With the holidays fast approaching, choose some new apps — no smart phone required! Impress guests with six simple starters like fig crostini, featuring fig jam, Granny Smith apples and pecorino.

“You’ve got the sweetness of the jam, the tartness of the apple and the saltiness of the cheese. All the different tastes come together,” described John Serock, president of John Serock Catering in West Chester.

He also recommends onion soup bites, phyllo cups filled with caramelized onions and Gruyère.

“The nice thing with the caramelized onions is you can make them up, and they’ll hold in the fridge for two weeks,” Serock said. “At the holidays, you always get these last-minute people who just show up.”

Unexpected guests once gave Olga Sorzano a mere 45-minutes notice.

“I just looked in my fridge and wondered what I had,” recalled the former private chef, now of Baba’s Brew in West Chester.

She too turned to caramelized onions. The wow-worthy result: puff pastry tart with caramelized onions, mushrooms and goat cheese.

“Puff pastry saved my butt so many times!” she said with a laugh. “I think we all should have a frozen puff pastry just in case.”

A second Sorzano suggestion: dressed-up deviled eggs with any number of toppings. Bacon and blue cheese, anyone?

“It’s almost like an ice cream sundae,” she said. “You put on different things, and all of a sudden it becomes a new dish.”

Love mushrooms? Try a straightforward stuffed mushroom recipe from Basciani Foods in Avondale.

“Mushrooms to some people are still considered a delicacy rather than a staple food, and they like to treat themselves around the holidays,” said general manager Fred Recchiuti, who ships about 1.2 million pounds of mushrooms a week. “Big crowd-pleaser. Absolutely.”

Another crowd pleaser: bruschetta with homemade garlic crostini from Montesano Bros. Italian Market & Catering in Eagle and Bucktown.

“It’s a good combination of tastes; and the crunchiness of the crostini — it’s just a nice balance,” explained Michael Montesano. “It has to be fresh. It can’t be sitting around, otherwise it gets soggy.”

So when old neighbors or distant relatives drop by, whip up one of these easy-yet-enticing appetizers.

And remember, “It’s kind of nice to know the basics, but you don’t have to stick to the recipe,” Sorzano said.

Fig CrostiniYield: 12 Pieces (6 Servings)

Ingredients1½ cups fig jam (store-bought or recipe below)

1 large Granny Smith apple3 ounces shaved pecorino cheese

12 slices toasted baguetteFig jam:

1 (16-ounce) package dry figs¼ cup sugar

½ cup water1 ounce brandyInstructions

If bread is not toasted, place on a cookie sheet and toast in a 375-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes until crisp. Slice apples into long thin slices. If not serving immediately, place in a cup of cold water with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent oxidation. Spread 1 tablespoon of jam on each slice of bread, top with a thin slice of apple and sprinkle with shaved pecorino pieces. (The pecorino is best if you buy a small wedge and use a vegetable peeler to shave long slices.)

For fig jam: Place all ingredients in a small sauce pot and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes until figs soften. Remove from heat and add all of the contents to a food processor; process until smooth. Mixture will hold in the refrigerator for up to four weeks.

Recipe courtesy of John Serock Catering

Onion Soup BitesYield: 30 Pieces

Ingredients2 large onions, sliced thin

2 tablespoons butter1 chicken bouillon cube

1 cup waterSalt and black pepper

2 ounces sherry or white wine2 packages frozen phyllo cups (available in the dessert section of the grocery store)

8 slices Gruyère or Swiss cheese, cut into 4 each

InstructionsMelt butter in a sauté pan over medium heat, add onions and cook for 20 to 25 minutes (do not stir) until onions start to brown. Once onions start to brown, stir onions and add the wine, seasoning, water and bouillon cube; simmer until liquid evaporates (approximately 15 minutes). Place a tablespoon of onions in the phyllo cup and top with a square of cheese. Place in a 375-degree oven for 7 to 9 minutes until cheese melts.

*Onions will hold in an airtight container for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

Recipe courtesy of John Serock Catering

Bacon and Blue Cheese Deviled Eggs

Yield: 12 servingsIngredients12 eggs

½ cup mayonnaise1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt3 slices bacon, crisply cooked, crumbled

¼ cup crumbled blue cheese ¼ cup sliced scallions

Spice BBQ sauce or Sriracha sauce

InstructionsPlace eggs in a large saucepan. Cover them with cool water by 1 inch. Slowly bring water to a boil over medium heat; when the water has reached a boil, cover and remove from heat. Let sit 12 minutes. Starting at large end, peel egg under cold running water. Can be made one day in advance.

