's Day was sunny and beautiful as ever this year, and my husband and I were blessed to be able to spend it with our two very special moms at a fun barbecue with the rest of the fam. For one reason or another, my brain's been a bit fried lately, and as a result, I had been having trouble thinking up a plan for my usual responsibility, the hors d'oeuvres. Sure, I could have consulted this blog I know for lots of tried and true nibbles (after all, bite-sized appetizers really are my favorite), but I was just in the mood to try something brand new, ideally using the best produce of the season. 

Sweet & Savory Strawberry Cream Cheese Toasts + Rosemary Crisps with Mascarpone & Apricots, Photo: NK
Only a day away from the big event, the answer came, and not a moment too soon! A basic hors d'oeuvre served at my good friend's baby shower would provide the inspiration for today's strawberry cream cheese sweet and savory toasts. Date nut bread slathered with whipped cream cheese and then topped with a sliced ripe strawberry ended up being the most amazing and easy to make treat - sweet yet not too sweet. After undertaking some further research around cream cheese and date nut bread, I learned that this combination is also reasonably famous in retro food history. My variation using semolina bread will take on more of a sweet/salty quality, but I recommend both versions for your next party. They could not be simpler and with strawberries in season now, they're a wonderful way to showcase everyone's favorite berry. 

Hors d'oeuvres aside, a complimentary beverage that our moms would love also seemed in order. For this, I turned to the peak season fruit I've been eating non-stop lately - the Grapefruit. Trust me, grapefruit is particularly fantastic right now. You should go out and get some next chance you get. 

I am happy to say that what I came up with was a drink that's pretty in pink and refreshing and summery as they come. I even decided against adding alcohol this time (I know, "who are you and what have you done with Mr. & Mrs. Neurotic Kitchen?). Rest assured that I bet this would be mighty delicious with a shot of vodka or gin in it, should the mood strike. 

Need more nibble ideas? Also pictured above you will find Savory Rosemary Wafer Crackers (we like 34-degrees brand) spread with luxurious Mascarpone Cheese and topped with a slice of fresh Apricot or any other in season stone fruit. Finish them with a sprinkle of black pepper and serve right away! 

Simple & Refreshing Grapefruit Soda, Photo: NK
Simple & Refreshing Grapefruit Soda
Makes enough for 6 Drinks 

Juice and Pulp of 1 Ripe Grapefruit - for syrup base
3 Tablespoons Agave Syrup
6 Sprigs of fresh Rosemary
24 ounces Seltzer Water
About 12 Ounces Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice (fresh squeezed or from a bottle)


First, make some Shortcut Grapefruit Syrup:
Combine the juice of 1 very ripe Grapefruit with 3 Tablespoons Agave
To make your drinks: 
Set up 6 short tumbler glasses and add to each 2 Tablespoons Grapefruit Syrup.
Next, fill each glass 2/3 of the way with Seltzer Water and add 3-4 Ice Cubes. Stir.
Pour two big slashes of fresh squeezed pink grapefruit juice or bottled pink grapefruit cocktail. Garnish with Rosemary Sprigs and enjoy!

Sweet & Savory Strawberry Cream Cheese Toasts
Serves 8

1 Round Loaf of Seeded Semolina or other crusty bread, cut into thin slices then cut into thirds.
1 tub Whipped Cream Cheese
2 Tablespoons Agave or Honey
Olive Oil 
Coarse Salt 
Soon to be toast, Photo: NK
At least 12 Ripe Strawberries hulled and halved

1. Sprinkle sliced Bread with Olive Oil (I like to apply my oil by pouring some into a small bowl and dabbing some scrunched up paper towel in it before stamping it onto the surface of the bread - the method works really well~) and toast until slightly golden. While toast is still warm, sprinkle with Coarse Salt. 

2. In a separate bowl, lightly mix about 4 ounces of the Cream Cheese with 2 Tablespoons Agave and gently combine. If you require more Cream Cheese mixture you can repeat this process later. 

3. When ready to serve, spread a follow of sweetened Cream Cheese onto each toast and top with a Strawberry half. Serve immediately and enjoy!

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