1-2-3 Holiday Apps

I thought I was invited to be on Martha Stewart's radio show "Morning Living" (Sirius.com) yesterday to talk about my new book Radically Simple (you know, the one that was just chosen as one of the top 10 cookbooks of the year by The New York Times.)  But no!  Instead I was asked to talk about my 1-2-3 cookbooks -- with the specific task of sharing three-ingredient appetizers.  It seems when Martha Stewart's drive-time audience was asked to share their favorite holiday appetizers, they all had three ingredients!  This amused hosts Becky and Kim to no end and so, presto!, I was quickly asked to come on the show.  Over the years I have developed hundreds of ideas for three-ingredient appetizers -- some quite conducive to holiday merriment.  Some of them are quite upscale and need no cooking whatsoever -- oysters on the half shell with oscetra caviar and a squeeze of lemon (that's three!), prunes soaked in brandy and filled with pate de foie gras, and chilled shrimp with wasabi creme fraiche (made by mixing wasabi paste with creme fraiche and sea salt.  Remember: salt, pepper and water don't count when doing the "1-2-3"!)  Others appeal to more ubiquitous tastes and include my addictive "peppery pecans" and sweet-and-sour glazed rib bits.  Recipes below.  One of the most magical recipes I know, however, is something I invented called Brie Croustades and you can top them with a dab of salmon caviar, pesto, tapenade, or just a sprinkling of finely chopped chives.  The croustades themselves are like tiny little popovers -- made from room-temperature brie and eggs, whirled in a processor and baked in small muffin tins.  They puff up and then settle back into little pillows.  They are wonderful with champagne. Enjoy the recipes below and please send me any ideas you have for three-ingredient holiday apps -- beginning today and going right through to New Year's Eve. My "team" will choose the best and someone will receive an autographed copy of Entertaining 1-2-3 or Christmas 1-2-3.  Your choice.  Hurry!

Rib Bits 16 individual pork spareribs, cut in half by butcher 1 cup unsulfured molasses 1-1/4 cups balsamic vinegar

Place ribs in large shallow casserole.  Combine molasses and vinegar in small bowl.  Add 1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Pour over ribs; cover and refrigerate 2 hours, turning several times.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Remove ribs from marinade.  Transfer marinade to small saucepan.  Place ribs on 2 baking sheets.  Bake 40 minutes, turn and bake 35 minutes longer utnil tender.  Bring marinade to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer until thick and syrupy, about 20 minutes.  Remove the ribs from the baking sheet (discarding all the fat.)  Using a pastry brush, paint each rib with reduced marinade.  Serve with lots of napkins.  Makes 32

Radish Wreath with Goat Cheese and Toasted Cumin 18 medium red radishes, round as possible, with stems and leaves attached 6 ounces fresh firm goat cheese 2 tablespoons cumin seeds

Wash radishes and leaves and dry well.  Remove leaves from radishes, leaving 1 inch of stem attached to each radish.  Remove any spindly roots.  Refrigerate leaves until ready to use.  Cut radishes in half through the root and cut a tiny slice from the rounded bottoms so they don't wobble.  Place cheese in a food processor with 1-1/2 tablespoons water.  Process until smooth, being careful not to overprocess.  Mixture should be thick and creamy.  Spread cheese thickly on cut side of each radish. Arrange radish leaves on a platter to make a wide circle with a hole in the center.  Place radishes on leaves.  In a small skillet, toast cumin and 1/2 teaspoon salt 3 minutes around aromatic.  Sprinkle each radish with toasted cumin.  Makes 36 pieces

Red Pepper Frittata Bites 8 ounces very sharp white cheddar cheese 12 ounces jarred sweet salad peppers 9 extra-large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grate the cheese on large holes of box grater.  Spray an 8-x-8 inch pan with cooking spray; scatter cheese evenly on bottom.  Save 3 tablespoons liquid from peppers.  Pat pepper dry and evenly distribute on cheese.  Put the eggs, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and black pepper in bowl of electric mixer.  Beat 2 minutes, then add reserved pepper liquid.  Beat 2 minutes longer, until very light.  Pour eggs over peppers and bake 30 minutes, until just set.  Let cool and refrigerate until firm.  Cut into 16 squares and serve at room temperature.  Makes 16

Smoked Salmon Pillows 1 sheet frozen puff pastry 5-1/2 ounces Boursin cheese 4 ounces good-quality smoked salmon, sliced

Thaw pasty until pliable but still cold.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Roll out pastry so that it stretches to 10 by 10 inches.  Cut into 20 squarish shapes that are 2-1/2 by 2 inches.  Place 1 teaspoon cheese on bottom half of one square.  Tear off a piece of salmon to fit on top.  Be careful not to use too much, since the entire filling must be contained.  Fold top of pastry over filling to make a neat rectangular shape.  Using the tines of a fork, press down tightly on the three sides to make a little pillow.  Repeat with remaining squares.  Place on baking sheet and bake 20 to 25 minutes until puffed and golden.  Serve immediately.  Serves 20 Peppery Pecans 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 4 cups shelled pecan halves, about 16 ounces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large nonstick skillet, melt butter and add 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce and lots of freshly ground black pepper.  Add pecans and a large pinch of salt.  Stir and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, making sure the nuts are coated.  Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes, stirring often.  Drain on paper towels.  Toss with more salt, pepper, and remaining Worcestershire sauce.  Makes about 4 cups

Brie Croustades with Salmon Caviar 1/2 pound double-cream Brie cheese, chilled 3 extra-large eggs 1/2 cup salmon caviar, pesto, tapenade, or finely chopped chives

Cut rind from cheese and discard.  Let cheese sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put eggs in food processor.  Cut cheese into 1-inch pieces and process with eggs until very smooth and thick.  Coat two 12-hole small muffin pans (2-inch diameter) with cooking spray.  Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon batter into each.  Bake 9 to 10 minutes until croustades are puffed and golden.  Let sit one minute and top with a bit of caviar, pesto, tapenade, or chives.  Makes 24