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Cheesy, delicious finger foods for your party

Looking for simple, flavorful bites for your New Year’s Eve cocktail party? Carla Hall shares recipes for grilled broccoli pesto and cheese fingers, tomato soup shooters with bite-size grilled cheese, Parmesan and walnut cheese crisps and more.

Grilled broccoli pesto and cheese fingers
Servings:

Makes 16 fingers

Ingredients

  • For cheese fingers:

    • 8 slices white bread
    • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
    • 4 slices extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
  • For broccoli pesto:

    • 2 cups broccoli florets
    • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
    • 3 cloves garlic
    • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
    • 1/4 cup fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
    • 2-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • Salt to taste

Preparation

Baking Directions:

For pesto:Blanch the broccoli florets in salted water until crisp-tender. Drain and immediately immerse the broccoli in ice-cold water to retain the bright green color. Drain again, and transfer the broccoli to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add parsley, garlic, pine nuts and Parmigiano. Pulse 7 or 8 times until a chunky paste forms. Pulse again while drizzling in the olive oil. When the mixture reaches the desired consistency, stop and season to taste with salt. Store pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. For cheese fingers:Spread 2 tablespoons of pesto on 1 slice of bread. Top with a slice of cheese, then another piece of bread. Repeat with pesto and remaining cheese and bread. Preheat skillet over medium heat. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in skillet, and add a sandwich. Place a weight, like a foil-wrapped brick, on the sandwich to press it down during the grilling. When the one side is golden, add another tablespoon of butter, turn the sandwich over, and brown. Repeat with remaining sandwiches. Let the sandwiches cool for a bit and then trim the edges. Cut the trimmed sandwiches into 4 fingers/rectangles. The sandwiches may be made a few hours ahead and reheated before serving.

Tomato soup shooters with bite-size grilled cheese

Ingredients

  • For soup:

    • 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
    • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    • 1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
    • 1 small carrot, roughly chopped
    • 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
    • 1/2 cup sweet potato, roughly chopped
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1/4 cup heavy cream, optional
  • For grilled cheese

    • 4 slices Cheddar or Swiss cheese
    • 4 slices of country white bread
    • 4 tablespoons butter

Preparation

Baking Directions:

For soup:Strain tomatoes and reserve juices. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped celery, carrots, onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the strained tomatoes, season again and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Add the reserved tomato juices, broth, sweet potato, bay leaf and butter. Simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add basil and cream, if using. Puree until silky smooth in blender. Serve in a demitasse cup or a shot glass with grilled cheese sidecar. For grilled cheese:Put 2 slices of cheese between 2 slices of bread.  Preheat skillet over medium heat. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in skillet, and add a sandwich.  Place a weight, like a foil-wrapped brick, on the sandwich to press it down during the grilling.  When the one side is golden, add another tablespoon of butter, turn the sandwich over, replace brick, and brown. Repeat with remaining sandwiches. Let the sandwiches cool for a bit, then trim the edges. Cut the trimmed sandwiches into 2 squares. The sandwiches may be made a few hours ahead and reheated before serving. 

Grits or polenta on a spoon with shrimp ragout

Ingredients

  • For grits:

    • 1 cup stone-ground grits
    • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
    • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
    • Salt and pepper, to taste
    • 4 tablespoons butter
  • For shrimp ragout:

    • 6 slices bacon, chopped finely
    • 1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
    • 1 cup scallions, thinly sliced
    • 1 large garlic clove, minced
    • 2 dozen Chinese spoons

Preparation

Baking Directions:

In a 5-quart pot, combine milk and stock. Generously season the mixture with salt. Pour grits into the cold liquid and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Immediate reduce heat to a simmer and continue to stir until grits are soft and creamy — at least 25 minutes. If necessary, add more stock to continue cooking grits. Stir in butter and adjust seasoning if necessary. While the grits are simmering, prepare the shrimp ragout. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned. Remove bacon from skillet and drain well. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat. Cook the shrimp until it turns pink. Add lemon juice, bacon, parsley, scallions and garlic. Sauté for 3 minutes. Spoon hot grits onto Chinese spoons and top with a teaspoon of shrimp ragout.

Parmesan and walnut cheese crisps

Ingredients

    • 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
    • 3/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

Preparation

Baking Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, toss Parmesan and walnuts together. Spread mixture evenly on a parchment paper-lined sheetpan. Bake until bubbly and golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Break into random pieces.

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