Dining In

Easy Elegance

Simple Solutions for Your Party Table

by Nancy Finch, Food Columnist   

Party perplexities ... there are many.

Who to invite? What to serve? When to have it? HOW MUCH FOOD?

My observation is that people are eating less and less and drinking more and more lightly at parties. And that is a good thing.

Now, can you, as the hostess, suppress the compulsion to cook yourself into a frenzy, greet the guests in a zombie state, and then try to figure out what to do with leftover dips, finger foods, meatballs or cheese cubes?

We went to a couple of parties last holiday season where either the hostess thought she was feeding starvation victims or a lot of invitees didn’t show. The quantity of leftovers was distressing.

I have, however, encountered the horror of every hostess — running out of food! But that was rare.

As you get your nerve up to have a holiday party this year, try to set some parameters. Plan easy-to-prepare party food that won’t wear you out or break your budget, and keep the quantity down.

I’ve tried some recipes that give an appearance of hours in the kitchen or, at least, elegance, but that were quite simple.

The Smoked Salmon with Capers and Cream Cheese is not inexpensive. I wouldn’t plan on serving it for a crowd unless you can find a better buy on smoked salmon than I did. But, for a smallish gathering, a combination of cream cheese, capers and smoked salmon on pita rounds was very simple and festive for a party table. This version is much easier to eat than the salmon, capers, onions and chopped eggs so often served at parties.

Mushroom Puffs were served by a friend as a yummy appetizer and the Layered Shrimp Dip from my favorite Alabama cookbook was a hit at a recent party I gave.

Ann Howard’s Mushroom Puffs

Ingredients:

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2 containers refrigerated crescent dinner rolls

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1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

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1 can (4 oz.) chopped mushrooms

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1 t seasoned salt

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2 green onions, chopped

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1 egg, beaten

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2 T poppy seeds

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lay out roll dough in rectangle. Seal all perforations with fingers. Mix cheese, mushrooms, salt and onions. Spread on rolls and roll up jellyroll style. Slice 1-inch slices. Brush with egg and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake 6 to 8 minutes. Makes 48. (May be frozen in rolls before baking. Slice when partly frozen, then bake.)

Smoked Salmon, Capers and Cream Cheese on Pita

Ingredients:

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4 oz. cream cheese, softened

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3 T capers

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2 pita rounds (7-inch) (or lavash*)

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4 oz. smoked salmon

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2 hard-cooked eggs, sliced

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Fresh dill, optional

Directions: Stir together cream cheese and capers in medium bowl. Spread evenly on pita rounds or lavash. Arrange salmon on cream cheese. Top with sliced eggs and dill. Slice each round into 8 pieces. Makes 16 appetizer servings. (For perfect hard-cooked eggs: Place eggs in single layer in a saucepan with at least one-inch water above. Cover the pan, bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, remove pan from burner. Let eggs stand in hot water with the cover on, about 15 minutes for large eggs. Then run cold water over the eggs.)

*A Middle Eastern flat cracker-type bread.

Alabama Layered Shrimp Dip

Ingredients:

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1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese

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2 T mayonnaise

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1⁄2 t Worcestershire sauce

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Juice of 1 lemon

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1 t seasoned salt

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1⁄2 t lemon pepper

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1 bottle (12 oz.) cocktail sauce

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1 lb. cooked, peeled, fresh shrimp

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6 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, grated

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6 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated

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1 bell pepper, chopped

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1 tomato, chopped

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3 oz. Parmesan cheese

Directions: Mix cream cheese, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, seasoned salt and lemon pepper with mixer. Spread in two pie plates. Top with cocktail sauce. Layer with shrimp. Top with Monterey, then mozzarella cheeses, then tomato and bell pepper. Sprinkle Parmesan on top. Serve with corn chips.

 

 

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