Whenever I’m asked to bring an appetizer to a party, I usually revert to my usual repertoire: fancy cheese and crackers, olives, or nuts. It’s not that I don’t like to make appetizers; I’m just not very creative when it comes to making new ones. To get out of my appetizer "rut" I researched recipes from around the world, trying to inspire ideas for new and different recipes.
While I was researching, I found one country in particular to have a large variety of interesting appetizers, Spain (disclaimer, part of my research was spent "tasting" my way through Spain this past fall). In Spain, appetizers are called "tapas" or "pintxos" and they are served in bars all over the country. The words are sometimes used interchangeably to describe small bites of food people eat at bars, but they actually have different meanings. Pintxos are common in Northern Spain and the Bosque Country. It is literally a small snack (usually on a piece of bread), "spiked" with a toothpick or a skewer. Tapas are a wide variety of small portions or "plate" of food. They range from olives, cheese, cured meats, seafood, or warm "croquettes," which are lightly battered and fried fritter-like snacks. Many times, bar patrons will order several plates of tapas to make a meal.
One of my favorite pintxos was a mixture of smoked salmon and cream cheese on a small piece of bread, called salmón ahumado con Philadelphia (translation – smoked salmon with Philadelphia cream cheese). I tasted several varieties of this pintxo, one with crabmeat, one with tuna, but my favorite was the one with smoked salmon).
I was inspired to make a similar dish but wanted an "Americanized" recipe that used familiar ingredients and measurements. I found a comparable recipe, Smoked Salmon Cheesecake. Don’t let the "cheesecake" in the title fool you; it has comparable ingredients and consistency, but not the sweetness of cheesecake.
To start your cheesecake, preheat your oven to 350°. Pour the crackers into a medium-sized bowl and crush them. I think the easiest way is to just use my hands.
Add the melted butter to the crushed crackers. Mix thoroughly together and then press into the bottom of the springform pan. Set the pan aside.
Put the cream cheese into the mixing bowl and mix until the cheese is smooth. Then add the eggs and mix again. Slowly add the lemon juice, mustard, dill and lemon zest. The zest is really small shavings of the outside of the lemon. Use a grater, zester or a Microplane to scrape or cut off the yellow part of the peel).
Mix until all ingredients are blended together.
For the next step, remove the mixer bowl from the mixer. Add the smoked salmon and green onions to the cream cheese mixture and stir by hand until well mixed.
Pour the mixture onto the crust in the springform pan.
Place the pan into oven and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. Take it out of the oven and put on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes of cooling, hold the bottom of the pan and remove the sides. Then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
One way to serve the cheesecake is to cut a wedge and place on a serving plate with crackers, cucumbers, and/or small pieces of good bread. The recipe calls for rye bread, but I don’t care for the flavor combination of the smoky salmon with the rye. I like it with crackers or a sliced baguette.
If you would like to serve the cheesecake in pintxos/tapas style, thinly slice a baguette and spread with small amount of the cheesecake on each piece. Use about a tablespoon or so of the mixture. It will depend on how big your bread is. If you would like to make it a little fancier, place a small piece of fresh dill on top of each cheesecake-topped bread. Arrange on a small plate and enjoy with your friends.
I think I am going to make Smoked Salmon Cheesecake this year for our New Year’s Eve party - just so I can feel like I’m in Spain again. Try this for your New Year’s Eve party, too, and make sure to come back and rate and review the recipe. Cheers to you this holiday season and as they say in Spain, Salut!
Come back in a few days when Mallory will share a twist on the classic mac and cheese recipe.
Bridget is paid to write for the Land O’Lakes Recipe Buzz® Blog.