Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wrap It Up

I am not a fan of gift bags. I do use them on occasion, but am never satisfied with their presentation. I would rather wrap a gift with glossy paper and tie it up with pretty ribbon. During the holidays, I usually set aside one evening just to sit on the floor surrounded by twinkling Christmas lights, piles of unwrapped gifts, rolls of wrapping paper, and streamers of gorgeous ribbon. I find great satisfaction and comfort in the rhythmic process of measuring, cutting, taping, and finally finishing off each gift with my hand-tied bows. It is better than any therapy for me.

This past holiday season, I found myself falling back on the wrap method for some super easy appetizers. With just a couple ingredients, I created nibbles for parties and gatherings that were just as appealing to the palate as to the eye.

Asparagus Spirals are just what they appear to be. Strips of puff pastry are wrapped around fresh stalks of the elegant vegetable. A sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese and some fresh cracked pepper add another pop of flavor. This recipe has been around for ages, and some variations include wrapping prosciutto with the puff pastry. I was reminded of it after seeing it in the holiday issue of Everyday With Rachael Ray. Their photo showed perfectly plump tips of asparagus, but mine got a little overdone while trying to brown the pastry. However, they still had a great roasted asparagus.

Asparagus Spirals

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
1 sheet puff pastry
15 asparagus spears
fresh ground black pepper

Sprinkle 1 thawed puff pastry sheet with grated Parmesan, then cut lengthwise into 15 strips.
Wrap each of 15 asparagus spears with a pastry strip.
Season with pepper.
Bake in a 400 degree oven until golden, about 20 minutes. (15 appetizers)

Olive Puffs are also just as simple. Use your favorite olives: Queen, Spanish, Garlic, Jalapeno, or Bleu Cheese stuffed, any will work. If you don't want to make a full batch, save the small strips of pastry left after wrapping the asparagus and twist them around the olives. The saltiness of the olives intensifies with the heat of the oven, and makes this appetizer a savory lovers delight.

Olive Puffs

24 olives
1 (17 1/4 ounce) package puff pastry

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut puff pastry into strips about 6 inches long and 1/2 inch wide.
Wrap each olive with a strip of pastry.
Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. (Serves 12)

Finally, Salami and Wonton Wraps are the simplest of all. Puff pastry involves a little planning ahead to defrost before baking. Hard salami and wontons wrappers can be standard ingredients in the fridge (with fairly long expiration dates). I can wrap up a tray of these in minutes, with no advanced notice, and seem like the hostess with the mostest. A dipping sauce can be offered on the side, such as mustard or even marinara. However, with a good salami, I think that they are perfect served just as is, and even wonderful at room temperature.

Salami and Wonton Wraps

1 (16 ounce) package wonton wrappers
1/2 lb thinly sliced hard salami, from the deli

Lay wonton skin on table so that a corner is toward you.
Place slice of salami on the skin.
Roll up like a cigar from corner to corner, moisten tip of wonton with a little water to help hold together.
Place on a cookie sheet seam side down.
Bake at 375 for about 10 minutes or until they turn lightly golden. (Serves 4-6)

Sharing wrapped gifts is a joyous part my holidays. Sharing wrapped appetizers can be a joyous event any time and any season with recipes and ideas as simple as these. I want to wrap it up and get it On My Plate and yours.

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