Amazing bites

Family Features

Hosting a party?

Add some magic to the festivities with these enticing bites.

The cheese and fruit plate is simple yet stylish and acts as a tantalizing table center piece.

The appetizers — stuffed and studded with luscious bits of fig, cheese and seasonal spices — are the perfect party size.

Fig and Toasted Nut Roll

Makes 28 to 30 servings

14 ounces Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid Mission Figs (2 cups)

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon or orange zest

2/3 cup toasted, blanched whole almonds, toasted walnut pieces, roasted marcona almonds (without skins) or roasted mixed nuts without peanuts

Remove and discard fig stems. Cut figs into quarters. Place in bowl of food processor with lemon or orange zest and process until figs are finely chopped and form a paste, stopping to scrape bowl once or twice as needed.

Turn fig mixture out of bowl onto a piece of parchment paper. If nuts are large, cut into halves or quarters. Work nuts into fig mixture, distributing evenly and covering nuts completely with fig mixture. Form mixture into a compact 8-inch-long log. Wrap parchment paper around log, folding in ends to seal. Place in a plastic bag and seal bag. Chill for 12 to 24 hours.

To serve, unwrap and cut with sharp knife into thin (about 1/4-inch) slices. Serve with cheese.

Stuffed Fondue Meatballs with Fig Honey Balsamic Glaze

Makes 18 meatballs

1 large head garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rings

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons sweet Riesling wine (or balsamic vinegar)

1/4 teaspoon EACH salt and pepper

1/2 pound EACH ground pork sausage and ground beef

1 tablespoon Fig Honey Balsamic Glaze mixed with 1/2 teaspoon EACH salt, pepper and allspice (or nutmeg)

1 11/2-ounce piece of Jarlsberg, cut into 18 half-inch cubes

Make Fig Honey Balsamic Glaze (recipe follows). Pre heat oven to 375 ∞F. Cut across the top of garlic head, then place cut side up in heavy aluminum foil. Pour olive oil over exposed cloves, before enclos ing garlic in foil, and place in oven to bake 45 minutes.

Place onion rings in a baking dish. Toss with 1 table spoon each olive oil and wine (or balsamic vinegar); sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake 45 minutes at 375 ∞F. At 1/2-hour mark, toss onion rings with 1 tablespoon more wine (or balsamic). When garlic and onions are cool enough to handle, remove garlic cloves from skins and combine with onion in food processor, pulsing to coarse-chop to produce 1/2 cup. Reserve 1/4 cup for another use.

In large mixing bowl, gently combine pork sausage and beef with glaze plus 1/4 cup roasted garlic/onion mix ture. Using 1 tablespoon measure to scoop meat (a 1-ounce portion), place Jarlsberg cube in center before shap ing into 11/4-inch-sized meatballs.

Place meatballs about 2 inches apart on foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 375 ∞F for 15 minutes. Transfer meatballs into small serve-style baking dish and drizzle with remaining glaze.

Fig Honey Balsamic Glaze

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

8 Calimyrna dried figs, stemmed and quartered

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon allspice (or nutmeg)

1 sprig fresh rosemary

3 sprigs fresh thyme

In saucepan, mix honey with water, vinegar, figs, brown sugar and allspice. Simmer on very low heat about 45 minutes — adding rosemary and thyme for last 15 — until liquid is reduced to half (the consistency of molasses). Remove herbs before separat ing liquid glaze from figs. You should have generous 1/4 cup.

Note: Process figs until smooth and, if you’d like, add reserved 1/4 cup onion/garlic mixture. Use as a spread, or add to stews and sauces.

Fig, Beef and Olive Empanaditas

Makes 28 to 30 empanaditas

1/2 pound lean (15 percent fat) ground beef

1/3 cup finely chopped green bell pepper

1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed

1 cup chopped stemmed Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid Figs

1/3 cup finely chopped pimento-stuffed olives

2 tablespoons tomato paste

11/4 teaspoons ground cumin

11/4 teaspoons dried crumbled oregano

1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot sauce

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 refrigerated piecrusts for 9-inch pie (11/2 packages, 14.1 ounces each)

1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add beef, bell pepper, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often and crumbling meat into small pieces, until meat is browned and cooked through. Remove from heat and stir in figs, olives, tomato paste, cumin, oregano, hot sauce and salt. Blend well. Cool.

Preheat oven to 375 ∞F.

Let dough rest at room temperature 15 minutes. Working with one pie crust at a time, unfold dough on lightly floured surface. With 31/2-inch-round cookie cutter, cut out 8 dough circles from each crust. (Save dough scraps; combine and roll to cut out 6 additional dough circles.)

Brush rim of each circle with beaten egg. Place 1 tablespoon filling in center of a circle and fold to make a half-moon shape. Press edge to seal; flute edge if desired. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Brush tops with egg mixture.

Bake 1 sheet at a time for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

cheese plates

This classic cheese plate includes three milks — cow, goat and sheep — each somewhat mild in their category, ensuring all your guests a most pleasant taste experience.

Jarlsberg, a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese with a mellow- nutty, slightly sweet flavor.

Woolwich Dairy, a triple cr ®me goat brie with light earthy notes and luscious buttery finish.

Garcia Baquero, a tradi tional Spanish Manchego sheep’s milk cheese from La Mancha.

Fig and Toasted Nut Rolls add a touch of distinction to cheese plates.

Made with sweet, dark purple California Mission Figs, a hint of citrus and herbs and stuffed with toasted nuts, this no-bake recipe is simple elegance at its best.

Golden, slightly nutty-flavored Calimyrna Figs are another versatile recipe ingredient, adding sweetness and texture to a wide variety of dishes.

California Dried Figs, bursting with sweet fruit flavor, are available all year around.

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