Instead of inviting friends for dinner, I sometimes ask them to come for wine and simple appetizers. For me, this is one of the easiest ways to entertain, especially when I'm busy.
I prepare one or two nibbles, open a bottle of wine, set out glasses and napkins, and that's it. Several weeks ago, after learning that a dear friend from the Midwest was coming to visit her daughter who was expecting twins (and who happens to live only a few miles from us), I had planned such a get-together.
However, when the babies arrived earlier than expected, our venue changed. My husband and I were dying to see the new arrivals so we ended up bringing an appetizer to their house to celebrate with our pal and the proud parents.
I wanted an hors d'oeuvre that would travel well, and knew exactly what to bring. My talented assistant, Emily Bell, had recently sent me the recipe for a delectable appetizer.
She had made a quick apple chutney, spooned the mixture atop toasted baguette slices, then added some shavings of white cheddar.
The chutney could be prepared a day ahead, and the toasts assembled an hour in advance.
Our happy group downed a platter of these nibbles in only a few minutes' time, while taking turns holding the precious twin girls. The chutney, a glorious blend of sweet and tart seasonings, is made with diced, unpeeled Granny Smiths that are sauteed with chopped onions and garlic, then cooked in a mixture of brown sugar, vinegar and robust spices. The baguette slices are brushed with curry oil (a combo of olive oil and curry powder), which adds another complementary layer of flavoring.
You could offer these nibbles with either red or white wine or even with cider. And, if you want to serve them away from home, try taking them to a tailgate party or including them at an autumn picnic. I doubt that you'll have any leftovers.
apple chutney and shaved white cheddar on curry toasts
(makes 14 toasts to serve 6 to 7)
2 medium-large Granny Smith apples
3 tablespoons olive oil (divided use)
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into thin, 1-inch julienned strips
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
generous pinch cayenne pepper
2/3 cup light-brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons mild curry powder
14 baguette slices cut on the diagonal, about 3/8 inch thick
4-ounce piece sharp white cheddar
Halve and core the unpeeled apples, then cut into 1/2 -inch dice.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium, nonreactive skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute, stirring, until translucent and brown around the edges, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and saute and stir 1 minute more.
Add remaining tablespoon oil to the skillet along with apples. Saute, stirring frequently, until apples are translucent and lightly browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Add ginger, coriander, mustard, cinnamon, cayenne and brown sugar, and stir until the sugar starts to melt.
Add vinegar and bring mixture to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick and liquids are syrupy, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove chutney from heat and cool. (Chutney can be prepared 1 day in advance. Cool, cover and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before using.)
For toasts, arrange an oven rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together olive oil and curry powder, and brush each baguette slice on one side with this mixture. Place toasts, oiled sides up, on a baking sheet and bake until just slightly crisp, about 6 minutes.
Spoon some chutney on top of each toast. Using a vegetable peeler, shave thin slices from the piece of cheddar and garnish each toast with several thin shavings. (Toasts can be prepared 1 hour ahead. Leave at room temperature, uncovered.) Arrange on a serving platter.
Per serving (based on 7 servings): : 337 calories, 6 grams protein, 19 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 37 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 17 milligrams cholesterol, 212 milligrams sodium