When it comes to preparing gourmet snacks for a party, a quality food processor can be the enthusiastic but hurried chef’s greatest friend.
Instead of serving store-bought meatballs, cardboard spring rolls, and baked desserts that will expire after the human race does, you can easily whip up a whole range of impressive treats – even if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands. Let’s take a look at some options to enliven a special occasion:
Party Time! Finger Food to Die For
At the moment, the typical bar feel less like a place to enjoy yourself and more like the antechamber to an isolation ward. Even without an epidemic going around, they’re not that much fun for those of us who enjoy food more than drink. Seriously, how many chicken wings and pickled eggs can you eat?
A cocktail party at home, however, never goes out of style. The key to everyone having fun, of course, is having a variety of tasty snacks available. Finger food is all that’s needed to marry your guests to the social lubricant of their choice. Most of these dishes will also serve as starters, even if you have to modify them a touch.
Greek Zucchini Balls
Called “kolokithokeftedes”, after the Greek word for “stutter”, these bite-sized delicacies are actually quite good on the tongue when you eat instead of pronounce them.
Ouzo, the aniseed-flavored national drink of Greece, has quite a kick, so it’s normally served with ouzo meze: small, tasty dishes that delay the alcohol in the stomach from hitting the brain too quickly. Kolokithokeftedes are one of these: bringing together the flavors of zucchini, feta cheese and herbs, they’re satisfying without being too filling, making them the perfect starter or canape.
Since these are worth making in large batches, and require a ton of grated zucchini and breadcrumbs, they’re best prepared with a food processor. While they’re cooking, you can quickly use that to whip up some tzatziki, the traditional accompaniment to this dish.
- To get your kolokithokeftedes creamy on the inside without being soggy, it’s essential to salt your grated zucchini, leave it in a colander for half an hour and squeeze out all the moisture you can.
- You can bake these kolokithokeftedes instead of deep-frying or pay-frying them, but make sure to brush them with olive oil prior to putting them into the oven to give them a beautifully crispy surface.
- Combining the mixture properly is also important. If you plan on doing this in a food processor, you’ll have to use one with a dough blade or the whole batch will liquefy.
- Like all fritters, kolokithokeftedes will absorb too much oil if you let them – make sure your pan is blistering hot and don’t fry too many at one time.
Homemade Vegetable Chips
Not to alarm anyone, but regular, store-bought potato chips are about one-third oil by weight, and a lot of that is of the saturated variety. If you’re annoyed by the amount of air in the bag, you’re very much barking up the wrong tree.
Another fun ingredient is silicon dioxide – essentially sand, which prevents the powdered flavoring from clumping, and you need an advanced chemistry degree to know what’s in that. Meanwhile, it’s really not that hard to make your own chips from a variety of veggies including beetroot, zucchini, sweet potato, carrots and parsnips.
You can fry them if you want. A healthier option is to bake them in the oven, which takes about 30 minutes per batch at 300 °F (turn them halfway through). An air fryer with multiple racks, on the other hand, let’s you churn these things out without tying up an appliance you’ve probably got other plans for.
Similarly, you can slice them using a mandolin (taking great care not to lose your fingerprints along the way), but a food processor with a feed chute wide enough to accommodate whole vegetables works much better. The thinner you slice them, the crispier they’ll be – aim for no more than about 2 mm (1/16th of an inch).
- Vegetables that contain a large amount of water, like beets and zucchini, have to be sliced, salted, left alone for 15 minutes and then patted dry with paper towels before cooking.
- Even when they’re dry, these chips won’t get truly crunchy unless you use a little oil – besides, fat gives things flavor. You’ll be a lot happier if you brush or spray them with a little avocado or olive oil.
- You don’t really need to season them with anything other than salt, especially if you’re providing a dip or three, but your go-to flavoring options include onion and garlic powder, paprika and cumin.
- These chips are good for about 24 hours before they become limp. Storing them in an airtight container will keep them fresh for longer.
It would be difficult to say what China’s biggest single contribution to world cuisine was, but wonton is certainly up there. Consisting of paper-thin pastry surrounding a filling that may include meats, seafood, chopped vegetables, or any combination of the above, several places in China are proud to call themselves the birthplace of “real” wonton.
These can be served boiled in soup, fried or steamed on their own or as part of a dim sum assembly. They are heavenly as is and even better with some dipping sauces. As long as you take some care in forming them, they also make a stunning visual display.
A versatile food processor takes all the work out of combining and kneading the flour, egg and water, after which it can chop up two or three types of filling while the dough is resting. As for what to put in them, your imagination is the only limit – it doesn’t even need to have anything to do with Chinese flavors.
