Easy Mini Muffin Cup Appetizers came about after the last meeting of my cookbook club. They are inspired by two gorgeous dishes at the club’s last meeting. Mine have a more homemade look, but that’s OK with me.
Although cookbook clubs may be all the rage these days, I’m a newbie to the concept. When Cathy Barrow posted on Facebook asking if anyone else was interested in forming one, I decided to check out how they work. At least in our case, it’s turned out to be a lot of fun – and inspirational too.
Our group rotates hosting “duties.” The host or co-hosts pick a cookbook author. Then each member selects one of the author’s recipes to cook. At a monthly Sunday lunch, we share our creations, along with our experiences. It’s a great opportunity to try numerous recipes by the same cookbook author(s) without having to make each dish. While conversation eventually gets beyond food, we start out trading reactions to our dishes. Not everyone is pleased with their choice and that’s fine. In fact, that makes the “food talk” all the more interesting and helpful.
And there are the photos! Many of us delight in photographing the incredible array of dishes, without our non-foodie friends and family nagging “can we eat now?” Often my photos don’t do the food justice, but they’re still wonderful reminders of that month’s recipes.
Several participants have noted that the nicest part is getting to know people we likely would not have met but for the group.
When it was my turn to host, my co-host and I picked Dorie Greenspan. I made her simple, yet elegant corn pancakes from Around My French Table. Ironically, although many of us associated Dorie with baking, our table overflowed with savory dishes and only one dessert.
This month our co-hosts, Wendy (who some of you might know through her blog, Healthier Kitchen) and Paula, picked Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins of Silver Palate fame. We joked about shoulder pads and ’80s hairstyles. Although I remembered the cookbook fondly and still have my mom’s copy, the only recipe I knew from the book was Chicken Marbella.
It didn’t take me long to page through and find my choice – Greek egg and lemon soup or avgolemono. The only change I made to their recipe was substituting homemade chicken soup as the base instead of canned chicken broth. (I couldn’t quite bring myself to use canned broth, which I don’t use. Where the broth is a main ingredient, even the modern equivalent, boxed broth, wouldn’t do.) My egg and lemon soup was good, but didn’t capture my imagination.
Instead, I was mesmerized by two appetizers, the asparagus en croute, enrobed in slices of rolled out white bread and halibut salad in a muffin-size cup of toasted bread. The fillings were delicious, but it was the bread that got me thinking.
All week long I worked on how I could use bread to make mini muffin cup appetizers.
I bought a loaf of Pepperidge Farm thin-sliced bread (any thin bread will work) and set to work. It felt right to be using a bread I haven’t bought since the ’80s to make a Silver Palate-style appetizer. As I cut off the crusts of the bread, I thought about how, as a teenager, I made fun of people who ate white bread sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Hmmm. What would my adolescent self say to me now?
The mini muffin cups turned out well in two versions. The first I rolled out almost construction paper thin, while the second I left at the bread’s original thickness. Although the easier, unrolled version are my preference, both are good. The rolled out ones are almost cracker-like, while the unrolled taste a bit more like bread.
This filling is simple. Although I should have used homemade ricotta, I “cheated” with a brand I like and found on sale. All you need are leeks (onions, or another onion-like vegetable), parsley, a bit of garlic and oregano, salt and pepper. Leeks need to cook down. However, if you substitute scallions, you can use them raw, don’t cook the parsley, and put together the filling uncooked in barely 3-5 minutes.
And of course, you could fill the mini muffin cup appetizers with any filling you want. I filled a few with caponata and they would be great with all manner of other savory bits. Eggplant appetizer or a colorful hummus or tahini perhaps?
Baked and stored in a tightly closed container, the mini muffin cups last at least a day or two unfilled. You can also make the filling ahead of time, kept refrigerated. Putting them together takes only a minute and presto – an elegant appetizer whether your party is retro-themed or up-to-date.
Easy Mini Muffin Cup Appetizers
These elegant morsels are incredibly easy to make. They are simply thin bread baked. Later, add just a bit of this ricotta-based creamy filling, top with a bit of tomato or parsley and you have a swoon-worthy appetizer.
Mini Muffin Cups
- 8 slices thin white bread, crusts cut off
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 -1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 leek quartered lengthwise and finely chopped
- 1 handful parsley leaves, minced
- 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder or granules, or 1 small clove garlic, finely minced
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- kosher or sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
Mini Muffin Cups
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the insides of 12 mini muffin cups with olive oil and set aside.
(Optional step) Using a rolling pin or clean bottle, roll over the bread slices to make them flatter.
Cut the slices in half. With a light touch, press a half of each of those 6 slices into one of the 12 mini muffin cups. Repeat with the other 11 halves. With the remaining 2 slices, cut each in half (now you have 4 pieces), cut them again in half (now you have eight) and then in thirds, so you have 24 small pieces that you can use to "patch" the muffin cups.
Brush the mini muffin cups with olive oil. Try to get into the corners and along the top of the bread. Bake the mini muffin cups at 375 degrees F for about 8 minutes until the edges on top start to get brown.
Once the mini muffin cups are done, let them cool in the pan. Gently remove them for storage or filling once they are room temperature.
Heat the olive oil in a small pan. Add the leeks and cook for about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the leeks are translucent. Add the parsley and cook for another 30 seconds - 1 minute.
Add the leeks and parsley to the ricotta cheese and mix well in a small bowl. Add the garlic powder, oregano, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings according to your preferences.
Filling the Mini Muffin Cups
Store the baked mini muffin cups in a tightly closed container until you are ready to fill them. At the last minute, put about 1-2 teaspoons of filling into each cup. Top with a half a grape tomato. Enjoy!
The ratio in the filling is about 1 tablespoon of cooked leeks/parsley to 1/4 cup ricotta or 1-to-4. Feel free to vary it according to your taste.
If you prefer to use fresh garlic instead of granulated or powdered garlic, add 1 small clove minced, to the leeks when you add the parsley.
Don't worry if one or more of the extra pieces of bread don't adhere to the muffin cups. You can "Paste" them back on with the filling:)