As we navigate the “post-quarantine but need to remain vigilant” stage of the pandemic, the path forward isn’t crystal clear. Some friends and I have remarked how unique each individual’s approach is to their personal safety, and how it’s important not to gaslight anyone for their views. Some people view this pandemic through a lense of fear and I was definitely in that camp in the early days. I was petrified of getting the virus and took the bunker approach. Shop for two weeks, see nobody, santize, sanitize, sanitize. My husband was less fearful, but he embraced my plea for him to discontinue his daily Dunkin run (which ended anyway) and double down on the hunkering.
Now, after several months I am less fearful but I still don’t want to get the virus if I can help it as there can be no certainty how anyone’s body is going to react. But, I have to balance that with getting on with life and trying to manage the interruption and paralysis this pandemic is causing. In my little world, I miss my friends and thankfully have been able to enjoy some of them (from a distance) on the golf course or in various backyards for a 6 foot cocktail. I still have it in my mind to create a summer cocktail named the 6-footer but haven’t mixed one up quite yet.
And speaking of summer, hear it on the blog first that I am declaring this the summer of the toothpick. Because we have to see our friends, and if we are socializing there must be food, even from a distance.
I think the food component of pandemic socializing is fairly easy when there are two couples or two friends enjoying each other’s company. One host recently set out two sets of bowls filled with all kinds of delicious nibbles, one set for my husband and me, and one set for she and her husband. My cousin came to my house and I had an antipasto platter, but we had our own utensils to use so there was no comingling. Overkill? Perhaps but listen, it works and maybe you have to wash a few extra dishes but at least you can say you are remaining vigilent.
Which leads me to the toothpick. When you have larger “small” groups, I believe the toothpick is going to be your friend! In fact, I have a long history of using toothpicks because if there is one course that I will always offer to bring to your house or any gathering, it’s the appetizer. I love being creative with little one biters. Here are a few ideas, some from the archives and not all of which use toothpicks, but are single serve and could be socially distant from each other on the largest platter in your arsenal, ready for your small group gatherings this summer.
Watermelon, Feta, Basil and Balsamic Glaze on a mini skewer…
Strawberry, Goat Cheese and Basil Crostini…
Smoked Salmon, Capers, Lemon Zest, Chives and Cream Cheese wrapped in a cucumber…
Mini Italian Sandwiches…
Tuna, Guacamole and Sour Cream on a Waffle Chip…
These were a pesto-avocado-spinach situation but I can’t remember all the details!
Bacon Wrapped Brussels Sprouts
Phew – there are a lot of options and I’m also including a recipe today for one more that I know you are going to love if you are able to try it. I was reminded of it when I recently put cubed watermelon on a plate and stuck each one individually with a toothpick to serve to some people who were coming for a quick drink.
This recipe takes luscious cubes of watermelon that with their bright red color resemble tuna and bathes them in a ginger-sesame-soy mixture. They take on the flavor of the sauce but do not getting soggy which really surprised me when I made it last summer for a dinner party. My guests were intrigued by it, and surprised at how delicious these little morsels were! If you love poke, you are going to enjoy this recipe which you can whip up without a lot of notice as they only need to marinate for a few hours in the fridge. The recipe comes from Heidi Swanson’s blog, 101 Cookbooks which I really enjoy.
If you make the recipe, please let me know how it goes. I love to hear from you and so appreciate when you email me!
In declaring this the summer of the toothpick, I think you will enjoy having this appetizer up your sleeve. Surprise your guests (from a distance!) with this vegetarian poke that looks beautiful and tastes amazing. Original recipe is from 101 Cookbooks/Heidi Swanson whose blog I really enjoy.
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar (green top if using Marukan brand)
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 3 pounds seedless red watermelon
- For garnish, sliced green onions and black sesame seeds
- For serving, toothpicks
- Combine the lemon zest, ginger, honey, cayenne and salt in the bowl of a food processor and blitz until smooth. Add the lemon juice, rice vinegar and soy sauce and pulse to combine. With the machine running, drizzle in the olive and sesame oils.
- Slice the watermelon into cubes that are roughly 1/2-3/4 inch in width. Imagine them as one-biters. They need to be big enough that they won't fall apart when you place a toothpick in them.
- Pour the sauce over the top of the watermelon and gently toss until all the watermelon is coated. Refrigerate for a few hours and try to toss the watermelon a few times while you are waiting for it to develop its flavor.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the watermelon poke to a serving bowl or platter, shaking off any extra sauce. You can use the sauce that is left behind to flavor rice or something else so good to keep! Place a toothpick in each cube if you want or place alongside. Sprinkle the watermelon with sliced green onions and black sesame seeds if you have them.
Two sets of bowls of nibbles sounds like a brilliant solution! 😉 Thanks for all of these inspiring recipes. The summer of the toothpick replaces the season of dinner parties for sure. Happy summer to you, Kitchen Scout! XOXO
Val…I think that this is one of my favorite blogs of yours (I do love them all though), but “the summer of the toothpick” is so ingenious!! As we are all settling down to this new normal and wanting to socialize with our neighbor & friends, this just makes so much sense!!! We are planning on a 4th of July thing with a bunch of my neighbors and I can’t wait to share this with them!!! Hope to see you and Hilly soon!!! xoxoxo Happy Summer!
My fav is the bacon wrapped brussels sprouts. Get crack’n on that 6 footer!