- If you have a Korean supermarket nearby (or you have the time to make kimchi from scratch, which a food processor makes easy) you can steam a couple of dumplings with this inside, with or without ground pork – they’re fantastic.
- When stuffing the wonton, make sure to squeeze all the air out or they will burst during cooking. Cradling each in the palm of your hand seems easiest.
- If you don’t own a pasta machine, you’re probably best off using the frozen won ton wrappers found in Asian supermarkets.
- Especially if you’re going to boil or steam rather than fry or bake them, the texture inside is extremely important. The ingredients should be chopped small enough to combine uniformly, but still large enough to retain their own identity. Use your processor’s Pulse button and check your progress frequently.
Sometimes, Mother Nature really outdoes herself, like when she provides delicacies in their own elegant little holders, making them the perfect gourmet finger food for any party. There isn’t much to complain about regarding their taste, either, but clams are even more delicious after they’ve been steamed, minced, combined with breadcrumbs, butter, herbs, and perhaps a few fragments of bacon.
All that’s left to do then is place them back into their shells and bake them until a little crust forms. Ideally, you’ll have a couple of tiny cruets beside the tray for those who want hot sauce, Worcestershire, or lemon juice to kick the natural flavors into high gear.
- Fresh clams aren’t available everywhere and, for whatever reason, some people just don’t like them. If so, just use oysters or mussels instead.
- To avoid greasy fingers, you can serve these alongside tortilla chips, or line each shell with a shred of lettuce.
- It’s a myth that shellfish which don’t open during cooking are spoiled. If any are open by the time you get them, however, discard those; they were probably dead already when they were harvested.
- Even if they look perfectly clean, scrub the outside of the shells. When it comes to food, crunchy is usually good, gritty never.
Pastry Cups with Satay Shrimp
If you own a food processor, making your own pastry shells becomes easy, but it’s still enormously time consuming. Preparing more than one type of finger food for a party can already be a couple of hours’ work, so you may just want to just buy them in and have a glass of wine instead.
When it comes to satay sauce, on the other hand, no self-respecting foodie will use anything out of a bottle unless it’s a dire emergency. Given that you can also make your own peanut butter in a jiffy (as well as whatever other kind of nut butter takes your fancy), you can easily prepare the rest of the dish from scratch.
This recipe doesn’t require you to marinate or cook the shrimp separately. Just pan-fry them until they lose their translucency while you mix the sauce ingredients in a food processor, simmer the sauce (minus shrimp) for a few minutes, then put back the shrimp. Once it’s cooled, you can spoon some into individual pastry cups, but only do a couple at a time to keep them from getting soggy.
- This kind of seafood contain basically no fat at all, so feel free to mix a binder like cream cheese into the sauce to keep the filling together.
- Shrimp have veins on both the back and belly. If you buy them frozen, you’ll sometimes find that only the backs have been cleaned, so check.
- This sauce (here’s another version) is incredibly versatile, but it doesn’t store well. Fortunately, you’ll probably use up the excess in no time.
Dips for the Win!
Your food processor’s job is to make your life simpler, and it really doesn’t get any simpler than making dipping sauces with one. For the most part, you just toss some pretty common, inexpensive ingredients in the bowl, put it on the highest setting for a few seconds, and you’re in business. It’s embarrassingly easy.
Even better, they all taste amazing, as if you’d spent hours on them. In fact, rinsing out the bowl in between making different sauces accounts for most of the work. These five options were selected more or less because everyone knows them, but there are many, many other low-effort yet gorgeous recipes to choose from.
Tahini is pretty much just a nut butter made from toasted sesame seeds. On it’s own, it’s a little too intense for a dip, so it’s usually combined with lemon juice, herbs and olive oil to create a sauce that goes great with falafel.
That’s only the beginning of its uses, though. Mixing it with pureed eggplant results in baba ganoush, while you can create hummus with chickpeas. Tahini keeps reasonably well in the fridge, but you typically need only small amounts.
Hummus is subtle and pairs will with nearly anything: vegetable crudite, seafood, chips and even freshly baked bread. Especially if you soak and boil dry chickpeas instead of using canned, making it is incredibly straightforward, pretty satisfying and way cheaper than using store-bought.
This is another hugely popular sauce that’s surprisingly easy to make. Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, fresh basil, olive oil, salt and pepper: nothing else is needed. It’s almost easier to list the things pesto can’t do: it’s great spread on a crostini, as an ingredient in other dishes, or even as a pasta sauce on its own. You can substitute cashews for the pine nuts if these aren’t available.
Roasted Vegetable Dip
Ripe bell peppers, cauliflower, beetroot, and probably a half-dozen of your favorite vegetables can all be pureed and turned into surprisingly flavorful dips. In general, they’re all best if you oven-roast your vegetables first, but the details of each recipe vary slightly.
