Party Fare


by Joanna White

Serve this fresh vegetable spread hot or cold with rounds of crusty French bread. It can also be used as a vegetable side dish.

1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup diced celery
1 large carrot, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes, drained
3 tbs. tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup chopped stuffed green olives
1/4 cup chopped pitted black olives
2 tbs. coarsely chopped capers
salt and pepper to taste

Place eggplant in a colander and sprinkle lightly with salt; let stand for about 30 minutes until some of the moisture has drained off. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat and sauté eggplant zucchini and until lightly browned. Stir in onion, garlic, celery and carrot and sauté for about 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, reduce heat to low and simmer gently for about 1 hour. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot or cold.

Squeeze the spinach very dry. Otherwise, the filling leaches too much liquid and the appetizer is too messy to handle.

2 tbs. butter
1/4 cup minced onion
1 cup chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed very dry
1/2 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
nutmeg to taste
1 lb. medium white or brown mushrooms

Heat oven to 350°. In a skillet, heat butter over medium heat and sauté onion until limp. Add spinach, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg; taste and adjust seasonings. Cut stems from mushrooms at base of caps. Reserve mushroom stems for another use or discard. Place mushrooms cap-side down on a baking sheet and fill each cap with a small mound of filling. Bake for about 20 minutes. Serve hot in a chafing dish, or in a baking dish set on an electric warming tray.

If desired, this brine can be used for cauliflower or broccoli.

3 lb. fresh asparagus, tough ends removed
3/4 cup cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1 tbs. dried dill weed
1 tbs. sugar
1 tbs. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock

Cut asparagus into bite-sized pieces and place in a shallow pan. Mix remaining ingredients together and pour over asparagus. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours, turning occasionally. Drain before serving. Provide toothpicks for serving.

This refreshing dip goes well with vegetables or crackers.

1 medium cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise and seeded
1/3 cup low-fat or nonfat cottage cheese
1 cup plain low-fat or nonfat yogurt
1 tbs. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. dried dill weed, or more to taste
1/4 tsp. white pepper, or more to taste

With a food processor or box grater, shred cucumber. Place cucumber shreds in a colander, sprinkle with salt and let stand over the sink for 30 minutes. Remove cucumber from colander and squeeze dry with paper towels. Process remaining ingredients with a food processor or blender until smooth. Stir in cucumber, taste and adjust seasonings. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

From Party Fare: Irresistible Nibbles for Every Occasion, by Joanna White. Copyright ©1998 by Bristol Publishing Enterprises, Inc. Excerpted by arrangement Bristol Publishing Enterprises, Inc. $8.95. Available in local bookstores, or call 800-346-4889, or click here.