Throw a Little Party!



You never need an excuse to throw a cocktail party; it's an easy way to catch up with friends and neighbors. Time is set — no more than two hours — and there's no need for an elaborate spread; this is a "before dinner" affair.

Drinks are essential. Know your guests. Favorite cocktails — cosmos and cosmopolitans, and sparkling white wines and soft drinks — should be chilled, ready to serve to guests as they walk in the door. Serve in attractive glasses and nonslip trays.

If you plan foods and pickups to be made days ahead, it's daunting. You'll never get around to hosting a cocktail party. Keep it simple and fuss-free.

Much can be picked up at your local supermarket. Then "personalize" the menu by adding a special garnish, such as red caviar, or arrange three wedges of cheese (one should be unusual, such as apricot and walnut), on a tray surrounded by kiwi quarters and cucumber slices.

Frozen focaccia may be baked, topped with chopped olives or marinated artichokes, and cut into little squares. Buy, bake and serve store-bought samosas or spanakopitas, and serve with a bowl of salsa or pesto. Toss strips of jarred roasted peppers with garlic-spiked olives. There's no end to dressing up purchased items — just use a bit of imagination and a dollop good taste.

Some Pantry Essentials: Salsa, caviar, sardines, balsamic vinegar, marinades, capers, canned salmon and tuna, marinated artichokes, pitted olives, sesame oil, extra-virgin olive oil, smoked paprika, red-pepper flakes, whole-wheat crackers, cocktail pumpernickel loaf.

Some Freezer Essentials: Mini phyllo shells, puff pastry, focaccia, vegetarian quiche, sugar snap peas, edamame, salami, cocktail franks, blintzes, spanakopita, samosas, salmon fillets, cheese ravioli, pastry shells.


Waldorf Croustades


Croustades are edible containers to hold a sweet or savory filling. These mini phyllo cups are available in the frozen-food case in supermarkets.

  • 1 package( 2.1 oz.) phyllo cups 
    1/2 cup prepared hummus 
    2 tsps. mayonnaise 
    1 red apple, unpeeled and finely chopped 
    2 Tbsps. very finely chopped celery 
    2 Tbsps. chopped walnuts 
    1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper 
    salt to taste 
    tiny apple wedges for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place phyllo cups on a baking sheet. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes in preheated oven to crispen. Cool.

In a bowl, mix the remaining ingredients, except the garnish. Spoon into phyllo cups, dividing evenly.

Garnish with a tiny apple wedge.

Note: To keep apples from discoloring, brush with orange juice.

Makes 15 cups.

Approximate nutrients per cup: calories, 50; protein, 1 g; carbohydrates, 5 g; fat, 3 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 42 mg.


Endive With Boursin and Caviar


Easy and impressive. Arrange on a silver, doily-lined tray.

  • 2 heads endive 
    1/2 of a 5 oz. package boursin cheese with herbs or other soft, savory cheese, softened 
    2-3 Tbsps. red caviar

Trim the bottoms of the endive so that the leaves are about 3 inches long.

Spread about 1 teaspoon on the bottom of each leaf.

Garnish with the red caviar.

Chill and serve.

Makes 35.

Approximate nutrients per leaf: calories, 15; protein, 1 g; carbohydrates, 0; fat, 1 g; cholesterol, 14 mg; sodium, 37 mg.


Balsamic Salmon Bites


  • 2 scallions, sliced thinly 
    1 Tbsp. minced ginger root 
    1/2 cup dry white wine 
    1/2 tsp. kosher salt 
    3/4 lb. salmon fillet, cut in bite-size pieces 
    1/4 cup olive oil 
    2 Tbsps. balsamic vinegar 
    1/8 tsp. red-pepper flakes 
    1 tsp. freshly ground pepper

In a saucepan, place the scallions, ginger root, white wine and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

Add the salmon; bring to simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, or until fish turns opaque.

Remove from heat.

Gently stir in the remaining ingredients.

Serve chilled.

Serves 6 to 8.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 149; protein, 9 g; carbohydrates, 0 g; fat, 11 g; cholesterol, 28 g; sodium, 139 mg.


Smoked Yam Wedges


  • 3 medium yams or sweet potatoes, unpeeled and scrubbed 
    1/3 cup olive oil 
    1 Tbsp. smoked paprika 
    2 tsps. cumin 
    2 Tbsps. dried dill 
    salsa for dipping

Preheat the oven to 375°.

Cut the yams into wedges about 3 inches long.

In a large shallow dish, combine the olive oil, paprika, cumin and dill.

Add the yam wedges and toss to coat all sides with the olive-oil mixture.

Arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake for 40 minutes, or until tender.

Serve with a dish of salsa for dipping, or if making a dairy meal, serve with a dish of sour cream.

Makes 24 to 30.

