PENINSULA KITCHEN: Finger foods to beat the heat

GROWING UP AS an only child with a single mother, we often had what we called “Snackens” for dinner.

What seemed to be a special treat to me was likely a godsend to my mom, who was usually at the end of a day working two jobs, toting me around and attending nursing school.

Carrots, pickles, cheddar cheese, hard-cooked eggs, summer sausage, bread or crackers, an apple and some homemade ranch dressing was a typical plate assembled for Snackens.

I still have a nostalgic love for the taste of medium cheddar dipped in ranch dressing.

I put out a similar spread for my family recently while our 11-year-old nephew was visiting.

His eyes lit up and he said, “Oh! We’re having ‘picnic’ for dinner!”

It’s not surprising that the tradition of a cold meal is strong with my nephew and throughout the world as well.

In Italy, you might have antipasto, which means “before the meal.”

Antipasto is an appetizer consisting of cold meats, cheeses, olives and pickles.

In France, you’ll see “crudité,” which means “raw” and is an appetizer of uncooked vegetables dipped in vinaigrette or other dipping sauce.

A ploughman’s lunch is historically a simple English meal of bread, cheese and pickles.

Don’t forget the beer.

Smörgåsbord is a Swedish meal.

Fill a table with a variety of choices of hot and cold dishes for folks to pick and choose from, buffet-style.

A true Swedish smörgåsbord always has bread, butter and cheese.

Very often, cold fish is included as well.

Americans have co-opted the word, and here it simply means a buffet spread of food on a table.

When hosting friends with various dietary restrictions, I like to set out a variety of no-cook options that suit most anyone’s needs.

Put kid-friendly bites into muffin tins, and you’ll have happy young guests without any food touching another food, which we all know is key to avoiding food tantrums in our littlest eaters.

Take a stroll through your farmers market to find items for your table.

Grab some of Clallam Canning Co.’s pickles and consider stopping into Sequim’s Pacific Pantry for some of the finest charcuterie options on the Peninsula.

Even if you are simply putting out slices of last night’s steak with random fruit and vegetables from your fridge drawer, take a moment to make a beautiful display.

Your guests will delight in building a plate of finger foods, and you don’t have to cook.

Anything goes as far as I’m concerned, but here are some options from which to pick and choose.

• Cheese: Bocconcini (small mozzarella balls), feta, blue cheese, Brie, cheddar chunks and/or Parmesan slivers.

• Nuts: Cashews and/or almonds.

• Olives: Stuffed and/ or Kalamata.

• Meats/protein: Charcuterie from Pacific Pantry, salami, cold cuts, tuna, cold fried chicken, cold sausage, cold steak slices and/or hard-cooked egg halves.

• Dips: Mustard, hummus, pesto, ranch for the kiddies, tapenade, olive oil and/or balsamic reduction.

• Preserved vegetables: Lightly pickled onions (recipe below), artichoke hearts, pepperoncini, pickles and/or marinated mushrooms.

• Crudité: Carrots, baby sweet peppers, grape tomatoes, Belgian endive, ribbons of cabbage, kohlrabi, turnips, broccoli, celery, cucumbers, fennel, jicama, peas and/or radishes.

• Starch: Long hard breadsticks, pita chips, fresh bread, rice crackers, veggie straws and/or Pirate’s Booty.

• Fruit: Apple slices, figs and/or grapes.

• Sweets: Fancy chocolate pieces, dates, raisins and/or other dried fruit.

• Drinks: Seltzer with fresh citrus, wine and/or beer.

If you have time, you could include roasted vegetables such as red peppers, whole rainbow carrots, cauliflower florets, potato pieces and radicchio wedges.

A quick blanch of beans would be welcome as well.

To lightly pickle red onion, thinly slice half of a red onion and separate the rings.

Then toss it in a bowl with a few squeezes of lemon juice and a pinch of salt.

This will soften the onion itself, as well as the flavor.

________

Carrie Sanford, who shares the Peninsula Kitchen column with Betsy Wharton, is a mother, wife, educator, artist, activist and cook.

She writes the newsletter for Salt Creek Farm in Joyce during the growing season and volunteers with nonprofits and schools in Port Angeles, where she lives with her husband, Tom Sanford, and their daughter, Abby.

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