Dump Appetizers and Seedy Crackers

June 17th, 2011 / Comments 2

Last Sunday, I invited a few friends to a last minute, simple dinner. My plan was to prepare a couple of salads early in the day, spend the afternoon reading, and have a nap. The salads would be served at room temperature with no last minute preparation. I looked forward to an evening of conversation with friends. When I finished the last salad, I realized that I hadn’t made an appetizer. There were no nuts, bread or crackers in the pantry. I needed to improvise.

The block of cream cheese and assorted jars of chutneys, jams and pickles in the fridge sparked my memory. I could make one of Leah’s “dump appetizers”. My friend Leah grew up in Atlanta and although she has a bookshelf full of Junior League cookbooks, she insists that “dump cooking” is the only way to cook. In less time than it took her to make a pitcher of sweet tea she gave me a list of ten “dump appetizers” that all started with a block of cream cheese and a jar of something sweet or savory.

Leah’s Dump Appetizer

Regardless of the topping, each appetizer begins the same way. Unwrap an eight ounce block of cream cheese and center it on the prettiest plate you have. Generously cover the cream cheese with a topping from the fridge or pantry. Here’s Leah’s list: hot pepper jelly, fig preserves, mango chutney, whole berry cranberry sauce, pesto, salsa, barbeque sauce, olive tapenade, cocktail sauce, or marinated artichoke hearts.

Rolling pin Dump Appetizers and Seedy Crackers

I had what I needed for the topping but nothing to serve it on. Rather than hopping in the car and driving to the market, I used semolina, flour, olive oil, salt, seeds and spices from the pantry to make a batch of crackers. Here’s how I did it:

Seedy Crackers

I used a whisk to combine one and a half cups of semolina flour, half a cup of whole wheat flour, one cup of unbleached white flour and one teaspoon of fine grain sea salt in the bowl of my stand mixer. I added one cup of warm water and one third of a cup of extra virgin olive oil and used the dough hook to knead the dough, at medium speed, for eight minutes. The dough was tacky, but not too sticky.

I shaped the dough into a log and cut it into twelve equal-sized pieces, formed each piece into a ball, dipped the balls of dough into a small bowl of olive oil and put them on a plate. I covered the dough balls with plastic wrap and let them rest for an hour while I did the same.

After my nap, I preheated the oven to 450º and put an empty, ungreased baking sheet into the oven. I put one piece of dough onto a silicon baking sheet and flattened it with a rolling pin. When it was quite thin, about an eighth of an inch thick, I topped the elongated rectangle of dough with a sprinkling of seeds or spice mixture and rolled the dough again to press the topping into the dough. I put the silicon baking sheet with the unbaked cracker on it, onto the baking sheet in the oven. After baking for eight minutes, the cracker was golden. I put the cracker on a rack to cool, and repeated the process with the remaining balls of dough. I varied the crackers by topping the dough with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, a mixture of toasted sesame seeds and sea salt called Gomasio or a spice mixture called Montreal Steak Seasoning.

I put the whole crackers in a large, flat basket and we broke the crackers and compared the flavors of the different toppings. I think the zing of the dried garlic and spices made the crackers topped with Montreal Steak Seasoning the favorite.

I almost forgot to tell you that I mixed together half a jar of mango chutney and half a jar of Vermont pear chutney from the Northeast Kingdom to top the block of cream cheese. The cracker recipe made enough to serve six and there was enough left for a snack on Monday. I used a rolling pin and a silicon baking sheet, the dough can also be shaped with a pasta machine and transferred to a baking sheet. The silicon baking sheet is non-stick and cools quickly between crackers. I use it when I’m baking cookies and roasting vegetables as well as for crackers. I didn’t cut the dough into individual crackers because I thought the oversized crackers would be fun. Dough for small crackers should be poked with a fork to prevent puffing. If you make the crackers more than a couple of hours before you plan to serve them, put them into an air tight container, after they have cooled completely, to preserve the crispy texture.

Homemade crackers rather than crackers dumped from a box to a bowl made dinner a bit more complicated but it was fun to have Leah there if only in the form of a variation of her “dump appetizer.”

Download and print seedy crackers recipe with an ingredients list here.


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• 2 Responses to “Dump Appetizers and Seedy Crackers”

  • I love the phrase “I covered the dough balls with plastic wrap and let them rest for an hour while I did the same.” What a lovely cozy image! I have had this sort of cream cheesy appetizer (topped with red pepper jelly) and remember eating ridiculous amounts of it. And thanks for the father’s day card. I might just use that!

  • Oh my gosh the mango chutney sounds heavenly!

    PS. Looove the Fathers Day card!

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