Approximate nutrients per wedge: calories, 40; protein, 0 g; carbohydrates, 6 g; fat, 2 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 3 mg.


Sesame Cocktail Franks


  • 36 cocktail franks 
    2 Tbsps. honey 
    1 Tbsp. sesame oil 
    2 tsps. soy sauce 
    2 tsps. Dijon mustard 
    2 Tbsps. sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400°.

Place the cocktail franks in a foil-lined jelly-roll pan. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the franks have changed color.

While baking, combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Brush over the franks to coat.

Return to oven to bake 7 minutes, longer or until sizzling.

Arrange on a platter. Sprinkle sesame seeds over top.

Makes 36.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 46; protein, 1 g; carbohydrates, 1 g; fat, 4 g; cholesterol, 7 mg; sodium, 122 mg.


Artichoke-Arugula Pickups


  • 1 package (17 oz.) frozen puff pastry, thawed 
    2 Tbsps. olive oil 
    lemon-pepper seasoning 
    1/2 cup tomato sauce 
    3 cups baby arugula, shredded 
    2 jars (8 oz. each) marinated artichokes, drained, quartered and chopped coarsely 
    3 eggs, beaten 
    11/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400°.

Unroll each sheet of pastry and place on a baking sheet. Turn the edges over to form a 1/4-inch rim, pressing with fingers. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with lemon-pepper seasoning.

Spread each piece with half the tomato sauce, then half the arugula and half the artichokes. Carefully drizzle half the beaten eggs over each pastry sheet. Top with the cheddar cheese.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until pastry is golden and eggs are set. Cool 10 minutes before cutting into small squares.

Makes about 40 pieces.

Approximate nutrients per piece: calories, 104; protein, 3 g; carbohydrates, 6 g; fat, 8 g; cholesterol, 20 mg; sodium, 91 mg.


Petite Fruit Scones With Chocolate-Cheese Filling


  • 1/4 cup glace fruits 
    2 cups plus 2 Tbsps. all-purpose flour, divided 
    2 Tbsps. light brown sugar, lightly packed 
    4 tsps. baking powder 
    4 Tbsps. butter 
    1 to 11/4 cups buttermilk (In place of buttermilk, pour 11/2 tsps. lemon juice or vinegar into a cup of milk. Do not stir. Let stand at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes to curdle) 
    extra flour for rolling

Preheat oven to 450°.

Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray with flour.

Toss the glace fruits in 2 tablespoons of flour and chop finely. Set aside.

In the food processor, place the remaining 2 cups of flour, along with the sugar, baking powder, and butter. Pulse to coarse crumbs. Add just enough buttermilk to make a soft dough.

Place on a floured board. Pat into a round about 3/4-inch thick. Using a 11/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut into rounds and place on prepared baking sheet.

Gather up dough scraps, pat into a round and continue cutting until all dough is used up. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until risen and golden-brown.

Cool, then sandwich with the Chocolate-Cheese Filling.

Makes 24 scones.

Approximate nutrients per scone: calories, 76; protein, 2 g; carbohydrates, 13 g; fat, 2 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 120 mg.


Chocolate-Cheese Filling


  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips 
    11/2 Tbsps. milk or cream 
    1 tsp. cocoa powder, unsweetened 
    1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 
    8 oz. cream cheese, softened

Place the chocolate chips, and milk or cream, in a small microwave bowl.

Microwave for 20 seconds at high, or until chocolate is soft.

Add the cocoa and vanilla. Stir to blend.

Add to the softened cream cheese and whip until blended.

Chill before using.

Makes about 11/4 cups.

Approximate nutrients per tablespoon: calories, 51; protein, 1 g; carbohydrates, 2 g; fat, 5 g; cholesterol, 13 mg; sodium, 34 mg.


Sweet Onion-and-Apple Tart


  • 1 prepared (9-inch) pastry shell 
    4 cups peeled and thinly sliced sweet onions, like Vidalia 
    1/4 tsp. dried oregano 
    3/4 tsp. salt 
    1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper 
    2 eggs, beaten 
    1/2 cup milk 
    2 Tbsps. shredded Parmesan cheese 
    3 Tbsps. seasoned breadcrumbs 
    1 Tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place the pastry shell in a deep, 9-inch pie dish. Prick the shell all over with a fork and bake for 7 minutes.

Spread the onions over the pastry shell evenly.

In a small bowl, combine the oregano, salt, pepper, eggs and milk. Pour over the onions.

Next combine the cheese, breadcrumbs and butter. Sprinkle over the milk mixture.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool.

Cut the tart into thin wedges and serve it at room temperature. Add a dollop of sour cream for dipping.

Serves 10.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 101; protein, 3 g; carbohydrates, 9 g; fat, 6 g; cholesterol, 45 mg; sodium, 358 mg.

Ethel G. Hofman is a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. E-mail her at: [email protected].


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