These definitely fall under the quick-and-easy category, and for a very good reason. It's not that I am afraid of difficult cooking, on the contrary, I love it. What I don't love is difficult cooking and the responsibility of an interesting conversation.
One of the things I've learned this season is that when hosting guests without the aid of servants or live music, the co-critical issues of entertaining the guests and feeding them tend to jumble up in one big trainwreck about, oh, 7 minutes after they walk in the door.
That's just enough time for them to take off their coats, be handed and glass of wine, admire the living room and then attempt to chat with me while I issue the final touches on our meal.
Talking and cooking is a skill I do not posses. Goodbye, Food Network Star fantasy.
This first recipe is great for an appetizer, a sandwich platter or a just quick lunch for yo'self.
Buffalo Chicken Quesadilla
- buffalo chicken lunchmeat (I've used Boar's Head, Stop & Shop and Stew Leonard's brands, all. My favorite is Stew Leonard's because it has more of a kick than the others. You can ask for a sample at the deli counter to compare brands.)
- blue cheese crumbles
- Tabasco, Frank's Red Hot, or other similar pepper sauce
- butter (optional)
On one tortilla* put 2-3 slices of the lunchmeat, followed by a liberal sprinkle of blue cheese crumbles and an even layer of arugula. I like to make sure it's really consistent across the tortilla so that every bite will yield similar impact. Close it up with a second tortilla on the top.
Now, if you have a panini grill you really don't need the butter. Just put the quesadilla on the hot grill making sure none of the arugula falls out, close the lid and wait a few minutes until you hear sizzling or think it's probably done.
If you don't have a panini grill, you still don't really *need* the butter, but let's be real: it's delicious. Melt a small dab of butter in a hot skillet. Swirl it around to evenly coat the bottom of the skillet and then plop the quesadilla on. Press it as it cooks, to help the blue cheese adhere to the top. When the bottom is golden brown and it seems like it's warm most of the way through, flip and finish cooking.
Serve hot. If you want to get all fancy you can garnish with a salad out of celery leaves, olive oil, salt and pepper.
*Did you know that tortillas have and inside and outside? My Mom told me the most blistery side is the inside. If I'm wrong, blame her.
This second recipes I've used over and over. It's extremely easy, but the Campari provides a POW! of sophistication. It works wonderfully as an appetizer to keep people entertained while you frantically finish icing the 12 layer cake and french braiding your hair at the same time. Alternatively, ditch the cake and serve this as a summery, low-cal dessert.
The only tricky thing about this recipe is decided how to serve it, an issue I address below.
Campari and Watermelon
Cut up the watermelon any way that suits you and yields consistent sized bites. Classic watermelon balls are easy and pretty, but I've also done stacked cubes kinda like a rubik's cube. To do that, cut the watermelon in 3 inch cubes first, then while holding it together, cut the cube in thirds vertically in a cross hatch and horizontally.
Put either one rubik's cube or about a cup of the fruit on a salad plate, along with a tiny bowl or shot glass of Campari. To eat, spear a piece of the fruit with a toothpick, dip it in the Campari and pop it in your mouth.
For a centrally located serve-yourself situation, you have three options.
For a big group, either you need a pretty big container to hold the watermelon with the campari poured over it, or you need a whole bunch of little bowls with individual servings meted out, all grouped together for people to grab off the table. Or, you could have the big bowl of watermelon and a little pitcher of the campari next to it, with little bowls for people to serve themselves by pouring a little campari over their own watermelon.
I don't really recommend the large container because all the liquor will settle at the bottom the flavor won't be consistent throughout.
One thing I've done is put individual bites into pretty shot glasses on a big platter. It gave it a more "drink" and less "appetizer" feel, but it still looked cool.