Simple Appetizers for New Year’s Eve

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I am not a huge fan of this holiday. But I am a huge fan of (safe) hosting and gathering and sharing a convivial meal with family and friends. New Year’s Eve presents an opportunity for all of that if you can tease out the pressure to drink too much and stay up too late.

This selection of appetizers will not overly tax the cook and can be part of a larger cocktail buffet if dinner is not being served. Conversely, if a full meal is on the menu, these nibbles can deliver a nice, light appetizer course that doesn’t fill up the guests or compromise the main event.

Firecracker Salmon Bites
Serves 4 as an appetizer

This recipe was inspired by a shrimp dish I saw on a food blog; I’ve tweaked it to fit a kosher audience. They can be served on toothpicks hot or at room temperature. The version here is quite spicy thanks to jalapeno pepper, but if that is not to your liking, you can use any marinade you like — teriyaki sauce, mustard, white wine vinaigrette or tandoori.

1 pound salmon fillet, skin removed, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeno peppers
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
¼ cup olive oil
Pinch of salt
Juice of ½ lemon

Heat oven to 375 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix all the ingredients except for the salmon in a medium-sized bowl. Add the salmon to the bowl and toss it gently to coat. Let it sit for about 30 minutes. Place the salmon pieces on the baking sheet and bake them for about 10 minutes or until just done. Cool the salmon slightly, stab it with sturdy toothpicks and serve it as an appetizer.

Cold Veggie Pizza

This is the ultimate cheat: store-bought dough and bottled dressing. But it is tasty, pretty to look at with the colorful vegetables and a volume appetizer that you make in a baking tray and cut in pieces. It does not involve fussing with canapes, sealing wontons or other high-effort action. If you are so inclined, feel free to make your own biscuit dough and
ranch dressing.

This pizza can be made ahead of time but should be assembled close to serving. You don’t want the sauce to sit on the crust for a lengthy spell or it may become soggy. But you can bake the crust, mix the sauce and chop the veggies a day ahead, then assemble the pizza an hour or so before your guests arrive.

1 package crescent roll dough
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup ranch dressing
½ pound cream cheese, softened
2-3 cups finely chopped assorted raw vegetables, preferably in varied colors, such as broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, beets, cauliflower, yellow, red and
green peppers
¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Roll the crescent dough onto a cookie sheet and bake according to package directions. Set the dough aside to cool completely.

Mix the mayonnaise, cream cheese and dressing until well blended. Spread this mixture onto the crust — be sure it is completely cooled or it will “melt” the sauce. Top it with chopped vegetables and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Cut the dough into bite-sized pieces and serve it chilled or at room temperature.

Stuffed Mushrooms
Makes 24

These mushrooms can be made ahead of time. Save the last step for the final 5 minutes in the oven to heat the filling until ready to serve.

2 dozen crimini or white “button” mushrooms
Cooking spray
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 small red pepper,
finely diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tablespoons chopped basil or parsley

Heat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and discard or reserve them for another use (the veggie pizza, perhaps?). Coat the mushroom caps lightly with cooking spray and bake them on the prepared cooking tray, hollow side up, until the mushrooms begin to sweat, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, blend the remaining ingredients.

Let the mushrooms sit until they are cool enough to handle. Fill the mushrooms with the cheese mixture, and return them to the oven just to warm the filling, about 5 minutes.


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