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Monday, November 10, 2014

Buffalo Cucumbers and Dill Filled Celery Sticks

When you have recurring guests, you must activate your creative juice so as to not bore them with recurring appetizers and hors d'oeuvres.  Using similar ingredients, this is somewhat a challenge.  I usually like to have raw veggies at my happy hour as opposed to potato chips and peanuts.  Don't get me wrong, those sometimes make an appearance, but maybe not all by themselves.  My peanuts will be a topping or a filling, and my potato chips will be.. um.. wait.. no.. I never serve potato chips.  Sorry.
I sometimes have tortilla chips to use as a vessel for salsa or guacamole or whatever dip I'm serving.. but potato chips are never really invited to the party.  Can't really do much with those...
My usual veggies include carrots and cucumbers.  I like cucumbers as a vessel for hummus because that creamy mixture of passion and chickpeas is made to be shoveled into the mouth on the end of a cucumber stick!  Oh yes, with some Lebanese bread as well, but I just have a thing for cucumbers.  This week, though, I invited celery.  Celery is the perfect vessel for dipping.  It has that naughty little curve that is just made for scooping.  Its acidity balances out any peanut butter or cream it may encounter, and is a delight to munch on, so this time, I decided to go Buffalo-style with my cucumbers drenched in a Frank's Redhot vinaigrette and the little celery companion for the creamy aspect to counter the tangy RedHot.
Buffalo Cucumbers
1 long cucumber, semi-peeled and cut into sticks
3 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small shallot, diced
1/2 cup Frank's RedHot sauce (do not substitute anything else please!)
crushed peanuts for garnish
crumbled blue cheese or feta (optional)
1.  Roast the garlic in their sheaths for about 15 minutes at 200°C 400°F.  Remove and squeeze out the garlic into a bowl.
2.  Make the vinaigrette by whisking together the mashed garlic, olive oil, and Frank's.  Stir in the diced shallots.
3.  Toss the cucumber sticks with the vinaigrette and set aside in the refrigerator to let the juices develop for at least 20 minutes.
4.  Toss again to redistribute the juices and serve with some crushed peanuts.
Serve as a salad or as finger food for happy hour.  With some crumbled blue cheese or feta it would be quite a fiesta of flavors.
Dill Filled Celery Sticks
stalks from 1 bunch celery, cut into sticks
1 clove garlic, grated
juice from 1/2 lime
3 sprigs fresh dill, chopped
5-6 celery leaves, finely chopped
few cracks black pepper
pinch fleur de sel
pinch piment d'espelette
3 Tbsp cream cheese
1 Tbsp cream
Whip together all the ingredients and spread it into the celery crevices.
*this one is not vegan.. don't be silly now

This works just as well as a spread on bagels, dip for carrots or breadsticks, or even on some toast with a few capers.  I just wanted to fill the celery wedges with something tangy.
This was the perfect American-themed happy hour (with carrot sticks and artichoke dip, of course) to go with my All American Spiced Chili dinner.
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