Healthy Hors d’Oeuvres and Matching Wines

Summer 2007 CSANews Issue 63  |  Posted date : Aug 07, 2007.Back to list

Hors d'oeuvres are an important element in entertaining, creating the mood, pace and style of the evening ahead. These tiny bites can be served before a meal or throughout the evening with cocktails. The primary purpose of this starter dish is to whet the appetite, so that your guests are not ravenous before the main meal. Hors d'oeuvres also absorb alcohol so that guests can enjoy your accompanying wines, all the while pacing themselves and remaining sober by the end of the night.

It's best to keep hors d'oeuvres simple, not too rich, and in bite-sized pieces. Otherwise, your guests will be satisfied before the main course arrives. Remember, simple does not mean bland tasting. Hors d'oeuvres can use lots of interesting colours, textures and flavours.

Count on serving two pieces of each hors d'oeuvre per person. Hot and cold morsels provide variety. If the morsels are too delicate or messy, be sure to provide a small plate for each guest.

Your accompanying wines should be light and clean. The idea is to increase the strength of the wines with each course. If you start the evening with a high-alcohol, heavy-tasting wine paired with your hors d'oeuvres, your guests' palates will be numbed before dinner.

Today, most of us are watching our weight or eating healthily, in general, to reduce the risks of disease and heart-related illnesses.

The good news is that you can create a whole array of tantalizing and healthy hors d'oeuvres that please the palate without breaking your pocketbook – healthy morsels that also harmonize with a wide range of wines!
The trick is to use fresh, high-quality and healthy ingredients in your hors d'oeuvre recipes.

It's easy to transform a classic hors d'oeuvre using healthy ingredients. How about whole wheat blinis with smoked salmon and non-fat sour cream and chives paired with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc? Or whole wheat pizzettas with roasted garlic, chicken pepperoni and skim milk mozzarella partnered to an Australia Chardonnay?

Wine has layers of aromas, tastes and flavours. It is a complex beverage and therefore, it harmonizes with foods that are more complex. Using whole wheat flour, bread and pasta instead of white or enriched flour products in your hors d'oeuvres recipes is healthful.

Flour is made from the wheat berry. The wheat berry has three nutrient-rich parts – the bran (the outer layer), the germ (the inner layer) and the endosperm (the starch).

Whole wheat flour includes all three parts. White flour contains only the endosperm, the white part. Whole wheat flour is more healthful by far, containing more fibre, vitamins B and E, magnesium, chromium, folic acid and zinc.

Enriched flour can be listed as a main ingredient in whole wheat flours, so be sure to read the back label! Enriched flour is flour from which most of the natural nutrients have been removed. Our bodies break down enriched flour too quickly, flooding the bloodstream with too much sugar at once. This causes quick highs and lows in your blood-sugar level, which is believed to lead to type 2 diabetes and obesity.

According to a 10-year Harvard study completed in 1994, men and women who ate high-fibre breads had fewer heart attacks and strokes than those who chose bagels and baguettes. Choosing whole wheat bread can lower the risk of heart disease by 20%, says research from the University of Washington as reported in the April 2, 2003 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association. Fibre helps in digestion and can help you lose weight. When consumed, its heaviness provides a feeling of fullness.

Canola is one of the oils lowest in saturated fats. It is heart-friendly and a good source of essential omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Be careful when choosing soybean oil, as it's often refined and hydrogenated. Extra virgin olive oil is also beneficial. When used in moderation, olive oil will lower bad cholesterol. So choose healthy oils, despite what your hors d'oeuvre recipes dictate.

Many kinds of salts exist. For cooking and for our health, sea salt is a favourite. Refined and processed salt is clean and sparkling, but is said to be missing the minerals and trace elements that once made salt so valuable. Quality sea salt is high in both, is natural and tastes better.

Many countries produce sea salt. Wales produces Halen Mon, a sea salt hand-harvested from the Atlantic waters. Fleur de sel (meaning the 'flower of salt') comes from the island of Ré, off France's Atlantic coast. Since the seventh century, sun and wind have evaporated the sea water, leaving fine crystals which are hand-harvested in July and August. Fleur de sel is recognized for its delicate flavour and concentration of minerals and trace elements. This high-quality sea salt does not bite the tip of the tongue like refined table salt, and it is best to be used as a condiment where its finest qualities, such as its delicate flavour and texture, will shine through.

