Appetizer as easy as 1-2-3


I don’t often have an excuse to make appetizers. I don’t entertain, and usually when I contribute to a potluck or other event, I bake.

A couple of my friends and I got together for a movie night. We each agreed ahead of time to bring a couple food contributions. I made stuffed grapes, meatballs, and strawberry shortcake—because dessert is what I’m good at.

The stuffed grapes are something I learned to assemble last year as an easy appetizer. And really, when I say easy, I mean it. It requires three ingredients and a bit of patience. The funny thing is that, of the three things I took for movie night, these were the favorite. Sometimes simple really is best.

1 bunch red grapes
7-ounce log of goat cheese
1/3 cup pistachios, finely chopped

Remove grapes from stems. Cut the curved edge off the bottom of the grape so it can sit up when placed on a plate. Carve a cone-shaped space into the top. Repeat this step with all grapes.

Take a pinch of goat cheese and stuff it into each grape. Top with chopped pistachios.

Fold your way to fresh spanakopita


I learned how to make spanakopita a few weeks ago. For those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s a Greek recipe in which a spinach mixture is folded into phyllo dough and baked into a crispy little triangle of deliciousness.

My mom and I both like the frozen spanakopita from Costco but, as with most of the foods I purchase and enjoy, I wanted to learn to make it at home. So I did.

Spanakopita051114-1This recipe makes about 10 large triangles but, if you’re planning to serve this as an appetizer, I’d recommend cutting the phyllo into quarters. You’ll need a pastry brush and a bit of patience, but the great thing is that you can add whatever you want to the mix, so long as it doesn’t get too watery and make the phyllo soggy during baking. The dough was tougher than I expected it to be — not to say mine didn’t rip at all in the process — but, because it’s folded so many times, you can easily cover up any tears.

I also used fresh spinach on my first attempt, and it required more work, because I had to sauté it to get rid of all the moisture. Next time, I will definitely use frozen spinach to prevent extra steps.

I was happy that this was simple to do at home. It is a nice recipe to have in the mix for when I need to bring an appetizer to a party.

1/2 pound of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
4 sheets of phyllo dough, defrosted and cut lengthwise into thirds
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoons nutmeg
1 tablespoon of fresh, chopped dill
1/4 cup packed fresh basil, chopped
1 egg, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
6 tablespoons butter, clarified and cooled

Spanakopita051114-2 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine spinach, feta, parmesan, dill, basil, lemon juice, and nutmeg. Add egg, and salt and pepper to taste.

Stack the phyllo dough next to a wooden cutting board situated with the shorter end facing you. Place one strip of phyllo on the board and brush the dough with the clarified butter so the entire strip, especially the edges, are moistened. Then, take up to two tablespoons of the spinach mixture and shape it into a triangle in one of the bottom corners of the dough. Then, fold the dough, starting with the long side of the triangle. continue to fold until the entire strip of dough is folded around the mixture. Place on a baking sheet. Repeat process with remaining mixture and dough.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Serve hot.