Some really need the creaminess of ricotta cheese or olive oil, while many can benefit from a little pesto or tahini. Don’t skimp on the processing step, though: the smoother and finer your dip, the more flavor it will have and the less it will remind you of the original vegetable. A food processor that allows you to scrape the side of the bowl without opening the lid can be helpful when making these.
Mayonnaise is the king of sauces, but the stuff you buy at the supermarket is typically made by boiling rather than stirring, leading to it being one of the most toxic things sold without a warning label. Whisking some up in the traditional way, quite frankly, is more about exercising you’re forearms than showing off your culinary expertise.
With a food processor, though, especially one with a special attachment for emulsifying sauces, mayonnaise is no trouble at all to make at home for a healthier (and tastier) option.
Note: Hollandaise sauce is pretty much the same thing, namely fat emulsified with eggs. The major difference is that it’s made with melted butter instead of olive oil.
Nobody leaves a play before the last act unless it truly sucks. Whenever you bring out one of the following, perhaps once the night is starting to wind down, you’re sure to get at least a little applause.
Marie Antoinette didn’t really suggest that starving peasants eat cake; if she said anything like that at all, she used the word “brioche”. Brioche is not quite cake, but it’s not far off either.
Crammed full of butter and eggs, its most interesting feature is that the dough is leavened – i.e. contains yeast. Everything from its name to its smell screams elegance, yet this recipe from Elena at Sophistimom shows you just how easy it is to make when you own a food processor.
With this dough, it’s essential to incorporate ingredients in the proper order and pay attention to the texture at each step. Like with shortcrust pastry, the butter cubes have to be cold to incorporate correctly; these are cut into the dough rather than mixed. It’s also best to use milk and eggs directly from the fridge.
You can let the dough do its first rise in the food processor itself, or place in a bowl covered with cheesecloth if you need it for something else. The dough should take about half an hour to double in size. At this point, it’s ready to go into the baking mold, rise again for another thirty minutes, and make its way into the oven.
- Brioche is just fine to eat on its own or with coffee, but you can also stuff it with something like fruit or sausage.
- If you own a food processor, you can make the butter yourself – it takes seconds.
- Unsalted, truly fresh butter just seems to work better somehow. If using this, just add ¾ teaspoon salt.
- You can buy brioche molds (which are bound to find other uses over time), but placing the dough, divided into separate balls which will join together while cooking in an ordinary bread tin, works fine too.
- If a few brioche buns manage to survive breakfast, you can always soak them in a boozy syrup and serve them as babas au rhum, a classic dessert, when dinner rolls around.
Kahlua Ice Cream
Multitasking is a wonderful thing, including when it comes to combining after-dinner liqueurs and dessert. The idea here is not to save time, though; your guests will linger over this elegant concoction until there’s none left. In case you prefer not to make your ice cream too sweet, you can put some gourmet syrups on the table too.
This recipe recommends the use of an ice cream maker, but seriously, the exploits of contestants on Chopped aside, who has space for that in their kitchen? It’s far better to get a good-quality food processor that is capable of so much more.
- The cool part of this recipe is that you can put the whole processor bowl in the freezer, taking it out and blitzing it every half hour or so to prevent it from getting too solid. This works best if you use a fairly powerful food processor with a well-sealed bowl. If yours lacks the necessary horsepower, you can also let the custard freeze completely in a ziplock bag, crumble it into your processor and just process once.
- The cream acts as a kind of buffer against the alcohol, so your guests shouldn’t get too sloshed – if they’re feeling adventurous, they can even ask for seconds.
- This recipe is for kahlua, but you can equally well try amaretto, cointreau, peach schnapps or whatever fancy tipple you have in your liquor cabinet.
- Before she became prime minister of Britain, one of Margaret Thatcher’s accomplishments as a chemist was finding a way to incorporate more air into ice cream, thereby both increasing its bulk and improving its flavor. It’s unknown whether she used a food processor.
Gourmet Entertaining with a Food Processor
The worst kind of party (and I’ve been to a few of these) is where everybody is expected to show up at 7:30, food is served between 7:35 and 8:00 sharp, and everybody goes to watch TV afterward. There’s nothing wrong with serving cold pizza and beer out of the can, but not allowing your guests time for some relaxed socializing is not going to leave them happy.
Of course, people are usually at their best when there’s something to eat, especially if it’s surprising and refined. Some gourmet canapes will keep their blood sugar up while giving everyone something to talk about, taking your party from fun to memorable.
With a food processor and some careful recipe selection, you don’t need to spend the whole afternoon preparing snacks. On the other hand, once you see how easy it can be to turn out these dishes, you may well start to see preparing them as a joy rather than a burden.