More Vegetarian Party Foods
With the holiday party season in full swing, everyone can use a few great finger-food ideas. Little appetizers like these are eaten in a bite or two, so I like for them to have big flavors that grab you immediately.
These tapas of toasted baguette with homemade parsley-fennel mayonnaise, bites of caramelized cauliflower cooked with saffron, and chickpeas simmered in mandarin juice with smoked paprika will definitely get your guests attention. They are rich and intense, with a Spanish vibe, and much more decadent than your typical vegetarian appetizer.
The recipe shows you how to make the mayonnaise from scratch. If you or your guests aren't comfortable with the safety of eating raw egg, you can use pasteurized eggs (available in the refrigerator section of many grocery stores) or simply puree the herbs with prepared mayo or even Vegenaise (which is actually quite tasty).
When you break down the cauliflower, the florets will look nicer if you use your hands rather than a knife. Snapping them leaves the shape intact. You will likely end up with extra cooked cauliflower and chickpeas. You won't be sad, they make great leftovers.
- For the mayonnaise:
- 1 whole egg (see safety note above)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup minced parsley leaves
- 1 big pinch fennel pollen or 1/2 teaspoon toasted and ground fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup neutral tasting vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- For the cauliflower:
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 head of orange or white cauliflower broken down into small bite-sized florets (make sure you have at least 30 or so)
- 1 big pinch saffron crushed into 1 tablespoon boiling water
- For the chickpeas:
- Juice of 4 mandarin oranges
- zest of 1 mandarin orange2 cup cooked chickpeas (should be soft, not al dente!)
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 clove minced garlic
- To complete the dish:
- 1 rustic baguette cut into 24 thin slices
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 24 parsley leaves
- 24 tiny strips of lemon zest
- Flaky sea salt
Combine the egg, lemon juice, mustard, parsley, fennel and salt in your blender jar. With the motor running on low speed, drizzle in the two oils through the hole in the top. Start slowly until you see it begin to emulsify. Taste and adjust salt and lemon juice.
Set a large skillet over high heat. When it is very hot, add the olive oil, cauliflower, and about 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Saute, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until some good caramelization (browning) is happening. Add the saffron and continue to cook until tender. If necessary, you can add a tablespoon or two of water and cover to soften a bit more. Taste and adjust salt.
In a small saucepan, simmer the mandarin juice and zest until it is reduced by half. Add the chickpeas, smoked paprika, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Simmer until the sauce is reduced to a glaze on the chickpeas. Taste and adjust the smoked paprika and salt. They should have an intense flavor.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet, brush lightly with olive oil, and toast in the oven until lightly browned but not overly crisp.
To serve, allow the baguette slices to cool. Brush each with a teaspoon of the mayonnaise. Top with 1 floret of cauliflower and a small spoonful of chickpeas, then 1 parsley leaf, a strip of lemon zest, and a few grains of flaky sea salt.