Canapé Criteria: One Bite, One hand.

Article originally written for The Vancouver Sun Salut

If you’re anything like me, the thought of making fussy canapés for a holiday party makes you curl up on your actual canapé for a relaxing nap instead. Why name a dish after a comfortable couch if you didn’t want to evoke slumber?

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Gone are the days of pinwheel sandwiches and mini quiches. With a world of flavours and ingredients conveniently at the tips of our tongues, why not awaken palates and explore a little with Urfa pepper or smoked uni?

When testing taste boundaries there are few crucial rules not meant to be broken. As the predecessor to the amuse-bouche, each bite should be flavourful and open your appetite for dinner. But the strictest of all rules is this: canapés should be eaten with one hand and in one bite. Period.

We can barely recount the number of times we’ve been called on to perform as Cirque du Soleil acrobats, juggling a goblet of wine, a dish large enough to be a small appetizer, a utensil and a napkin, all while standing and having to make witty conversation without the mishap of food tumbling down the fronts of our whites. (It’s been one dry clean too many.) Let’s set our guests up for graceful success and serve adventurous bites that can be eaten lazily with the one hand not sporting a glass of bubbly.

RECIPES

Roasted Dates with Lime

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An impossibly easy crowd pleaser; simply choose the plumpest dates you can find.

20 plump Medjool dates, preferably Jasmine Foods Fresh Dates of Bam from Iran
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
½ tsp (2.5 mL) coarse sea salt
¼ tsp (1.25 mL) Urfa pepper, or other mild and smoky dried red pepper
Zest of 1 lime

Place dates into a shallow, oven-safe dish. Drizzle with lime juice, olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and Urfa pepper and baked in a 375F (190C) oven for about 20 minutes or until the dates look puffed and caramelized. Sprinkle with lime zest and serve warm.

Serves about 16-20

Anthony Gismondi’s Wine Match: 

Something light and fruity — it can be red or white — will work here. Our picks takes you to Italy and Australia for a Lambrusco sparkler or tasty Viognier.

Lini Lambrusco Rosso 910 N/V, Emilia-Romagna, Italy, $17.99
A fresh, dry, juicy Lambrusco with bright, plum, blueberry and cherry fruit have just the right pizzazz to take on the roasted dates.

Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2014, South Australia, Australia, $15.69
Big, spicy, pure floral-ginger-lychee flavours are the perfect foil to the soft, rich, juicy flavours that are roasted dates.

Smoked Uni with Pickled Chanterelle

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This dish rests on the smoked uni, whose creamy texture and brininess contrasts the brightness of the pickled mushroom.

Pickled chanterelles:
200g (7 oz) chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and cut into small strips
2 cloves of garlic, whole
¼ cup (60 mL) olive oil
½ tsp (2.5 mL) sea salt
¼ tsp (1.25 mL) black pepper
¼ cup (60 mL) white wine vinegar, preferably Noble Tonic 04

Preheat oven to 425 F (218 C). Toss chanterelle strips and garlic in olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread onto a sheet pan lined with parchment and roast in the oven for 20-25 mins or until edges are slightly charred. Place into a storage container while still hot, cover with vinegar and let cool in refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Can be made up to 3 days in advance.

For the canapé:
20-25 thick-cut artisanal potato chips, like Mackie’s or Tyrell’s
20-25 celery leaves
2-3 pieces smoked uni, can be purchased from F.I.S.H
1 stalk of celery, sliced very thinly

To assemble the canapé, place a celery leaf onto a round potato chip, top with a spoonful of smoked uni, a sliver of pickled chanterelle and a slice of celery. Can be left at room temperature for up to 2 hours.

Serves about 16-20

Anthony Gismondi’s Wine Match: 

Rich and rich is the match here, and Chenin Blanc from British Columbia and South Africa will get the job done.

Quails’ Gate Chenin Blanc 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, $19
A delicious creamy, honey/grapefruit-flavoured white with a touch of stony minerality that should lift this uni dish to another level.

Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2013, Coastal Region, South Africa, $20
n enticing, fresh mix of tropical fruit with citrus, honey spice that is concentrated rich enough to take on the uni.

Brioche with ‘Nduja and Duck Liver Pâté

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Pairing ’Nduja, a spreadable sausage with a hit of spice, with the rich, gaminess of duck paté makes an intensely flavoured canapé that is easy to prepare.

