I love entertaining at home. Cooking, decorating the space, crafting a cocktail menu and then watching as friends and family devour the fruits of my labor. I love it all.
I realize now that I’ve been groomed for entertaining since before I was even allowed in the kitchen. I learned what it means to cook for large groups of people from my father. And while there were no tasting menus, hors d’oeuvres, shiny flatware or never ending supply of champagne, you couldn’t actually call them dinner parties to tell you the truth, but it was how I first learned my obsession with food and cooking for others. My father knew how to make the smallest pot of food feed many people. He always had an extra plate for a friend randomly stopping by. I would listen in my room, my sister Nadia and I hovering over our own plates, as they praised his fried fish. Or the fluffiness of the rice. The way his vegetables made you want to eat them and nothing else. My father knows how to cook.
These days, I use my Jamaican upbringing, culinary education during high school and overall experiences and curiosity for flavors to guide my palette. I also watch way too much Food Network.
Here are two of my favorite hors d’oeuvres for entertaining a small group of people at home. One is creamy and sweet while the other is salty and refreshing. I used 1 baguette, halved for both dishes. Feel free to use more or less depedning on your guests!
Warm Figs Chèvre & Honey on a Baguette
How old were you when you started liking figs? I admit that they took a while to grow on me. I started eating fig-infused pastries and meals at the start of my 20’s and I haven’t looked back since. This appetizer is perfect for those who have a sweet tooth before the main course. I could eat Goat cheese and honey on a baguette for the rest of my life.
honey, for drizzling
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350
Quarter the first half of the baguette so that you end up with 4 logs. Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt to taste. I used pink himalayan salt because I prefer the light flavor. Place the bread on a baking sheet and put it in the oven for about 3 minutes. You want the bread a little golden brown, with the outsides slightly crispy and the middle still soft. You don’t want to toast them too much as they go back into the oven with the figs and cheese
Wash your figs to get rid of any dirt. I quartered mine because I wanted a chunkier bite but you can chop them smaller if you’d like. Sprinkle each log of bread with figs. Dollop some chevre on each log then place the baking sheet with the baguette slices, figs and chevre, back into the oven for another couple of minutes. You’ll see the cheese start to melt.
Pull from the oven, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with salt. I then use a knife to cut each log into smaller sections.
Sardine, Apple, Fennel and Arugula Crostini
This appetizer is one of my favorites yet it contains two of my most disliked ingredients. Sardines and Fennel.
To tell you the truth, I don’t know if I’m 100% sold on sardines, even as I sit here recalling how delicious this appetizer was. I flatout hated everything about them as a kid. The smell, salty and briney and not at all appetizing, was the major reason for me being put off. Then There is the fennel. I can honestly say that fennel didn’t make it onto any plate I ate until about 2014.
The salad portion of this dish was actually part of a Christmas dinner I had been invited to a few years ago. Our hosts had made a plethora of small plates and appetizers to keep guests occupied until the main course was ready. I was amazed at how well the simple ingredients came together. I used the salad as a bed for the sardines on top of the crostini.
2 Matiz Gallego Sardines
fennel, sliced thinly
granny smith apple, sliced thinly
red chili flakes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp honey
Slice the remaining baguette diagonally to make crostini. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt before placing in the oven. You can do all the bread at once so that you’re just assembling each appetizer afterwards.
Lets start with the salad because the sardines go from tin to plate so there isn’t much we need to do there. Thinly slice the fennel and apple. Toss both with lots of arugula.
Next, time to make the dressing. Take the juice of half a lemon and squeeze it into a small bowl. Add olive oil and honey and whisk until blended. Pour dressing over salad and toss again.
Open your tin of sardines and drain the oil, we won’t be using it. Pull the fish from the tin a lay them on plate. You may need to cut some of them to et aside. I like this specific brand because the sardines are wild, sustainably harvested and they’re GMO and Gluten free. So if you decided to skip the baguette and substitute the bread, at least the sardines aren’t an issue. Plus, if they’re good enough for Renee Erickson, they’re good enough for me.
Layer the salad atop the crostini, making sure each bite has enough fennel and apple, and then the sardines. sprinkle with red chili flakes and serve.
Are you going to make either of these? Tag me so I can see! #DefiningDevonnie
Have you seen my last recipe? It’s Jamaican Saltfish.