Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Playdate Special: A Few of My Favorite Things

Memories that are powerful enough to make me cook something new are always welcome in the kitchen. Last week, inspired already by the chocolate fudge balls, I  chose to prepare a collection of mini party food for our playdate -- things that I never had time to test before. And we had a good reason to celebrate: We just published our recipe number 100!

The first treat prepared and served were the tiny hot dogs. They were followed by empadinhas, an elegant version of a very delicious mini quiche. The recipe was generously given by my dear auntie Regina. I wanted to remember that lovely smell of her home on Sundays. Nice melted cheese inside a crunchy shell of buttery pastry!

To finish the three courses of fun food, quibinhos were served. They are another specialty frequently served in parties. They are tiny meat treats that carry special spices and bulgur wheat, a tradition that came from Lebanon and stayed in Brazil for good. That will be published later, when I plan to do a small plate bar feast for our potluck.

I also considered this playdate as a opportunity to rehearse the kind of food  I would love to serve in a party. Darienne helped me a lot on the prep -- that might take some time but can be done on the night before. Some of our kid devoured the empadinhas, most didn't really like the foreign spice of the quibinhos. For them, mini hot dogs were the winner! As for me, the taste and texture of empadinhas made me travel in time. There I was, like a kid, besides my kids and friends, eating a few of my favorite things of my childhood!

Aunt Regina's Empadinhas de Queijo 

Any good brand of ground Parmesan cheese will do for the filling. The pastry is not the original, that required the use of lard, but the same I used for my Butternut Squash Pie. We covered each cupcake cup with about 1 tablespoon of dough.

1 cup flour
1/2 cup vegetable spread or butter
3 tablespoons cold water
salt to taste

2 cups Parmesan cheese
1 cup reduced- or full-fat milk
1 tablespoon butter
4 eggs

For the crust:
Prepare dough about 2 hours before baking. Mix flour and vegetable spread or butter (cold), and add water gradually at the end. Knead to a uniform texture. If needed, add more flour to reach a silky and not so wet texture. Wrap in parchment paper and reserve in the fridge. When ready to bake, use a thin layer to cover each foil cupcake cups (Reynolds brand).

Beat all ingredients together and pour about 2 tablespoons of liquid mix on the cupcake cups coated  with dough. Bake at 400F temperature in the middle shelf of oven for about 30 minutes, making sure they are golden at the top. Don't get upset if the beautiful aerated top goes down after a while right after serving.

Mini Hot Dogs

1 tablespoon olive oil
24 mini beef franks or mini cocktail sausages (I used for this one Lit'l Smokies from Hillshire Farms)
2  teaspoons California garlic powder
1 cup marinara sauce (your favorite brand or homemade)
1 package of fresh, ready-to-make pizza dough

Heat olive oil on a skillet, add sausages and let them brown for a while, adding the powdered garlic in the process. Pour marinara sauce over them and cook for abot 10 minutes over lower flame.
Stretch pizza dough on a floured surface. Brush marinara sauce on a line of dough and line up sausages. Wrap them on a single layer and cut each sausage wrap. Bake on a 400F oven upper shelf for about 10 to 15 minutes until golden.

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