Last night I enjoyed my final party of 2007. I'm not going anywhere tonight, except maybe to the roof to watch the 'splosions in the sky.

The food last night was simple and delicious as always, and reminded me of this NYT list of 101 Simple Appetizers in 20 minutes or Less (by How to Cook Everything's Mark Bittman), which is a nice compact little cheat sheet for those less-inspired moments. My favorites from this list (hopefully the use of the words "jazzy" and "hip" reveal that the commentary below is also Bittman's):


Mash together best-quality tuna, minced anchovies, minced garlic, chopped oil-cured olives and olive oil as necessary.

Top buttered bread with shaved country ham, prosciutto or regular deli ham and bread-and-butter pickles.

A kind of Moroccan tapenade: As above, but use good green olives with capers; olive-oil-canned tuna (instead of anchovies); garlic, if desired; and cumin.

Beef tartare: Carefully pulse good beef in food processor. For each pound, add an egg, a teaspoon dry mustard, a tablespoon Dijon mustard, a tablespoon Worcestershire, Tabasco to taste, 1/2 cup chopped scallions and a touch of minced garlic. Salt and pepper, if necessary. Amazing stuff.

Cut chorizo into chunks. Cook in a lightly oiled skillet until nicely browned. Kielbasa is equally good (or better), if not as hip.

Even jazzier: Cut just-ripe pears in 1/2-inch cubes; sprinkle with a little salt, sugar and cayenne. Spear with bacon.

Pair crispy bacon chunks with one cube of beet and one of goat cheese.

Rumaki, a 1960s cocktail food that deserves reviving: Brush canned water chestnuts (or chicken liver halves, or crimini mushrooms, or pieces of portobello) with a little soy sauce; wrap in pieces of bacon. Skewer closed with toothpicks and broil, turning once, until bacon is done.

The egg’s gift to cocktail parties: Hard-cook eggs, peel, and cut in half; carefully remove the yolks. Mash yolks with salt, mayonnaise, good mustard and cayenne. You can also add minced radish, snow peas, scallions (or any crunchy vegetables) or curry powder. Spoon back into the whites, sprinkle with paprika, pimentón or parsley.

Even more fabulous: Cook eggs as above. Mash yolks with cooked and minced shrimp, a little chopped olive, minced onion, parsley, salt, pepper and mayonnaise to bind. Spoon back into whites. Garnish with parsley or a piece of anchovy or shrimp.

Popcorn parmigiana: Make real popcorn, pour melted butter over it, and toss with fresh Parmesan.


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