Giada's holiday finger foods: Sausage-stuffed dates, grilled veggies

Planning a holiday party with a lot of picky eaters? Serve up Giada de Laurentiis' holiday finger foods which are perfect for the meat eaters, vegetarians and even the dieters. Here are her recipes for sausage-stuffed dates, grilled veggies and more.

Hot Italian sausage stuffed dates with lemon basil crèma
Servings:

Makes 12 stuffed dates

Ingredients

    • For the sauce:
    • 2 tbsp sour cream
    • 1 tbsp mascarpone
    • 1 tsp lemon zest (from approx 1 lemon)
    • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
    • 3 tbsp chopped basil
    • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
    • For the dates:
    • 12 medjool dates
    • 2 links hot Italian sausage
    • 1/4 lb sliced bacon (about 6 slices)

Preparation

Baking Directions:

For the sauce, whisk together all of the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to let the flavors marry.For the dates, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Make a small slit, lengthwise, down the center of each date. Remove the pits and open the dates slightly leaving the bottom in tack. Remove the casing from the Italian sausage.  Cut the slices of bacon in half making 12 shorter slices of bacon. Place two teaspoons of the loose sausage in each of the opened dates. Close the date up and around the sausage. (It will not close completely leaving some of the sausage exposed.) Wrap the date in one of the halved slices of bacon and place on a baking sheet. Continue with the rest of the dates. Bake the dates for 8 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and flip each of the dates. Return to the oven and bake for 8 to 10 min more, or until the bacon is crisp.  Serve warm alongside the orange basil crèma.

Grilled vegetable towers
Servings:

Makes 8 vegetable towers

Ingredients

    • 6 (1/2-inch-thick) slices country-style bread
    • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
    • 1 Japanese eggplant, cut into 16 (1/4 to 1/2-inch thick) rounds
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • Zest of 1 large lemon
    • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) goat cheese, at room temperature
    • 16 jarred sun-dried tomatoes, drained

Preparation

Baking Directions:

Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Using a pastry brush, brush the bread on both sides with 1/3 cup of olive oil. Using a 1 3/4-inch round  cookie cutter, cut out 4 circles from each slice of bread. Grill the bread rounds for 1 to 2 minutes each side until toasted.Toss the eggplant rounds with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and season with salt. Grill for 3 minutes on each side until tender.In a small bowl, mix together the goat cheese and lemon zest until smooth. Spread about 3/4 teaspoon of the mixture on 8 grilled bread rounds. Place an eggplant round on each and top with a sun-dried tomato. Repeat the layers and top with the remaining bread slices. Gently press the layers together. Secure with toothpicks and serve.

Baked kale and sweet potato chips
Servings:

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

    • 1 medium sweet potato (8 ounces)
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 3 large kale leaves
    • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Baking Directions:

Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a mandoline slicer or a sharp knife, slice the potato into 1/8-inch thick slices. Put in a bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Toss well. Arrange in a single layer (without overlapping) on parchment-lined baking sheets.Bake for 12 minutes. Turn the slices over and continue to bake, checking every 2 minutes, until brown and crisp, 6 to 8 minutes longer. Season the chips with ½ teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper.Remove the thick stem from the kale leaves and discard. Cut the leaves into 2- to 3-inch pieces. Put in a bowl and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss well. Arrange the kale in a single layer on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake the kale until crisp and slightly dark on the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Season with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.Let the chips cool before serving.

Pomegranate and cranberry bellinis
Servings:

Makes 8 to 12 servings

Ingredients

    • 1 cup ice
    • 1 1/2 cups simple syrup, recipe follows
    • 1 1/4 cups pomegranate juice, chilled
    • 1 cup cranberry juice, chilled
    • 1 (750 ml) bottle Prosecco, chilled
    • 2 limes, thinly sliced
    • 1 bunch fresh mint, for garnish
    • 1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) pomegranate seeds, for garnish
    • For simple syrup:
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 cup sugar

Preparation

Baking Directions:

Place the ice in the punch bowl. Add the simple syrup, pomegranate juice, and cranberry juice. Stir well. Slowly pour in the Prosecco. Garnish with lime slices, mint sprigs and pomegranate seeds and serve.Serving suggestion: As an alternative to serving from a punch bowl, make the bellini mixture in a 6 to 8 cup capacity pitcher. Divide the pomegranate seeds between 12 champagne flutes. Add 1 slice of lime and 1 sprig of mint to each glass. Pour the bellini mixture into the prepared glasses and serve.For simple syrup:In a saucepan, combine water and sugar over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Take the pan off the heat and allow the syrup to cool.

Serving Directions:

Special equipment: a 6 to 8 cup capacity punch bowl

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