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Easy summer starters: Little Bites, Big Taste

Posted: July 13, 2011 - 8:00am  |  Updated: July 29, 2011 - 11:10am
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Grilled peaches on baguette slices, marinated shrimp crostinis, fresh zucchini wraps and tomato and Swiss filled wontons (pictured clockwise from upper left), are examples of delicious summer appetizers.
Grilled peaches on baguette slices, marinated shrimp crostinis, fresh zucchini wraps and tomato and Swiss filled wontons (pictured clockwise from upper left), are examples of delicious summer appetizers.

Fresh peaches, zucchini and tomatoes were a good beginning, but adding shrimp, spinach and cheese to the mix, turned what began as a starter, into a satisfying meal. The  peaches, originally planned for dessert, were luscious as an appetizer paired with herb cheese and drizzled with honey.

Small, tender zucchini slices proved to be an ideal wrap for a salami, cheese and spinach rolls and fresh local tomatoes, provided the base for outrageously delicious Bacon, Tomato and Cheese Wontons. Shrimp, always the first to go, was particularly succulent cooked to the “just done” point, and went further served as a crostini or accompanied with a fresh vegetable or fruit-filled baked wonton.

As alternatives to gourmet crackers and pricey pre-made filo dough containers, wonton wrappers are versatile and economical options. A 12-ounce package, containing about 48 wontons, costs around $2.50.

Enjoying little bites like these are, of course, great ways to take pleasure in the foods of  the season, but they are also fine examples of some of the dishes that help to maximize the usefulness of our charcoal and gas grills.

Indoor grills, including panini presses and similar appliances, work exceptionally well, too, with their being impervious to the weather, a really big plus. Starters  like these won’t kill our appetites, but they will nourish and stimulate the ones we already have going — for taste, for color, for texture, for more.  

Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at kitchenade@yahoo.com.

Bacon/ Tomato and Cheese Wontons

12 wonton wrappers (1/4 of a 12-ounce package)
6 slices bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled
1 medium tomato chopped and drained of juices
1/4 quarter small onion, minced
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon dried basil
Fresh basil strips, for garnish

Fit wontons into the cups of a 12-cup non-stick mini muffin tin that has been lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake in a preheated 375-oven until lightly browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove wontons to a wire rack to cool, then set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, combine tomato, onion, mayonnaise and basil. Stir in cheese and bacon. Divide mixture between wontons, filling to the top. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until cheese melts and mixture is hot,  about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven to a wire rack to set about 5 minutes.

Serve hot, garnished with strips of fresh basil. Kitchen Ade Note: Do not fill wontons until they are ready to be baked. Filling them ahead of time will make wontons soggy. Pre-baked wontons may be stored in a tightly sealed container for up to 1 week.

Grilled Peaches with Herb-Cheese and Honey

2 small fresh, ripe peaches, sliced about 1/4-inch thick
1 small baguette, diagonally cut into 1/2- inch slices
Olive oil
Boursin-style cheese, store-bought or homemade (recipe follows)
Honey, for drizzling on top of peaches

Brush both sides of peaches lightly with oil, then grill until  barely soft; set aside.* Brush both sides of bread lightly with oil, then toast on grill until a lightly browned on each side. Spread one side bread with a generous portion of cheese, then top with a peach slice. Drizzle peaches with enough honey to coat, but not so much that it makes handling difficult. Makes about 6 servings. (If pieces are large, cut in half.)  *Kitchen Ade Note: Due to their soft texture, I grilled the peaches on an indoor non-stick pannini press.

Boursin-Style Cheese

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick ( 2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4  teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon each: oregano, marjoram, basil, dill weed, thyme

Mix ingredients well and store in a tightly sealed container. Will keep, in a sealed container in the refrigerator, for up to 2 weeks.

Grilled Zucchini, Salami, Cheese and Spinach Wraps

1 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch long slices
Olive oil
Salami (or prosciutto), sliced thin
Boursin-style cheese
Fresh spinach leaves, rinsed, dried, with stems removed

Brush zucchini slices with olive oil and grill on both sides until lightly cooked. Spread salami slices with cheese, then top with a spinach leaf. Roll into tight bundles, then secure with a wooden pick. One zucchini will make enough rolls to serve 4 to 6.

Grilled Lime-Wine Marinated Shrimp

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons white wine
1/2 tablespoon fresh minced chives
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
Dash salt
Dash Tabasco

Place shrimp in a shallow baking dish. Combine oil, lime juice, wine, chives, garlic, dill, salt and Tabasco and pour over shrimp. Cover dish and refrigerate 6 hours, or overnight. (Occasionally stir shrimp to distribute marinade.) Remove shrimp, reserving marinade. Thread shrimp on skewers, or placed them in a grill basket. Grill over heat, basting with reserved marinade until just done. Makes about 10 servings, 2 to 3 shrimp each.

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