Potluck Appetizers

A group of friends get together every other month for a potluck dinner. Sometimes the dinners are true potluck. At other times, they are themed with a menu of dishes individuals may bring. It makes for pleasant evenings with good people and good food.  It is hard to beat that combo!
Our March dinner had an Italian theme.  I was asked to bring appetizers. I made a personal favorite – skewered mozzarella balls, basil leaves and grape tomatoes. Last fall, I discovered how wonderful baked feta can be, so I made baked feta with a borrowed idea for a fruit confit and and decided this was an opportunity to share a delectable treat. The warm roasted feta has a wonderful creamy texture nothing like you might expect from crumbled feta on a salad.

Skewered mozzarella balls, basil and grape tomatoes – a refreshing appetizer.

Ingredients
The name says it all.  If you need an ingredients list, you should be making reservations for dinner. (Wasn’t that tacky!)
Method
I’ll share a fee hints.  I roll the basil leaves and put them between the cheese and tomato on wooden skewers that are a little longer than toothpicks.  I used a telera roll anchored to the plate with a blob of peanut butter as a base for the skewers.  Curly lettuce leaves tucked under the roll make the plate more attractive.  Telera rolls are a Mexican sandwich roll widely available in El Paso.  You could use a brioche instead if you wish. The important thing is a half-round base for the skewers/

What wowed the group was the Roasted Feta with Blackberry and Herb Confit. It was an amazing pairing of flavors and textures best served warm.

Roasted Sheep’s Milk Feta with a Blackberry and Herb Confit served warm on pita chips.

Several months ago, I served roasted feta as the protein for a vegetarian bridesmaid luncheon in Oregon. The El Paso group dinner was a chance to do a riff on that feta with the addition of a blackberry and herb confit as an appetizer.

Roasted Feta
Ingredients
One 8 oz. block feta, patted dry (sheep’s milk feta is great if you can find it.)
2 tsp. olive oil
Method
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Brush the feta with the olive oil and place in a small oven-proof baking dish, preferably the one you can serve from.

Bake the feta until it starts to soften, about 8 – 9 minutes. Switch the oven to broil and broil for about three minutes to start to brown the top of the feta. Watch that is doesn’t burn.

Remove from oven and spoon the warm confit over the feta. Serve immediately.

Blackberry and Herb Confit
Ingredients
3 black peppercorns or a few good grinds of black pepper
4 juniper berries (or 1 bayleaf)
1 sprig fresh rosemary (about 1.5 to 3 inches)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp honey
1 pint black berries
Method
Tie peppercorns. juniper berries and rosemary spring in a single layer of cheesecloth. They will be easier to remove later.

Place all ingredients, including the cheesecloth bundle in a small saucepan over medium heat. Be sure the cheesecloth is under the blackberries. When the mixture has begun to simmer and the berries have begin to break up and yield their juices, reduce the heat and simmer, stirring gently occasionally until syrupy -25-30 minutes. You should have about a cup of confit.

Remove the cheesecloth bundle and discard. Confit may be used immediately. If you let it chill a few hours or overnight, the flavors meld. I lprefer the texture of the berries in the confit. If desired, you can strain the confit through a fine mesh strainer and mash all the liquid you can from the confit to have a smoother, but lesser volume syrup.

Spoon warm confit over warm feta and try not to swoon.

 

 

 

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