My challenge, should I choose to accept it:
My gal Saketini and her husband Smoked Porter have invited us over for dinner tonight with another couple, our friends IPA and Lemon Drop. Saketini’s not given us much direction on what she’s making, but has asked Lemon Drop and me to bring appetizers.
What would A Bourbon Gal do? Damn, I love a good food challenge.
Here are some other considerations before I put the knife to the board:
1) I didn’t see this text until half of the group conversation had gone by, so I’ve only got 2 hours left to prepare something. Plus I still need to take a shower and get myself prettified. Saketini and Lemon Drop always look gorgeous, so this is no small undertaking on my part (No baking or searing, check).
2) We’re walking through our lovely neighborhood to their house, so my apps need to be backpack portable. (Nothing fragile, check)
3) My gal Lemon Drop will probably bring artichoke dip, so my contribution needs to pair well but not appear to be competitively spreadable or dippable. (Stick to finger food or something skewered, check)
4) It should go with the undoubtedly fabulous beer selection that Smoked Porter and our buddy IPA—who writes the fantastic beer blog Hoss on Hops—will assemble. (Strong flavors, check)
Luckily, I sent my budding 11- year old gourmand, Tim Collins, to our neighborhood Emigration Market for some cheese and charcuterie the other day. He’s a huge Creminelli Salami fan, and brought back one of their delicious uncured salamis and a nice chunk of imported Gorgonzola. We have a few ounces of salami left and a nub of cheese. I could totally do a quick nibbles board accompanied by some fruit and crackers, and that would be perfectly lovely if predictable and, quite frankly, sparse. I’ve also got jars of my own go-to preserves and chutneys, but they’ve all had those a million times, and I’m down to only 3 ounces of gloppy-looking cream cheese to pour them over. Plus, I’m out of crackers. And good-looking fresh fruit. And now, time!
What I need are some perfect little bites to share. Something sweet and savory to balance Lemon Drop’s dip and crackers, but salty will go great with the beer. And a bit hearty, too. We’re feeding a firefighter and a beer blogger here; they need some sustenance! Damn, this challenge is getting better every minute. It’s like a real-life version of Chopped! But without the ugly chef’s coats, sympathetic Ted Allen, lots of yelling “behind,” snarky eye rolling and side-commentary, and the dishy Marcus Samuelsson (sigh). And I don’t have a blast chiller in sight.
The result? Here, my friends, is your perfect 4-ingredient, pantry & fridge-scrounged, no baking required, highly durable, and very tasty bite (and I had time to make my hair look fabulous):
Gorgonzola-stuffed dates with Whiskey salami
1) Slice 10-12 extra large dried dates in half length-wise; remove pits. Place pitted side up on a platter.
2) In a small bowl, mash together with a fork 3 oz. softened cream cheese and 4 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (also terrific with Maytag Blue)
3) Remove casing from 3-4 oz. of Creminelli Whiskey salami (or other hard dry uncured Italian salami, any will do) and slice on the bias into very thin ovals. Slice ovals in half again to make half-oval strips.
4) To assemble: scoop up about 1 teaspoon (this is very approximate folks, I don’t know how big your dates are!) of cheese mixture and gently scrape it with the back of a spoon into the center of your date half for the filling. Top with a salami strip or two. If you are packing these to travel, place a crumpled sheet of parchment paper between layers and pack gently in glass or plastic lidded containers.