David’s Birthday Bites

My lovely husband turned 33 recently, and we decided to have a little get-together to celebrate his surviving another year. In typically over-ambitious fashion, I picked out a bunch of fun-looking appetizers to try to make. I would definitely like to make each one of these on its own some evening, so I can really get a chance to appreciate them (parties by their nature are fairly whirlwind, so most of these were only sampled briefly).


Pancetta crisps with goat cheese and pear

from Bon Appetit: Fast Fresh and Easy Cookbook
Makes 16

16 thin slices pancetta
16 tsp soft fresh goat cheese
2 very ripe small pears, halved, cored, cut into ¼” thick slices

Preheat oven to 450 F. Place pancetta slices in single layer on large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with pepper. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Using spatula, slide pancetta crisps onto platter. Top each with 1 tsp goat cheese and 1 pear slice.


So these were amazing. Hands down. Super simple and yet crazy delicious! This fabulous combination of salty, sweet and creamy. I desperately want to make these again.

Camembert with blue cheese, figs and Port

from Bon Appetit: Fast Fresh and Easy Cookbook
Serves 6

1 8-oz firm Camembert cheese with rind
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French bread
1 cup ruby Port
1 cup dried black Mission figs, halved lengthwise
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp butter
⅓ cup crumbled blue cheese
1 baguette, sliced into rounds, lightly toasted

Brush Camembert on all sides with egg, then coat with breadcrumbs. Place coated cheese on foil-lined plate and cover. Bring Port to simmer in heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Add figs; simmer until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer figs to small bow. Add sugar to Port in pan; boil until reduced to thick syrup, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Pour syrup over figs.

Melt butter in heavy medium skillet over medium high heat. Add Camembert and cook until breadcrumbs are brown and cheese is warm, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to platter. Top with blue cheese, figs and syrup.


Another not difficult to make appetizer, that was also quite delicious. I think breading the camembert is a really interesting idea, and the sweetness of the figs were a nice touch.

Warm spinach-Parmesan dip

from Bon Appetit: Fast Fresh and Easy Cookbook
Makes about 3 cups

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1¾ cups chopped onion
6 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp all purpose flour
½ cup chicken broth
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1 9-oz bag fresh spinach leaves
1 cup (packed) grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup sour cream
½ tsp cayenne pepper

Melt butter with oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté until onion is tender, about 6 minutes. Add flour; stir 2 minutes. Gradually add broth and whipping cream, whisking constantly until mixture thickens and boils, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in spinach, cheese, sour cream and cayenne (spinach will wilt). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer dip to bowl and serve with toasted baguette slices.


Another lovely appetizer, though ultimately quite onion-y in flavour (perhaps not surprising given the abundance of onions in the dish). The cayenne also gave it a surprising amount of heat, which you might not expect at first glance.

Honey-baked coconut shrimp

from Bite Me
Serves 4-6

½ cup honey
1½ cups panko
1 cup flaked sweetened coconut
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
26 large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

Apricot dipping sauce
⅔ cup apricot jam
3 tbsp Heinz chili sauce
2 tsp Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. For the shrimp, pour honey in a medium bowl and warm on high in the microwave, 20-25 seconds. On a large plate, combine panko, coconut, cumin, salt and pepper. Taking shrimp one at a time, dip in honey and then coat in coconut mixture. Place on prepared baking sheet and bake 14 minutes, gently flipping shrimp halfway through baking.

For the sauce, place jam in a medium bowl. Warm in the microwave for 45 seconds. Add chili sauce and Dijon mustard, stirring to combine. Serve with baked coconut shrimp.


A few notes on preparation: We used Asian chili-garlic sauce instead of Heinz chili sauce in the dip. We also ran out of cumin, so we used chili powder instead.

The breading was not as crispy as I might have liked and did have a tendency to fall off as you flipped the shrimp. I think I could see broiling them for a bit to crisp up the topping. Otherwise, quite a nice little bite-sized appetizer!

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