You guys. It’s November already. That means holiday season is officially in effect (though many stores have tried pushing that since July, haha), and it’s time to start thinking about party food.
Thanksgiving is the first holiday to prep for, and whether you’re having a big family get together, or a smaller, more intimate Friendsgiving, there’s nothing better than starting a nice dinner with some tasty hors d’oeuvres to snack on while dinner is cooking. And what goes better with appetizers than wine? Nothing, really. Unless it’s excellent wine at an amazing discount. And that’s where trusty G.O. comes in!
Did you know that Grocery Outlet has a huge wine section? If not, you’re seriously missing out. Besides their cheese section, and the N.O.S.H. aisles, this is the other best kept secret at G.O. With over 150 wines to choose from, you’ll never run out of options, and they’re making the deals even sweeter for the next seven days. From November 2nd to November 8th, Grocery Outlet is offering an extra 20% off their already amazing wine prices. That means up to 80% savings on delicious local and imported wines, like the Red Rock Malbec for just $3.19 a bottle, sold elsewhere for almost $10! Holiday season can get expensive, so this is a wonderful time to stock up.
The fine folks at G.O. asked me to come up with some appetizer ideas that would pair well with some of these wines, and naturally, I obliged. Then they told me they would also send me a couple bottles of my choice to try out, and I did backflips. After all, any day wine is shipped to your home is a holiday.
Being a huge Zinfandel lover, I chose the Knotted Head Zin from Lodi. While I haven’t been to Lodi to experience all its wine country has to offer, I have sampled some of these more local wines and was curious to give this one a shot. I immediately thought of a play on my Mini Polenta Pizzas as a nice pairing for this one, and decided to change it up a bit to go along with this bold, jammy wine. Using the same polenta rounds as my “crust”, I topped them with some hot sopressata salami, some sautéed sweet peppers, and mozzarella cheese. PGEW Tip: when it comes to mozzarella, don’t forget about cheese sticks! Everyone’s favorite snack can be utilized for cooking as well, so don’t just think of string cheese for snacking. Their smaller size makes them perfect to use on small appetizers like these. All you have to do is slice small rounds from each stick, place them on your mini pizza or whatever you want melty cheese on, and presto! Instant mini cheese rounds for tiny food.
I wanted to give a white a try as well, even though I’m more of a red wine gal. There were some great Chardonnay and Chablis choices, but I hadn’t had a good Pinot Grigio in ages, so I thought I’d give the La Due Pinot Grigio from Villa Veneta a go. I had an appetizer idea for this one immediately. It was inspired on a random dinner I threw together the other day, which included smooth, velvety cannellini beans (a.k.a. white kidney beans), and some meaty mushrooms. I used this as inspiration to create a lovely crostini recipe, using the beans as a “pate” of sorts, and topping everything off with sautéed mushrooms. Garlic, herbs and plenty of freshly ground pepper add rich flavor to these otherwise delicate ingredients, and tiny dollops of ricotta cheese give these crostini a delightfully creamy finish.
Of course, there are plenty of other appetizers you can pair with your favorite wines, and since it’s now November, ‘tis the season to be thinking about hors d’oeuvres and other holiday party treats! You can serve fried ravioli with marinara sauce to dip them into, to pair with your favorite red. My Shrimp with Pineapple Pepper Relish would also pair beautifully with your favorite white, and of course, you can never forget the classic wine and cheese pairing. The possibilities are endless, and the best part is that you can do a lot of your shopping at G.O. and get your ingredients for so much less than regular retail grocery stores! With this week’s sale and G.O.’s amazing cheese section, you can certainly start the party off with a bang.
Don’t forget – the wine sale runs from November 2nd to November 8th only! Trust me… you’ll be amazed at the selection (I always am), and you can even pick up some bubbly to stock up for December holidays that are just around the corner, too. But before that, let’s check out the recipes for these easy, but delicious appetizers that will make it seem like you spent hours slaving away, when you can whip these up in no time, while sipping on a glass of one of the extra bottles of wine you pick up at this week’s sale. At these super low prices, you can afford it!
(Be sure to scroll all the way through… there are TWO recipes in this post! Woo hoo!)
White Bean & Mushroom Crostini
1 French or Italian bread baguette, cut into 1/2″ rounds
1 14.5 oz can white kidney beans, drained
6-8 medium mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion, divided
1 T finely chopped fresh garlic, divided
1-2 T olive oil
1 tsp garlic salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup ricotta cheese (optional)
1 T finely chopped parsley
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Arrange the baguette rounds on a baking sheet and brush with butter. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from heat and set aside.
1. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet. Add 1/4 cup of the diced yellow onion and cook over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to cook until both are fragrant. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic salt and the black pepper, followed by the beans. Cook over medium heat for about 4 minutes until everything is heated through. Set aside.
2. In a separate skillet, heat the remaining olive oil and cook the garlic and onion as instructed above. Add the mushrooms and seasonings, and cook until the mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Place about 2/3 of the white bean mixture into a bowl and coarsely mash with a fork. You want this to become a paste, but still have chunks of the beans for added texture. In a separate bowl, add the remaining 1/3 of the beans, and mix together with the sauteed mushrooms.
4. Time to plate! Spread about 1/2 tablespoon of the bean mixture onto each crostini round. Top that with the mushroom and bean mixture. If desired, place a tiny dollop of ricotta on top of the mushroom mixture (this is optional, but I find it ties everything together with a creamy finish). Sprinkle each with some finely chopped parsley, serve with Pinot Grigio or your favorite white wine, and enjoy!
Salami & Sweet Pepper Mini Polenta Pizzas
1/2 18 oz. tube of prepared polenta
1 6 oz. package hot salami (sopressata is my favorite, and you can use mild salami if you prefer)
1/4 cup your favorite jarred marinara sauce (or you can use my “pizza sauce” recipe here)
3-4 mini sweet bell peppers, cut into 1/2″ strips
1-2 T olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
2 mozzarella string cheese sticks
1. Slice the cheese sticks into small rounds and set aside. Slice the polenta into 1/2″ thick rounds. Season both sides of each slice very lightly with salt & pepper and set aside. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. When oil is heated through, arrange the polenta slices in the skillet and pan-fry for about 3 minutes on each side, or until slightly golden brown & crispy to the touch.
2. In a small skillet, heat the rest of the olive oil. Add the sliced sweet peppers, season with salt and pepper, and saute until tender. (NOTE: If you don’t have enough time, you can sub jarred roasted red peppers for this step. Just drain and slice them up, and set them aside for assembly.)
3. Remove the polenta from the skillet and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain the excess oil. Add about a teaspoon of marinara sauce to each polenta slice, then top with 2 slices of salami, followed by a few slices of sweet peppers. Top with 2-3 mini rounds of cheese. Return the mini pizzas to the skillet and cover, cooking for another 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. You can also place these under the broiler instead, to get that “pizza oven” finish. Just broil for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melty.
4. Serve with a good Zinfandel or another bold red, and enjoy!