Originally created 12/05/01

Entertaining twist



Bond and I shared an order of seven-layer Mexican spread at Friday's Restaurant in Altamonte Springs, Fla., on my 21st birthday. No dinner, just appetizers. It's the way most of us ate in college.

We both loved the layers of Mexican ingredients, each scoop on our tortilla chips coming up with a combination that was a bit different than the previous scoop. My mother creates a similar concoction called taco dip, and we've enjoyed layered Mexican spreads at many Augusta cocktail parties.

While we still adore the Mexican combination, I decided to play around with the idea of layered spreads of other origins.

This week's Mediterranean-inspired version is the result of experimentation. It debuted to a group of women at a spring Junior League cooking demonstration with good reviews. As we begin the holiday entertaining season, this easy yet elegant spread will be a welcome addition to your hors d'oeuvre repertoire.

The base for the spread is a combination of reduced-fat cream cheese, crumbled feta and Italian seasoning. Other layers include shredded Parmesan cheese, chopped green onion, black olives, marinated artichoke hearts and canned Caponata, an eggplant appetizer available in the canned vegetable section of most supermarkets.

If you can't find the Caponata, substitute chopped roasted red bell peppers, which are readily available.

The ingredients are layered in a bowl lined with plastic wrap. I recommend using two long pieces of the wrap. Place the pieces in an "X" over the opening of the bowl, then press down with your fist and pat the wrap into place.

The layering begins and ends with the Parmesan cheese. While I've suggested an order for layering the ingredients, it really doesn't matter in the end. Once the ingredients are layered, use the plastic hanging over the edge of the bowl to securely cover the top. Refrigerate until ready to serve. The spread may be made as much as two days before serving.

Use the recipe as a base to start formulating layered spreads of your own. For a classic combination, layer cream cheese mixed with dried dill with smoked salmon, drained capers, chopped boiled egg and red onion to spread on toast points. Or create an Indian-inspired version by combining the cream cheese with a teaspoon of curry powder and chopped mango chutney, then layer with chopped green onions, peanuts and well-drained crushed pineapple.

NINE-LAYER MEDITERRANEAN SPREAD

8 ounces low-fat (Neufchatal) cream cheese

4 ounces crumbled feta cheese

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 7.5-ounce can Caponata (eggplant appetizer)

1 green onion, finely chopped

1 4-ounce can chopped black olives, drained

1 8-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

Pita chips or crackers

Combine cream cheese, crumbled feta and Italian seasoning in a food processor or with a hand mixer in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Line a 1-quart bowl with plastic wrap, allowing 8 inches of wrap to extend over sides of the bowl. Layer ingredients in this order: 1/2 of the Parmesan, 1/2 of the Caponata, 1/2 of the cream cheese mixture, the green onions, olives, artichoke hearts, remaining Caponata, remaining cream cheese, remaining Parmesan. Fold plastic wrap over top and chill until firm.

To serve, remove from refrigerator and unfold plastic wrap. Place serving platter face down on top of bowl. Flip it over and remove bowl. Carefully peel off plastic wrap.

Serve with pita chips or crackers.

Makes 18 appetizer servings.

COOKBOOK SIGNING

Karin Calloway will sign copies of her new cookbook, Quick Cooking With Karin, from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Publix in Evans Towne Centre, 4274 Washington Road.

Two signings will be held Saturday, Dec. 15:

  • 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Merry Times, 395 Highland Ave., in Surrey Center
  • 2-4 p.m. at Fat Man's Forest, 1545 Laney-Walker Blvd.
  • The book is $14.95. It also may be purchased at the following locations: The Augusta Chronicle, 725 Broad St., 123 Pendleton St., Aiken, and 4142 Columbia Road, Martinez; Trends & Traditions Antique Mall, Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores; Fat Man's Forest and Fat Man's West; Merry Times; Sacred Heart Cultural Center Gift Shop; and Publix stores.

    Karin Calloway is the online chef for Viking Range Corp. (www.vikingrange.com) and a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. You can write her in care of The Augusta Chronicle Newsroom, PO Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30903. Or send e-mail to karin.calloway@home.com.

     Calories: 99
     Fat: 6 g
     Saturated Fat: 3 g
     Protein: 5 g
     Fiber: 1 g
     Carbohydrates: 5 g
     Sodium: 359 mg
     Cholesterol: 16 mg
     Nutrient analysis provided by Fran Frye, a licensed and registered dietitian of the Augusta District Dietetic Association. Send questions via e-mail to augustadietitian@yahoo.com.