England, New Zealand, Australia and Hawaii all produce their own salts from the sea as well. Celtic grey sea salt was once a well-kept secret, highly regarded by chefs around the world. This salt comes from the marshes of Brittany on the coast of France. Celtic grey sea salt is more widely available today and is now reasonably priced. You can find this salt in some gourmet food shops and it is also available for sale over the Internet.

While you may use expensive versions as a condiment, local bulk stores and gourmet food shops sell generic sea salts at reasonable prices. These are ideal for cooking, bringing out the natural flavours of ingredients and providing texture and appearance to dishes.

Sea salt complements both white and red wines.

Saltiness, in general, contrasts well with the sourness or acidity in crisp, white wines, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Aligote, Gruner Veltliner, Muscadet, Viognier and Vinho Verde. Salty foods, such as smoked salmon, raw oysters, cheeses (such as feta and goat's milk) and even potato chips work well with crisp, dry whites.

Salty foods can also work well with red wines. The saltiness in certain foods (such as prosciutto and other cured meats, salted and seasoned beef and salted, roasted vegetables) works with the bitterness from the tannin in heavy, red wines. Red wines with lots of tannin include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Barberesco, Barolo and Pinotage. If you purchase a red wine with too much bitterness, sprinkle more sea salt on the accompanying dish. The saltiness will soften the taste of the bitterness in the wine.

By making a few small changes to your recipes, you can prepare delicious and healthy hors d'oeuvres for your guests. Be sure to double up on the number of hors d'oeuvres which you prepare. Once your guests find out that these tiny bites are actually good for them, they will eat twice as many!

Japanese Vegetable Dip With Crisp Vegetables
Serves four to six
I obtained this recipe from famous chef, Ritchie Kukle. Chef Ritchie was the private chef to Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson for five years. While working for the two stars, Chef Ritchie cooked for their famous guests, including Sylvester Stallone, Robert Wagner and Goldie Hawn. Ronald Perelman (the American corporate "turnaround" specialist) was another of Ritchie's private clients. Some of Perelman's famous guests who enjoyed Ritchie's cuisine include Martha Stewart, Billy Joel, Shirley MacLaine and Antonio Banderas.

Chef Ritchie's dip is brilliantly simple and brilliantly orgasmic! It's one of the recipes that will be included in my upcoming cookbook entitled "Orgasmic Appetizers and Matching Wines – Tiny Bites with the Moan Factor" (Whitecaps, 2008).

1 1/4 cup     300 mL    carrots, peeled and cooked
1/4 cup     50 mL        Spanish onion, finely chopped
1-inch        2.5 cm    piece of fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cup    125 mL    Japanese light soy sauce
1/2 cup     125 mL    rice vinegar
1/2 cup     125 mL    canola oil

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Adjust ginger, soy sauce and vinegar to taste. Chill until needed. Serve with cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber and celery.

The predominant building block is saltiness from the soy sauce. The sourness of a crisp, dry light white, such as Sauvignon Blanc, nicely offsets the saltiness.

Choose a crisp, dry white with herbal notes to complement the flavours in fresh vegetables.
Tuna and Wasabi Spring Rolls

Serves four to six
2    2    cans tuna (in water), drained
1 tsp    5 mL    wasabi paste (or more, if desired)
½     ½     medium-sized onion, finely chopped
½ cup        125 mL    fat-free mayonnaise
1 cup    250 mL    fresh mint leaves
1 cup    250 mL    fresh basil leaves
1 cup    250 mL    fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup    250 mL    assorted fresh greens
12    12    8" rice papers*

*Rice papers are available at Asian supermarkets.

In a large bowl, combine tuna, wasabi, onion and mayonnaise. Divide mint, basil, cilantro and mixed greens into 12 piles. Mix well. In another bowl, add hot water. Place one rice paper in hot water. When it softens, pull it out and lay it on work surface. Place one pile on one end of rice paper. Add some fresh greens. Place one heaping tablespoon of tuna beside greens. Fold sides of rice paper over tuna. Using your hands, roll up tightly. Continue process with next 11 papers. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

The predominant building block is heat and spiciness from the wasabi. An off-dry white wine, such as Riesling, is ideal. The wine's hint of sweetness offsets the heat and spice.

Choose an off-dry white with tropical flavours to complement the flavours of the fresh herbs.