Zappetizers for New Year’s Eve

Sunday December 29, 2013

I love the saying that appetizer dips are so pedestrian they are not considered posh nosh. Either you love a little plate of snacks or you don’t. But most all the people I know do love them and gobble them up. Sometimes these are outrageously easy ideas for delicious dips like crab or shrimp with French bread, just the thing with a glass of wine to assuage hunger while dinner is getting its finishing touches on New Years Eve. Or what to feed a bunch of kids who need a snack (where’s the hummus?)? Or a casual get together where you need a little something to nibble with the conversation and cold beer. From backyard barbecues to wedding showers, hot dips have their place.
Whether you can spell it or not, hors d’oeuvre is the fancy French word for yummy appetizer and entertaining just isn’t right without them. Called antipasti by the Italians where it describes a small portion eaten in anticipation of the pasta, hors translates to “outside” and oeuvre is “work,” so outside the work ends up being a food eaten apart from the main section of the meal. Their mystique, whether old-fashioned or exotic, lies in not only the foreign pronunciation, but how to make them.
The microwave makes appetizer entertaining easier and faster than ever. As any cook knows, appetizers can be the most daunting forms of cookery, often culminating in days of planning, labor, and last minute assembly.  So when time is short and social gatherings are relaxed, it is helpful to have a few easy-to-create secret recipes for dips at hand. And enter the microwave to the rescue.

Usually appetizers, such as dips, are served straight from the microwave, or reheated later. Dips make everything from a simple plain cracker to raw veggies taste better. Match your dip to an appropriate dipper. Mexican dips have tortilla chips, Middle Eastern dips have fresh or toasted pita triangles, thick seafood dips have plain crisp water crackers for that wont break when you do the dipping, a dip with Italian marinara sauce is great with thin finger slices foccacia, and almost every vegetable dip is great with sliced thin baguettes or pumpernickel bread. Then kick back with your guests and enjoy the zappetizer.

Melted Goat Cheese in Marinara

I don’t know who is the culinary genius who put some delicious soft goat cheese in a Cordon Bleu gratin dish and poured over a jar of marinara pasta sauce (or 2 cups of your own perfect marinara), but it works. It’s just like sneaking to dip crusty bread into the pasta sauce while it cooks all day. Get some focaccia flatbread freshly made from your supermarket bakery and slice into 3/4-inch thick long slices, the cut them in half so they wont break as you pick them up, breadsticks, or sliced baguette. Serve with red wine.


Cookware: 1-quart ceramic gratin dish suitable for serving

Microwave Wattage: 1,100 to 1,300

Total Cook Time: 2 1/2 to 3 minutes

Standing Time: None

Serves 4


1 (14-ounce) jar tomato basil marinara

Zest of 1/2 orange

1 (6-ounce) or 2 (3-ounce) log of soft goat cheese, domestic chabis or imported Montrachet

Pinch of herbes de Provence

1 tablespoon olive oil

Focaccia slices, for serving


1. Pour the marinara into a 1-quart ceramic dish. Add the zest. Stir to combine and partially cover with plastic wrap.

2. Cut the log of goat cheese into 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick rounds and arrange in an overlapping layer down the middle of the gratin dish in the sauce. Sprinkle very lightly with the herbes de Provence and drizzle with the olive oil.

3. Microcook on HIGH, uncovered, for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes to melt the cheese and heat the sauce until bubbling. Serve immediately with the bread slices.

Melted Orange Brie

The original recipe for this came out of a flyer at my supermarket with Thanksgiving tips and recipes. I adore what orange marmalade does to food as an accent ingredient. Use an already cut wedge from a large wheel of brie, or one of the baby brie rounds. Serve with really fresh baguette slices off one of the very thin baguette wands so they are small rounds. You can assemble this and zap it just when the guests walk in the door.


Cookware: 1-quart ceramic gratin dish suitable for serving

Microwave Wattage: 1,100 to 1,300

Total Cook Time: About 2 1/2 minutes

Standing Time: None

Serves 4 to 6


1/2 cup orange marmalade

Zest of 1 orange

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon orange brandy (such as Grand Marnier) or orange juice

1 (1 1/2-pound) wedge brie cheese

Baguette slices, for serving


1. Mix the marmalade, zest, lemon juice, and brandy in a 1-quart ceramic dish that will comfortably hold the wedge of brie. Stir to combine. Partially cover with plastic wrap and microcook to melt the jam on HIGH, 60 to 90 seconds.

2. Remove the plastic wrap. Set the brie in the orange sauce. Return to the oven and microcook on HIGH, uncovered, until cheese is hot and slightly melted at the sides, about 60 seconds. Check at 20 second intervals. Do not over cook. Serve immediately with the bread slices.

Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s Microwave Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2010, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2013

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.

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