In my column Wednesday, I suggested that everyone needs a "little black dress" appetizer for party season, drop-dead easy stuff that you can throw together and transport easily, and that always pleases people. The simpler, the better.
Then I threw it open to people to send me their own "little black dresses." The responses:
- From Ann: Kalamata olives and mascarpone cheese. Basically equal parts, food-processed. This recipe started with olives and homemade mayonnaise, but the substitution of mascarpone really simplies it. Toasted baguette slices. You're done. It's best to process the olives first, until well-chopped. (From Kathleen: Pitted olives, of course. That should go without saying. Or maybe it needs to be said.) Add cheese, softened, and mix well.
- From Marna Polhill: Mix an 8 ounce package of cream cheese (1/3 less fat variety is fine) with at least 1/4 cup of good-quality Vidalia onion relish. I purchase mine, Georgia Vidalia Onion Relish from Hillside Orchard Farm in Tiger, Ga., at the Handy Pantry gas/grocery/vegetable market across and down a little from Miller's vegetable stand below Pineville going toward Fort Mill. Anyway, mix cream cheese, relish and serve with crackers.
- From Jane Loveless: This is a recipe from my cousin April Morrow. April's Chicken Spread: One large and one small can of canned chicken (white-meat only). One large and one small block of cream cheese. One pack of ranch dressing mix. Set cream cheese out to soften. Drain chicken. Mix everything with mixer, carefully dodging flying pieces of chicken as you get started. Recipe can be adjusted by using more or less cream cheese or chicken, but never use more than one pack of ranch dressing mix unless the recipe is doubled. Best eaten with bagel chips. It's also better if you make it the night before so the flavors have time to blend.
- Sue Clark, Matthews: Take a sheet of wax paper and sprinkle heavily with chili powder. Use a package of Velveeta unwrapped and the sides moistened with a little water. Roll in the chili powder until completely coated. Place on a pretty plate and surround with crackers. They all want the recipe.
- Dotty Dysard, Matthews: Put some green pepper jelly in a dish. Open a container of spreadable cream cheese. Arrange Ritz crackers on a plate. Put a spoon in the jelly and a spreader knife in the cheese. Demonstrate by spreading the cheese on a cracker and adding a dab of jelly. Eat one. Oh, and eat another one, too.They're really good.
- Skippy Krell: Santa Barbara Mango with Peach Salsa, available at Costco behind the meat section. No substitution! Tostitos whole-grain scoops. Arrange partially drained salsa in a glass bowl with scoops in a basket nearby and watch it all disappear.
- Ann Houston Staples, Pineville: Deviled eggs. Everyone has a fit over them and acts like they are really hard and time-consuming. I've used many variations, but keep going back to the one in my mother's 1953 copy of "The Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook": Mayo, parsley, dry mustard, sweet pickle relish and horseradish. I also use a very simple punch recipe that has actually caused riots around the punch bowl. It is a blend of pineapple juice and Cheerwine. If you want to get fancy, you can freeze some pineapple juice into ice to decorate and keep it cold. But honestly, it doesn't stay in the bowl long enough to get warm. (From Kathleen: Hey, that's my punch! I use that one whenever it's my turn to do Punch on the Lawn at St. Martin's Episcopal. And yes, people go crazy for it.)