Last month Ronda hosted a fabulous book club dinner featuring retro style hors d’oeuvres. It was all delicious and perfect finger food for sitting on the sofa chatting about a book, or in our case, chatting about our husbands, children, and the recent episode of “The Bachelor” or “Real Housewives of…” 90% of the time. Please excuse the iPhone photos, I forgot my camera!

On the menu:

  • Artichoke & Spinach Dip and Pita Chips
  • Roasted Shrimp Cocktail
  • Caesar Salad Spears
  • Stuffed Mini Potatoes
  • Three Cheese Mini Macaroni & Cheeses
retro appetizers photo[1]

Artichoke and Spinach Dip
Can be made a day in advance and refrigerated. Serve warm or at room temp.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
16 ounces marinated artichokes, drained and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
Two 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the artichokes and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Add the white wine and cook until nearly evaporated. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the cream cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano and lemon zest and season with Tabasco. Cook, stirring, until the dip is creamy, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and serve warm or at room temperature with pita chips.
Food & Wine

Roasted Shrimp Cocktail
Done in 10 minutes! Ronda omitted the chili sauce (makes it too sweet) and doubled the horseradish to make it more spicy.

For the shrimp:

  • 2 pounds (12 to 15-count) shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup chili sauce (recommended: Heinz)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Place them on a sheet pan with the olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread them in 1 layer. Roast for 8 to10 minutes, just until pink and firm and cooked through. Set aside to cool.

For the sauce, combine the chili sauce, ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. Serve as a dip with the shrimp.
Barefoot Contessa

Caesar Salad Spears
Salad you can hold! Leave out the anchovies if you don’t like them. Be sure to add the croutons just before serving or they’ll get soggy.

2 cups 1/4-inch-diced white bread
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 anchovy fillets, mashed
1 small garlic clove, smashed
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish
7 Belgian endives

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, toss the bread with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the bread on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes, stirring once, until golden and crisp.

Meanwhile, in the same bowl, using a spoon, mash the anchovies to a paste with the garlic and a pinch of salt. Whisk in the mayonnaise, lemon zest and lemon juice, then whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the 1/4 cup of grated cheese.

Trim the endives and remove the 60 largest leaves from 6 of the heads. Stack the leaves and trim them to about 4 inches. Thinly slice the remaining endive, along with the trimmings of the 6 other heads (you should have about 3 cups), and toss with the dressing. Spoon the salad onto each spear and garnish with the croutons and grated cheese. Serve immediately.
Food & Wine

Three-Cheese Mini Macs
Pack the tins well to hold together. To help with the binding I added buttered breadcrumbs on the top. Also, the next time I make these I will be doubling the cheese it calls for, I think they could have been cheesier.

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for brushing
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (1 packed cup)
4 ounces deli-sliced American cheese, chopped
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the macaroni until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain, shaking off the excess water.

Brush four 12-cup, nonstick mini muffin tins with butter. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano; tap out the excess.

In a large saucepan, melt the 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter. Whisk in the flour over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking, until boiling, about 5 minutes. Add the cheddar and American cheeses and whisk until melted. Off the heat, whisk in the egg yolk and paprika. Fold in the macaroni.

Spoon slightly rounded tablespoons of the macaroni into the prepared muffin cups, packing them gently. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano on top.

Bake the mini macs in the upper and middle thirds of the oven for about 10 minutes, until golden and sizzling. Let cool for 5 min­utes. Using a small spoon, carefully loosen the mini macs, transfer to a platter and serve.

Stuffed Mini Potatoes
This recipe comes from our good friend Holley, the Southern Belle in Santa Barbara.

Bag of mini potatoes (I usually get these from Trader Joes. I think they’re called Baby Dutch)
1 lemon
1 container of sour cream (fat free is fine, I think)
Couple Tbsp prepared horseradish sauce
2-3 pieced cooked bacon, crumbled
Chopped chives for garnish

1. Boil the potatoes until just done. Do not overcook b/c you need them to hold together. I actually did this the day before and refrigerated them and they turned out fine. I just reheated them (almost steamed them) in the microwave.
2. While potatoes are cooking, prepared the sour cream mixture. Add a few Tbsp of horseradish, some lemon zest and a little lemon juice and mix together. Adjust to taste. I think this should be zingy (from the lemon) with a tiny bit of heat (from the horseradish). This can be made a few days in advance. It’s basically sour cream with some oomph.
3. Cut the very bottom off a potato so it will rest flat on a serving platter, and scoop out some flesh from the “top” of the potato to create a “nest” for the toppings. I actually use a sharp knife to do this but you may be able to use a melon baller or a grapefruit spoon. You want bite-sized potatoes so you may need to cut some large ones in half.
4. Sprinkle each potato with salt and pepper, otherwise they have no flavor. Add a dollop of sour cream mixture and then sprinkle with crumbled bacon and snipped chives. [You can also pipe in the sour cream using a Ziploc bag with the corner cut off or a also buy condiment bottles (like what you’d put ketchup in) from Smart and Final and then snip the end off so that more can come out at once. This is an easy way to “dress” the potatoes and garnish plates, dishes, etc. in the future. ]
5. Set out on a platter (that has been warmed) and serve.