Cut eggs lengthwise in half. Slip yolks out into medium bowl; mash with fork. Stir mayonnaise, onions, mustard, pepper and salt into yolks. Spoon or pipe yolk mixture into egg-white halves. Sprinkle with bacon, blue cheese, scallions. Drizzle with sauce.

Recipe courtesy of Baba’s BrewPuff Pastry Tart with Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms and Goat Cheese

Ingredients1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon unsalted butter16 ounces white button mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, chopped½ teaspoon dried thyme

Salt and pepper, to taste¼ cup white wine (can substitute chicken or vegetable broth)

2 sheets puff pastry (thawed according to directions on package)

1 cup goat cheese6 slices bacon, cooked until crispy, chopped (can be easily skipped)

1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water, beaten together (for the egg wash)

Handful of parsley, choppedInstructions

Thaw one sheet of frozen puff pastry at room temperature until pliable, 30 to 45 minutes. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Unfold the pastry sheet and roll it into a rectangle that’s about 10-by-15 inches and about 1/16-inch thick. Slide it onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. With the exception of about an inch border around the rectangle, prick the pastry all over with a fork. With a pastry brush, brush the beaten egg over the border. Bake until the pastry is golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. This step can be done one day before. Just cool the puff pastry and then wrap it in plastic wrap. Do not refrigerate.

Heat the olive oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to caramelize, about 20 minutes. Add the butter to the pan. Once melted, add the mushrooms and sauté, stirring occasionally, until they are completely soft and all of the liquid evaporates, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and the thyme and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Deglaze with white wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to pull up all of the browned bits, and cook until all of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat. Use right away or can be refrigerated for up to three days.

Top the puff pastry with a small spoonful of the onion and mushroom mixture, trying to keep the filling within the score marks. Top with crumbled goat cheese and bacon. Brush the edges of the dough with the egg wash. Bake for another 5 minutes or until heated through (might take longer if the filling was refrigerated). Garnish with fresh chopped scallions.

Recipe courtesy of Baba’s BrewMontesano Bros. Bruschetta

Ingredients4 hoagie rolls, sliced into ¼-inch medallions

Garlic oilParsleyOnion powderGarlic powder

OreganoBasilPecorino Romano6 plum tomatoes, diced

½ cup roasted red peppers, diced

8 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

Salt and black pepper, to taste

¼ cup pecorino Romano1 ounce capers, rough chop

Olive oilInstructionsFor crostini: Drizzle roll medallions with garlic oil. Mix together an equal blend of parsley, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, basil and pecorino Romano. Sprinkle on bread. Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees until golden brown. Save leftover seasoning mixture.

For bruschetta: Mix together tomatoes, peppers, fresh basil, salt, pepper, pecorino Romano and capers. Drizzle with olive oil until well coated. Arrange crostini on a platter and serve bruschetta topping in a bowl like a dip.

Recipe courtesy of Montesano Bros. Italian Market & Catering

Stuffed MushroomsIngredients½ cup Italian-style dried bread crumbs

½ cup grated pecorino Romano2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil28 large (2½-inch-diameter) white mushrooms, stemmed

InstructionsPreheat the oven to 400 degrees. Stir the bread crumbs, pecorino Romano, garlic, parsley, mint, salt and pepper, to taste, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium bowl to blend. Drizzle a heavy large baking sheet with about 1 tablespoon olive oil to coat. Spoon the filling into the mushroom cavities and arrange on the baking sheet, cavity-side up. Drizzle remaining oil over the filling in each mushroom. Bake until the mushrooms are tender and the filling is heated through and golden on top, about 25 minutes. Serve.

Recipe courtesy of Basciani Foods

Entertaining adviceStress less this holiday season with tips from Olga Sorzano of Baba’s Brew.

“When you have people over, I think a lot of people have trouble with timing,” she said. “Have a game plan, and make as many possible parts of your recipes in advance, so you’re ready to go.”

Be mindful of vegetarians and guests with food allergies, but “don’t overthink,” added Sorzano. “Don’t do too many things.”

comments powered by Disqus