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Seasonal Soiree Spread
By Nancy Eisman




Fall is in full swing, and some of our favorite holidays are just around the corner. First up is Thanksgiving, when the focus is definitely on the food - no gifts required. The menu at nearly everyone’s dinner is traditional and sacred, filled with dishes that always have a spot on the holiday table we gather around. It’s that reliable, delicious meal we all look forward to that never disappoints. But there’s still room for culinary creativity.

With the menu being pretty much set in stone, look to the pre-dinner festivities as an opportunity to surprise your guests with a fun and interactive display of tasty tidbits. The early birds that come to help prepare the dinner, the sports fans glued to the big screen, and the children chasing around the yard will be delighted to see the Crostini Bar you’ve created.



Bases + spreads + toppings + garnishes = endless possibilities for DIY delectables. Everyone gets to choose their own favorites, or try something new, and mix up a variety of bites based on their level of hunger and food preferences. Small and simple, or bigger is always better, the Crostini Bar will meet and exceed the need for an amuse bouche or two before the main event.

For the seasonal Crostini Bar pictured above, these are the main ingredients:

Bases:

Grilled sourdough rounds
Toasted marble rye bread
Crackers

Spreads:

Hummous
Lentil Paté*
Fresh Turmeric Mayo**

Toppings:

Sautéed mushrooms
Caramelized onions & shallots
Peeled & steamed baby beets
Roasted butternut squash
Roasted veggie sweet peppers

Garnishes:

Pomegranate arils
Persimmon cubes
Balsamic vinegar & extra virgin olive oil

Other suggestions:

Bases:

Gluten free breads & crackers
Daikon or watermelon radish rounds

Spreads:

Compound butter of seasonal herbs/spices
Cashew cheese

Toppings:

Roasted baby heirloom tomatoes
Pickled chiles
Sautéed greens
Mashed avocado

Garnishes:

Fresh herbs
Toasted pine nuts
Fresh cracked pepper

Whatever items you choose, and whether you make them from scratch and/or buy them ready made, all the prep is done ahead of time, leaving just the plating and display to be set up before or when guests first arrive. You can easily edit for a small gathering, or ramp it up for a crowd. Either way you’ll have the perfect, casual and customizable spread for your holiday soiree.



* Lentil Paté

Ingredients:

1 tsp. olive oil
4 Melissa’s Cipolline Onions, peeled and chopped
1 pkg. (.5 oz.) Melissa’s Dried Porcini Mushrooms, rehydrated
1 pkg. Melissa’s Steamed Lentils, drained
2 Tbsp. plant-based margarine
Pinch of Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
Fresh parsley as garnish

      Heat olive oil in sauté pan. Add chopped onions and cook until lightly browned.

      Add mushrooms to onions, stir together, and cook another 5 minutes.

      Place the lentils plus the onion/mushroom mixture in a blender and pulse until blended. Add one tablespoon of margarine and pulse again. If you want a smoother consistency, add the second tablespoon of margarine and pulse again.

      Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.

      Spoon out paté into a small bowl or form into a mound on a platter, garnish with fresh parsley, surround with crackers, baguette slices, or cocktail rye bread, and serve.

      Lentil Paté can be served immediately after preparation or it can be chilled before serving. It also makes a delicious sandwich spread.


**Fresh Turmeric Mayo
1 cup plant-based mayo (I use Vegenaise)
2 tablespoons fresh grated turmeric

Blend mayo and turmeric together.