• A ‘flash mob’ of holiday flavors
    December 14,2012
     
    Jeanine Thurston Photo

    An appetizer of bread, Brie and pomegranate adds flash to a holiday party. The photo and recipe are from “Muy Bueno” by Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack, Veronica Gonzalez-Smith and Evangelina Soza.

    Another holiday party. Another cheese ball.

    Sigh.

    There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with a cheese ball. It is just a tad ... predictable. A tad “old school.” A tad — let’s face it — boring.

    Think about your next holiday party as a kind of “flash mob” performance. Imagine a crowd of people milling in a bus station, when suddenly a choir materializes and sings the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Everyone may be expecting a cheese ball (the bus), but instead you give them Thai Basil Noodles or Beef Carpaccio or Ahi Tuna With Wasabi Mayonnaise (Handel’s “Messiah”). It’s unexpected and uplifting.

    The takeaway lesson of the flash mob is that it is a collaborative effort. Ask your guests to contribute something snazzy, and pretty soon you’ll have a wild chorus going on.

    A “finger food” party can incorporate dishes from any culture. Serve Greek dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) alongside Vietnamese spring rolls, Chinese dumplings and Italian focaccia, and not one person is going to complain. Or you could give your party a certain flavor profile: Italian, for example, or Southeast Asian or Mexican.

    For Mexican recipes, you can turn to a new cookbook, “Muy Bueno: Three Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavors” (Hippocrene Books, 2012). The book was written by siblings Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack and Veronica Gonzalez-Smith and their mother, Evangelina Soza, as a tribute to their grandmother and mother, Jesusita Mendias-Soza.

    Abuela Soza was the real deal, a woman who escaped Mexican revolutionaries in 1916 and went on to raise a family, run a business and cook like a gourmet. Her heirs have taken a few liberties with the recipes; the beautiful “bruschetta” below is probably not strictly a Mexican concoction, but it remains true to Jesusita’s spirit. It lives up to the book’s title and is, indeed, “muy bueno” (very good).





    Bruschetta Topped With Apricot, Melted Brie And Pomegranate Seeds

    Yield: about 24 pieces

    1 large pomegranate

    2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

    2 tablespoons olive oil

    1 French baguette

    1 cup apricot preserves

    4 ounces soft-ripened Brie cheese (preferably Brie made with goat’s milk)

    Rosemary sprigs, for garnish (optional)



    Fill a large bowl with water. Slice the pomegranate in half and submerge both halves in the water. Break them apart with your hands, separating the red seeds from the white membrane. The seeds will sink to the bottom, and the white pith will float to the top. Discard pith; drain the seeds and put them in a dry bowl. Reserve 1 cup. (Use the extra seeds for another purpose, such as sprinkling on a salad.)

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

    Place garlic slices and olive oil in a microwave-safe cup and microwave 1 minute to infuse oil with the garlic. Cut baguette into ½-inch-thick slices (about 24 total). Brush infused oil on one side of each slice. Lay slices on a baking sheet and bake 5 to 6 minutes. (The bread does not need to brown but should acquire a toastlike, slightly crusty surface.)

    Spread apricot preserves on toasted bread. Microwave cheese 10 to 15 seconds to soften. Cut Brie in half and spoon or drizzle soft cheese on the toasted bread. Place 1 to 2 teaspoons of pomegranate seeds on each slice. Garnish the plate with rosemary sprigs (if using) and serve.

    Recipe from “Muy Bueno” by Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack, Veronica Gonzalez-Smith and Evangelina Soza (Hippocrene Books, 2012)



    Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp With Jalapeno

    Yield: 20 pieces

    10 slices bacon

    ½ cup salted butter, melted

    1 tablespoon tequila

    1 teaspoon lime juice

    1 teaspoon garlic powder

    ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

    ½ teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican oregano

    20 medium shrimp (about 1 pound)

    3 jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and each cut into about 14 thin strips



    Soak 20 toothpicks in water 15 to 20 minutes. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and set aside. Place a rack within 4 to 6 inches of broiler’s heat source and preheat the broiler.

    Place bacon on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high 1 minute. Allow to cool. Cut bacon slices in half.

    In a bowl, combine melted butter, tequila, lime juice, garlic powder, pepper and oregano.

    Peel and devein shrimp. Butterfly them (cut in half along the vein, but leave both sides connected and leave the tail section intact). Place 2 jalapeno strips in each shrimp and press the sides together. Wrap a half slice of bacon around each shrimp and secure with a soaked toothpick. Brush shrimp and bacon with the melted butter mixture.

    Place bacon-wrapped shrimp evenly on the prepared cookie sheet and broil 6 minutes, turning after 3 minutes. The edges of the bacon and shrimp will get crispy. Serve warm.

    Recipe from “Muy Bueno” by Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack, Veronica Gonzalez-Smith and Evangelina Soza (Hippocrene Books, 2012)



    Marialisa Calta is s syndicated food writer who lives in Calais.

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