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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Friday, October 15

Gapers Block

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People just don't know how to make appetizers anymore. They just go out and buy frozen apps, like jalapeno poppers and mini-quishes, and figure that's enough. No one has an appreciation of the finer points of appetizer preparation, of the finesse of finger food. It's probably because they think appetizers are hard -- blame the cocktail parties of the Eighties, with their constant one-upmanship, causing an hors d'ouvre escalation. The competition was ruthless, and eventually only those with professional caterers were still "doing it themselves."

It doesn't have to be like that. There are easy appetizers that are a step up from the standard chips'n'dip, veggies'n'dip, cheese'n'crackers trio. And you don't have to be a culinary expert to make them.

Once upon a time, I worked in a bagel sandwich shop. When it opened, we employees were allowed to eat pretty much whatever and whenever we wanted. This of course led to plenty of abuse -- we'd make free sandwiches for friends, or pop in when we weren't working for a meal on the cheap -- but it also led to burn-out. There're only so many ways to combine bagels, lunchmeat and cheese. If necessity is the mother of invention, boredom is its cool uncle; once bagel burn-out hit, we were forced to develop more satisfying snacks. Some were sort of strange -- Fritos and jalepeno cream cheese on a raisin bagel? -- but others stood the test of time. Once such item was the "scooby snack."

Simple in construction yet complex in flavor, the scooby snack could be made in a matter of seconds to vanquish a mounting hunger. In a non-bagel shop environment, its diminutive size and zesty flavor makes it an excellent party food. I've made them a couple of times for hors d'ouvre trays, and they're always one of the first things to run out.

Next time you're planning a party, pick up the following items at the store:
2 packages of sliced pepperoni
1 package of cream cheese
1 jar of pickled, sliced banana peppers (depending on the size of the jar, you may need to buy two)
1 can sliced black olives

At home, rip open the pepperoni, unwrap the cream cheese and drain the banana peppers and olives. Break out a platter and a butter knife and get to work: Smear a little cream cheese on a slice of pepperoni, then place one banana pepper ring and one slice of olive in the middle (it looks nice if you put the olive inside the pepper ring for a bull's eye effect), then squeeze the pepperoni into a sort of taco shape. If you drained the wet ingredients well enough the scooby snack should hold its shape; place it on the platter and repeat till you've filled the platter or run out of pepperoni.

This next one takes even less work. When you're at the store, pick up the following:
1 tube of ready-made crescent rolls
1 half-size can of SPAM
1 package sliced or shredded cheddar
1 jar honey mustard

OK, right now I've lost you. It's the SPAM, right? Well trust me on this one, the only thing wrong with SPAM is it's salty -- and, well, yeah, it's high in fat. But in this case it's exactly what you want: soft and rich and a little salty. And really, it's an appetizer -- if you're counting calories, make a veggie plate.

When you get home, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and open the SPAM tin and cut it into cubes. Crack open the crescent roll tube and unroll the dough on a cooking sheet. It should be precut into triangles, but you want to slice the triangles into three smaller triangles -- see diagram below. Place a 1/2" cube of SPAM into the middle of each triangle, then put a little cheddar on top of that. Wrap each corner over the top and pop the tray in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until the dough is golden brown. Let them cool a bit, and in the meantime pour the honey mustard into a bowl as a dip. Stick a toothpick into each little package and transfer them to a tray.

And since your oven is already warmed up and since taking food out of the oven seems to impress people, you can also make artichoke dip.

You'll need:
1 14oz. can of artichoke hearts
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup Parmesan cheese
Garlic powder

Chop the artichoke hearts into small, bite-size chunks. Mix the artichokes, mayo and cheese in a large bowl until thoroughly mixed, then pour it into a shallow casserole dish and sprinkle with garlic powder and pop it into the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until it's lightly browned on top. Serve with tortilla chips. Bon appetit!

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miss ellen / October 1, 2003 11:35 AM


i'm both impressed and scared at the same time ;)

Cinnamon / October 3, 2003 11:04 AM

In small pieces, and with the dough, it is actually quite tasty. Made it on Sunday and didn't tell people what it was at first.

Chew, chew. "This? is Spam? It's not bad."

miss ellen / October 3, 2003 12:54 PM

cinnamon, i hear you. with crescent roll dough, cheddar + honey mustard, you could disguise just about anything :)

DanP. / October 5, 2003 1:02 PM

HOORAY FOR SPAM. I want to subscribe.


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