There are always occasions, throughout the year, when you have to come up with party food, whether it’s wedding or baby showers, birthdays, anniversaries, going away or retirement parties, barbecues or just get-togethers.
One thing to keep in mind is the importance of doing everything possible ahead of time so you can relax and enjoy the event as your guests begin to arrive.
Both these suggestions are perfect in that regard, although there are also foods you can make the day or a few days ahead. Some would have to be frozen in between, but just having some of the preparation done well ahead of time is a great stress-buster as the big day gets closer.
Dips and spreads offer plenty of variety and just need a tray, basket or bowl of crackers or a special bread, sliced up, to finish off the presentation.
And, there are an endless variety of spreads, from seafood ones to meat and liver ones; to a wide variety of cheese and vegetable spreads, including the cheese ball, which can be shaped to look pretty terrific as well.
Finger foods such as pickles and olives are always a hit, especially if you made them yourself, and then there are tapenades and antipasto which can be spread on a cracker as well.
Best to let your guests do the spreading or the crackers can get soggy pretty quickly.
For a bunch of ideas for dips and spreads, including a delicious cheese ball recipe, pick up a copy of my book, Jude’s Kitchen, available wherever books are sold. It includes margin notes on local wine pairings by renowned wine writer John Schreiner, so you can’t go wrong there either.
It’s summer, so enjoy the patio and deck with friends and family, and good food.
Dani’s Fruit Flower Arrangement
This is a very striking centrepiece for any occasion. Simply vary the base into which you put your foam for holding the skewers, or wrap it with a different sort of wrapping paper. This one was for a baby shower and it looked very elegant and dramatic, and tasted scrumptious.
florist foam for base
container decoration such as lettuce, wrapping paper, tissue, ribbon
Cut the skewers into slightly different lengths, so all the fruit ‘flowers’ aren’t bunched together.
Use whatever fruit interests you, but above are some suggestions of firm-textured fruit which should work well. If it’s made ahead of the occasion, avoid fruits which will brown when exposed to air, such as bananas and most apples.
Leave fruit such as strawberries, cherries, blackberries and grapes whole, except pit the cherries.
Segment the oranges and peel dragon fruit, kiwi and mango.
Use a melon baller to scoop out balls from the melons or cut the pulp into shapes such as cubes or hearts, for which you could use a cookie cutter.
Cube the kiwi, pineapple, mango and dragon fruit.
Then, just use your imagination to create a colourful, edible bouquet.
Serve with a dip alongside.
This is delicious on crackers or slices of cucumber or baguette, or stuffed into crisp little appetizer cases, like baby tomatoes or tiny peppers or wonton wrappers crisped up in the oven first, curved up into a cup shape. I served it at a barbecue recently and everyone wanted the recipe, so here it is.
Pair this with the 2011 Mission Hill Family Estate Five Vineyards Pinot Blanc. Its refreshing citrus and orchard fruit flavours are perfect with the citrus and creamy cheese in this spread, and the delicate shrimp.
8 oz. (227 g) cream cheese
1/3 c. (75 ml) mayonnaise
1 tbsp. (15 ml) white wine
1/2 tsp. (2 ml) lemon juice
2 green onions
1/2 tsp. (2 ml) Worcerstershire sauce
1/4 tsp. (1 ml) salt
1/4 tsp. (1 ml) fresh-ground black pepper
8 oz. (227 g) shrimp
I use whipped cream cheese, but if you use a brick, warm it up a little to soften it first.
Beat it with mayonnaise, dry white wine, lemon juice, minced green onion, Worcerstershire sauce, salt and pepper until thoroughly mixed.
Carefully stir in fresh shrimp so you don’t mush them up too much.
Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving, so the flavours mellow.
Reserve a few shrimp to garnish the top, along with a sprig of chives or a sprinkle of minced parsley.