Seasonal Starters

24 Dec 2015
POSTED BY Y Magazine
Here we give you some inspiration for seasonal starters that will make the best possible first impressions on your dinner guests

Winter has drawn in, meaning there are plenty of entertaining occasions like barbecues and festive lunches to plan for. As opposed to focusing on several side dishes to accompany your barbecue favourites, why not consider offering your guests an array of seasonal starters to complement your main course instead?



Celebrity chef and Food Network star, Alex Guarnaschelli offers three make-ahead, delicious appetisers that will help make entertaining a breeze. By pairing seasonal produce and herbs with nuts like walnuts and pecans for rich flavour, these appetisers will be the highlight of your meal. Chef Alex prefers to use Fisher nuts, as it is one of the few brands of recipe nuts entirely without preservatives.

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Recipe: Walnut stuffed cherry tomato halves

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“Who doesn’t love a stuffed cherry tomato?” Guarnaschelli says. “A mixture of cheese, peppery arugula and juicy tomatoes brings out the great richness of the nuts. Stuffed cherry tomatoes are satisfying without being filling, and make a great alternative to bread-based starters. You can assemble these appetisers ahead of time and refrigerate them until you’re ready to serve.”

Serves:  12

Prep time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup fresh arugula leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped Fisher Walnut Halves and Pieces (or similar brand), toasted
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 36 cherry tomatoes

 

 Method:

  1. Toast the walnuts by placing them in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Stir frequently until the walnuts are golden – about three to five minutes.
  2. Combine the arugula with the walnuts, cheese, olive oil, vinegar and lemon zest; set aside.
  3. Cut the tops off the tomatoes. Use a small spoon (such as an espresso spoon), the handle of a teaspoon or a melon baller to gently remove the majority of the seeds and pulp, taking care not to pierce the skin. Season the insides lightly with salt. Fill the tomatoes with the walnut and arugula mixture. Serve at room temperature.

“For a more Italian experience, use authentic Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in this recipe,” Guarnaschelli suggests. “It’s more expensive than domestic Parmesan, but it has a wonderfully rich and nutty flavour.”

Recipe: Quickie goat cheese and pecan bites

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Another great make-ahead appetiser, these bites are filled with flavour and deliver the perfect combination of crunch and taste. “The freshness of the parsley and lemon zest is the perfect bridge between the goat cheese and pecans,” says Guarnaschelli.

Serves:  24

Prep time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 450g soft goat cheese
  • 2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup toasted Fisher Pecan Halves, chopped
  • Zest from two lemons
  • 3 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Method:

  1. Break up and mix the goat cheese with the black pepper in a medium bowl. Divide into 24 pieces of about 2 teaspoons each and roll into balls.
  2. Combine the pecans, lemon zest and parsley in a medium bowl until well blended. Roll the goat cheese balls in the pecan mixture. Arrange on a serving platter. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Take them out 15 minutes before serving so they soften a little and drizzle with a little olive oil, if desired.

 

Recipe: Spicy walnut and chickpea hummus

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Chipotle brings smoky heat to this appetiser. While hummus is traditionally made with tahini (sesame) paste, this version uses sesame seeds and walnuts to add richness to the mixture and texture when sprinkled on top. Serve this hummus as an individual hors d’oeuvres or as a tasty dip with pitta wedges.

Serves:  24

Prep time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chopped Fisher Walnuts, divided
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp chipotle powder or ground red pepper
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, coarsely chopped, about 3/4 cup
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley

Method:

  1. Combine 1/2 cup walnuts and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor, pulse to coarsely chop the walnuts. Add the chickpeas, lemon juice, sesame seeds, garlic, paprika, chipotle powder and salt, and process until smooth.
  2. Transfer the spread from the food processor into a medium mixing bowl and stir in bell pepper, parsley and remaining 1/2 cup walnuts. Serve with toasted pitta triangles, if desired.

For more recipe inspiration and tips from Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, check out FisherNuts.com


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