It's a Keeper: Baby Shower Appetizers

Last weekend was one of those "this never would have happened two years ago" moments. I made food for 30 people! True, it was only appetizers, but still! The event was a baby shower for my friend Kate and my co-hosts were her sister Krissie and our friend Jenny.

Because you should stick with what you know when entertaining, three of the four recipes I made were from Rachael Ray. Krissie made the amazing diaper cake that served as the centerpiece for the table and Jenny made her famous salad with mixed spring greens, sugared walnuts, feta, mandarin oranges, and raspberry vinaigrette. I also made some Crostini with Ricotta and Roasted Red Bell Peppers from a cookbook I reviewed for Paper Palate.

Of the three Rachael Ray recipes I made on Saturday, I have already received one recipe request and one request to keep the leftovers. The recipe request was for the Grilled Polenta Crackers with Roasted Red Pepper Salsa. The leftovers request was for the Asparagus Pasta Salad. And there was hardly any of the Pesto Torta left over, so that was a hit, too. Even with the high maintenance Crostini recipe, this whole menu took about 2 hours to make from start to finish, for 3o people. (By the way, I don't recommend using a Foreman grill to grill the polenta. It took forever because George just doesn't get hot enough to put grill marks on quickly.)

Here are the recipes with my comments in brackets and Krissie took the great pictures:

Grilled Polenta Crackers with Roasted Red Bell Pepper Salsa

1 tube, 24 ounces, prepared polenta, plain or sun-dried tomato flavor, cut into 1/2-inch slices [I used the sun-dried tomato flavor]
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, eyeball it
3 roasted red peppers, drained well, 1 large jar, 16 ounces
1/2 cup calamata black olives, pitted
2 tablespoons capers
3/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, a couple of handfuls
1/2 white onion
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes [I added just a touch more than that]

Preheat grill pan to high.

Slice polenta and brush lightly with oil. Grill 2 or 3 minutes on each side to score the cakes and warm them.

Place peppers, olives, capers, parsley, onion, garlic and red pepper flakes in processor and pulse the power to chop salsa. Top polenta with spoonfuls of salsa and serve. [Could this be any easier? Next!]

Asparagus Pasta Salad

1 small shallot or 1/2 large shallot, finely chopped 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, eyeball it
1 pound asparagus, thin spears
2 endive, cored and thinly sliced [Sometimes they keep it in a little box, but it looks like a small white lettuce]
1/2 small red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 pound bow tie pasta, farfalle, cooked to al dente and cooled
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley, a couple of handfuls
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat shallot and oil in microwave safe covered dish for 30 seconds or in a small pan on the stovetop over medium low heat for 5 minutes. Allow oil to cool back to room temperature. [I use the stove mostly because it scares me to put oil in the microwave. So shoot me.]

Hold a spear of asparagus at each end and snap it. The spear breaks where the tender tops meet the tough bottoms. Line the broken spear up with the bundle of cleaned asparagus. Cut the spears using the guideline of the snapped spear. Par boil the asparagus tops in 1 inch simmering water covered for 3 to 5 minutes. Cool under cold running water and drain. [Three minutes was usually enough.]

Cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces on an angle and add to a bowl. Combine chopped, cooked asparagus with shredded endive, red bell pepper, cooked pasta, green peas and chopped parsley. The peas will defrost as you toss salad. Pour vinegar into a small bowl and whisk in cooled shallot oil. Pour dressing over salad and toss. Season salad with salt and pepper, to your taste and toss again.

Pesto Torta

Vegetable spray [I just use some EVOO]
4 pieces sun-dried tomatoes
4 leaves fresh basil
3 tubs, 6 ounces each, soft garlic and herb cheese (recommended: Alouette brand) [I only use two, one for the top and about 3/4 of one for the bottom]
1/4 cup sun-dried tomato tapenade [I always use too much of this ]
1/4 cup prepared basil pesto [And this too]
1 baguette or whole grain baguette, pre-sliced at the bread counter [I serve it with triscuits]
Handful baby carrots [I skip the veggies]
Handful grape tomatoes

Line a small shallow dish or bowl with plastic wrap or waxed paper. Coat wrap with vegetable spray. Arrange a pattern in bottom of the dish using the sun-dried tomatoes and basil. Add 1 1/2 tubs of garlic and herb cheese (about half a pound) [the amount you use will depend on the size and shape of the bowl you use] to the dish and smooth over, then layer in the sun-dried tomato spread and the pesto. Spread the remaining cheese on top of the pesto. Place a serving plate over the bowl and invert the bowl. Hold on to the edges of the waxed paper or wrap to release the cheese. Remove the waxed paper or plastic wrap. Arrange the sliced baguette along 1 side of the torta.

Arrange carrots and tomatoes along the opposite side of the torta.


  1. 30 people! I don't think I have the guts yet...

  2. I was really nervous, but it turned out pretty well for my first try. Next time I would give myself more time to get it all done.

  3. Can I get the recipe for your friend's famous salad. I'm a sucker for those sweet/savory type salads. Pretty please?!?

  4. Jeny,

    She says that's basically the recipe and that she just sorta throws it all in. She gets the dressing at Trader Joe's.


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