Katie Lee Joel's Easy Appetizers

Katie Lee Joel, accomplished cook and food writer and wife of rock star Billy Joel, is out with her first cookbook, "The Comfort Table."

She's also a brand new Early Show contributor.

The book is a compilation of her favorite recipes from her childhood. In addition, it also features tips on preparing and throwing fabulous and effortless dinner parties.

Says Katie Lee, "My dining and entertainment philosophy -- I can boil it down to "the three C's -- I like my food like my fashion: casual, classic, and with a touch of couture."

Katie Lee, who goes by Katie, also says, "I love to have a dinner party. I love to have people over. I like the feeling it creates in my home -- having guests laughing and telling their stories, and I put a lot of thought into it. I plan my menu kind of depending on whatever mood I'm in.

"I think it's fun to serve comfort food, because it's an instant ice-breaker. If somebody's expecting fancy food and you whip out some fried chicken, they feel like, you know, they can put their elbows on the table and the etiquette police aren't going to come out.

"I also like to set my table. I like to make it look really nice, and I do that usually the night before, so I'm not rushing around, and I like to get as much done ahead of time as possible."

This week, The Early Show will feature Katie in three segments, during which she'll prepare recipes from her book.

On Monday, she showed how to make a few of her favorite cocktails and punches. On Tuesday, it was appetizers -- all of thm simple to prepare. And Wednesday, she'll have desserts, including a peach cobbler she says is husband Billy's favorite.

Editor's note: "The Comfort Table" is from Simon Spotlight Entertainment, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, which is part of the CBS Corporation, as is CBSNews.com.

Katie, who was raised in a modest, tight-knit West Virginia family, began cooking at the tender age of four, under the guidance of her mentor, Grandma Dora. Using fresh vegetables from her grandpa's garden and meat from the family's cattle and pig farms, Katie quickly learned the value of seasonal ingredients. Many of the classic recipes in "The Comfort Table" come directly from her Grandma's kitchen, but with Katie's special twist.

Appetizer Menu

Fiesta Wontons
Artichoke dip
Deviled eggs
Pimento Cheese Spread
Gorgonzola & Fig Crostini
Crudités Platter

TIPS

  • Prepare appetizers ahead of time, so guests have something to munch on while you put the finishing touches on the meal.
  • Hors d'oeuvres set the tone for the meal. Consider the main course when selecting the appetizers. If the meal is heavy, opt for lighter finger foods or, if you're serving shrimp as your main dish, try not to include it in your appetizers.

    RECIPES

    Fiesta Wontons


    1/2 pound lean ground beef
    1/4 cup grated yellow onion
    2 ounces cream cheese (1/4 cup), at room temperature
    1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
    1 large whole egg
    2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
    2 tablespoons taco seasoning
    2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
    36 square wonton wrappers
    1 large egg white, lightly beaten
    2 cups canola oil
    Fresh cilantro leaves
    Salsa

    In a medium bowl, combine the beef, onion, cream cheese, Cheddar, the whole egg, bread crumbs, taco seasoning, and cilantro.

    Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the wonton squares on a dry work surface. Place 1 mounded teaspoon of the meat mixture in the middle of each wonton. Brush the wonton's edges with egg white using a pastry brush and fold to seal in a triangle. Place the wontons on the baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

    In a deep heavy pot, heat the canola oil to 375°F. A few at a time fry the wontons until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

    Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve immediately with salsa.

    Yield: about 36 wontons (6 servings)

    For a reduced-fat version: Instead of frying, preheat the oven to 500°F. Brush the wontons with lightly beaten egg white and bake for 7 to 8 minutes.

    Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

    One 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
    One 9-ounce package artichoke hearts (drained jarred or canned, cooked fresh, or frozen, but not marinated)
    1 cup steamed spinach (1 pound raw or one 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed), well drained
    1/2 cup mayonnaise
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    2 garlic cloves
    6 large fresh basil leaves
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

    Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 2-quart baking dish.

    In a food processor, combine the cream cheese, artichoke hearts, spinach, mayo, Parmesan, garlic, basil, salt, and pepper. Spoon into the baking dish. Top with the mozzarella. Bake until bubbling and the top is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

    Serve with crackers, tortilla chips, or toasted rustic bread.

    Yield: 4 servings

    • CBSNews

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