Parsley & Chive Purée:
2 cups (500 mL) Italian parsley leaves, tightly packed
½ cup (125 mL) chives, tightly packed
1 cup (250 mL) olive oil
½ tsp (2.5 mL) sea salt
Juice of 1 lemon

Place all ingredients in a Vitamix or good blender. Blend until finely pureéd, being careful not to let the temperature go warmer than body temperature. Pour into an airtight container and store in refrigerator for up to 4 days.

For the canapé:
20-25 Italian parsley leaves
20-25 pieces of toasted brioche slices about 1.5” x 1.5” (3.5 cm x 3.5 cm)
200 g (7 oz) ’Nduja sausage, or other spreadable cured sausage
200 g (7 oz) fine duck liver paté, preferably from Oyama Sausage
1 tbsp (15 mL) coarsely ground black pepper

Dip the top of each brioche into the parsley & chive purée. Top with a leaf of parsley and spread 2 tsp (10 mL) of ’Nduja on top. Pipe 1 tsp (5 mL) of paté on top of the ’Nduja and sprinkle with a touch of black pepper. Can be left at room temperature for up to 2 hours.

Serves about 16-20

Anthony Gismondi’s Wine Match: 

Another bite that will be best served with a fruity red low in tannin and spice such as Grenache or Gamay.

Yangarra Grenache 2012, McLaren Vale, South Australia, $29.49
Fresh, black cherry nose with peppery, raspberry, tobacco, orange peel, meaty flavours that will easily match the flavours of paté.

JoieFarm Gamay 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada $20.99
ipe cherry fruit and a fresh acidity are the perfect antidote to the rich, fat, full flavours that make up this dish.

Candied Squash with Pumpkin Butter

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An earthy bite that satisfies the sweet tooth but still savoury enough to start a meal.

Candied Squash:
1 lbs (454 g) acorn squash, cut in half and cleaned of its seeds
½ cup (125 mL) raw sugar
¼ cup (63 mL) birch syrup (maple syrup can be substituted)
1 stick cinnamon, 4 in (10cm) long
10 pods green cardamom
2 star anise
1 vanilla pod
1 piece ginger, the size of a loonie and ½ in (1.27 cm) thick
½ tsp (2.5 mL) sea salt
zest of 1 orange
½ cup (125 mL) pumpkin seed butter (Recipe below. Otherwise, store bought can be substituted.)
½ cup (125 mL) candied pumpkin seeds (Recipe below)

Cut acorn squash into 6ths or 8ths, depending on the size of the squash. Cut each slice crosswise into ½ in (1.25 cm) thick, bite-sized pieces and toss with sugar, syrup, spices, vanilla, ginger, and salt. Lay the pieces into an ovenproof pan in a single layer and rest in the refrigerator between 24 and 72 hours. Juice from the squash will extract and the flesh will look dehydrated.

To cook, place the pan of squash directly in a preheated 350F (176C) oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes or until the syrup is sticky and mostly absorbed into the flesh, flipping the squash every 10-15 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

Place each slice on a fork or in a spoon, top with ¼ tsp (1.25 ml) of pumpkin butter, 1-2 tsp (5-10ml) candied pumpkin seeds and a pinch of orange zest. Serve at room temperature.

Serves about 16-20

Candied Pumpkin Seeds:
1 cup (250 mlL pumpkin seeds, roasted*
1/3 cup (83 mL) birch syrup (maple syrup can be substituted)
½ tsp (2.5 mL) sea salt

Toss pumpkin seeds with syrup sea salt and spread onto a parchment-lined sheet tray. Bake at 325 F (163 C) for 10-12 mins or until the sugars are bubbling, tossing once at 5 minutes to ensure even baking.

Pumpkin Seed butter:
1 cups (250 mL) pumpkin seeds, roasted*
¼ tsp (1.25 mL) sea salt

Grind the roasted pumpkin seeds with sea salt until it is smooth and creamy like tahini.

* To roast pumpkin seeds, preheat oven to 300 F (150 C) and roast for 30-40 mins or until the colour turns golden, tossing every 10-15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

Anthony Gismondi’s Wine Match: 
This delicious mouthful of savoury and sweet would be perfect with a fruity, off-dry sparkling Prosecco or a local Pinot Gris.

Vaporetto Prosecco Brut N/V, Treviso, Verona, Veneto, Italy, $17.29
Toasted nuts, citrus peel, small bubbles and apple fruit flavours should be able to take on the squash with ease.

Poplar Grove Pinot Gris 2014, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, $17.29
Citrus and nectarine aromas mixed with orchard fruits are the perfect foil to the savoury sweet notes of the squash.

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