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Seasonal Chef: Holiday Party Pot Luck, Part 2: Bringing an Appetizer

Appetizers are an interesting food category. The definition of appetizer is: a small dish of food or drink taken before a meal to stimulate one’s appetite. Interesting, indeed! Appetizers come in all shapes and sizes, with literally thousands of options floating out there.


Hummus with Red Radish and Pita Crisps


Grilled Shrimp with Minted Yogurt Dip

They can be as simple as putting a spread in a bowl or grilled shrimp on a stick with a little dip.


Summer Rolls with Fresh Veggies  

Or creating a beautiful rolled summer roll with crunchy matchstick veggies and a spicy dipping sauce.


Candied and Savory Hazelnuts and Almonds


Assorted Crudités with Remoulade Dip 

Recently I posted a question on my Facebook page about favorite appetizers and got several interesting ideas back, some of which I have also created. A quick note on crudités: almost every time I start to work with a client to develop the menu for a party inevitably I am asked to do a crudités platter. No matter how beautiful it looks it’s never touched. I’m not really sure why?  Perhaps it’s the rawness, or maybe the idea that other people are touching the pieces … it’s hard to say. One of my regular clients  doesn’t mind, he ends up using the leftovers the next day for a Stir Fry!

More after the jump …. 

In last week [6]‘s post I talked a little about the do’s and don’t of holiday party pot luck. The same holds true for appetizers. When asked to bring something for a party be sure to check with the host on you’re idea. The last thing they need are multiple trays of raw veggies – right?


I got to thinking over the weekend about what recipe I could share with you today that would be an easy make-ahead dish. We’re coming down to the wire this week and everyone is hustling and bustling buying and wrapping presents, finishing up work and looking forward to the last week of the year. What could be easier than a soup? I’m sure you are thinking: “Come on Maria – a soup for an appetizer party?” Yes .. and this one is made with cauliflower.

A bit about cauliflower: it’s a member of the cabbage family and thought to have originated in Asia Minor. It’s been an important ingredient in Turkish and Italian cuisines since about 600 BC. In the 16th century is gained popularity in northern Europe, eventually making it’s way to us.  Cauliflower is loaded with a whole host of nutrients and topping the list are Vitamins K and C.


The very best way to eat it in my opinion, other than raw, is roasted. Drizzled with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast high in 450 degree oven and top with Parmigianno cheese. Yum!

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I decided to take idea that one step further and do a soup (sans cheese), so while it was roasting in the oven I sautéed my mirepoix: celery, carrot, onion and garlic. You want to really get your vegetables beautifully golden in this step … more color = more flavor!


I almost decided to add a vegetable stock, but looking at the core left behind decided to use that to lend additional flavor and tarragon would be the herb.

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Into the pot of veggies I added the roasted cauliflower with water and cooked for just a short time until the veggies were soft. Then I pulled out the core, added the tarragon and pureed it. A quick note on dry herbs: use them sparingly. They have a much more intense flavor than in their original fresh state.


Garnish is always something you need to keep in mind. A quick check of the cabinet yielded roasted hazelnuts which worked beautifully with my dish.

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Now that my soup was done I need to think about the vehicle in which it would be served. You have a few options to think about. Many party stores carry these cute little shooter cups. I use them all the time when I cater. They are the perfect size for a one or two sip taste.


For smaller parties I have a nicer glass version made my Libbey, from there “Just Desserts” line. Perfect for almost anything.

So there you have it: a simple make-ahead dish to bring to your next party, or serve at your own party. The total cooking time is about 30 minutes. It just needs to be slightly rewarmed before plating and topped with a few crunchy nuts before serving.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and filled with family, good friends and delicious food!

Buon Appetito!


Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Crushed Hazelnuts

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 6-8 full servings or 32 shooter cup servings

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Crushed Hazelnuts

A super simple roasted vegetable soup to bring to your next pot luck party - or enjoy on a chilly winter night.


  • 1 3 to 3 1/2 lb cauliflower, florets removed and core reserved
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1 medium celery stalk, cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon dry tarragon
  • Roasted hazelnuts, garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Place the cauliflower florets on a rimmed cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss well and roast in oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
  3. While the cauliflower is cooking sauté over medium heat the carrot, celery, onion and garlic in a heavy bottom pot with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a half teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables take on a nice golden color, about 10 minutes.
  4. When the cauliflower is done place that in the pot with the other vegetables, the core and 8 cups of hot water. Cover the pot and simmer for about 10 minutes, until all the veggies are soft. Remove from heat, uncover and stir in the tarragon. Cool for about 10 minutes.
  5. Using and immersion or stand blender puree until smooth. Taste for seasoning.
  6. Just before serving warm slightly and garnish with roughly chopped hazelnuts.


Prep time includes cooling time as well.

http://food.lohudblogs.com/2012/12/19/seasonal-chef-holiday-party-pot-luck-part-2-bringing-an-appetizer/ [19]


[20]Seasonal Chef blogger Maria Reina [21] comes to the world of food as a third career, spending a great portion of her adult life in the field of Human Resources. With her private company Bella Cucina Maria she is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Westchester. She’s an avid food television watcher and cookbook collector, always looking for a new take on a traditional dish. In her free time she loves hanging out at local farmers, chatting it up with the farmers and doing cooking demos with their seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog [22], which is loaded with easy recipes, you can follow her on Facebook [23] [20]Twitter [24] and Pinterest [25].