I decided to make an appetizer spread for the first day that most of my relatives were showing up. I think this was partially because the only other big meals I've ever made were for Thanksgiving and that's usually what we do for Thanksgiving. It is a good idea, though, because the food can sit out and people can graze.
I thought Spanish-style marinated olives (p. 71) would be perfect since they could easily sit out and they took almost no work. I bought brine-cured green olives, brine-cured black olives, and oil-cured black olives at the Whole Foods olive bar and then added olive oil, garlic cloves, bay leaves, rosemary, and a bit of red pepper flakes. I then let it marinate overnight.
They were delicious and a big hit. The recipe makes four cups of olives but they keep in the fridge for up to a month. The garlic and rosemary flavors complimented the olives perfectly.
I also made Garlic-cheese spread (p. 76), which had actually been on my cooking agenda for a while. I mixed shredded Havarti (which doesn't shred easily--it's soft), a bit of mayonnaise, garlic, and chives.
I stored it for six hours and it was ready to go. Mom told me that a garlic-cheese dip is sold at the grocery store and my version had less mayonnaise, which mom sees as a real plus (she also said that Hy-Vee sells a cheddar version, so go wild with different choices!). It was really good! The garlic gave it an excellent kick and I really like Havarti. It was perfect on crackers.
Marinated mushrooms (p.78) has to be one of the easiest recipes in TJOC. I sliced some mushrooms and soaked them in Ginger lemongrass vinaigrette (p. 575). I mixed lemongrass, ginger, white vinegar, water, and sugar together in a saucepan. I keep white vinegar under the sink since I mainly use it for cleaning, so it always seems strange to use it in a recipe.
When the sauce reduced, I whisked in sesame oil, vegetable oil, and soy sauce and poured it over the mushrooms.
As the mushrooms marinated, they soaked the dressing up.
Re-reading the recipe, I see I was supposed to drain them, but the mushrooms really soaked most of the dressing up. I didn't bother (mostly because I didn't actually read that directive but also because I didn't feel the need to serve them on toothpicks, so extra dressing didn't matter).
These were very popular and went very quickly leaving no leftovers. The lemongrass-ginger sauce had a terrific crisp flavor that really complimented the mushrooms. I think the vinaigrette would work very well as a marinade for grilled veggies too--I can easily imagine these mushrooms on a skewer.