June 22, 2009

pre-dinner party food

One of my favorite parts about having a dinner party is the part before dinner, just after everyone has arrived. I like to have Mark pour drinks for everyone -- nothing too heavy in the summer, so chilled glasses of vinho verde or maybe Campari sodas -- while I take a couple of minutes to put together something to snack on before the main course. I really love when everyone is hanging out in the dining area outside the kitchen so I can take part in the chatting, drinking, and nibbling while I finish dinner.

We had friends over in the middle of the week for dinner and, for a pre-dinner treat, I decided to riff on the tomatoes I posted about last time. I really liked the way these bites turned out, so I thought I should blog about them, even though these are almost too simple for words.

You begin by toasting thin slices of crusty bread, like a baguette or a boule. You spread the bread with really fresh, mild ricotta. (We used a sheep's milk ricotta from a local producer with a pure milky flavor and smooth texture. The kind in a plastic tub from a grocery store doesn't really cut it -- instead, make your own or use a young goat cheese instead.) Sprinkle kosher salt and ground black pepper on the cheese. Finally, top some of the crostini with oven roasted tomatoes and the rest with thinly sliced Easter egg radishes. Finishing touch: basil, sliced in thin ribbons and scattered all over as a garnish. Fresh and tasty and pretty, too.

[Crostini with oven roasted tomatoes, ricotta, basil; crostini with easter egg radishes, salted butter]

These are two fairly basic combinations that are, in my opinion, elevated by the use of super fresh ingredients. Another favorite is ricotta piled with finely grated lemon zest and a drizzle of honey. Or, radishes would be amazing on bread smeared with sweet butter and a heavy sprinkling of fleur de sel.

I hope some of you will tell me about your favorite pre-dinner snacks, especially those using the summer fruits and vegetables piling up in the market.

Related posts: oven roasted tomatoes


LJ said...

I like the tapas appetizer we once made - crusty bread, drizzled with a little olive oil, topped with serrano ham and manchego and baked just a smidgen in the oven. Maybe there was some honey too?
Since serrano is $25/lb (though oh so tasty), I usually replicate the above, with bread, olive oil, cheese, and honey.

Also, we made a really good appetizer at the tapas party with piquillo peppers, cheese, and corn?

This is super lazy, but jalapeno jelly with cream cheese and wheat thins is pretty amazing. (even better if you made your own jalapeno jelly)

Finally - pecans roasted with maple syrup and a little cayenne. Great snack with beer. (more satisfying than beer nuts)

LJ said...

Can you maybe feature a charred eggplant dip? (not necessarily baba ghanouj, though that would be awesome!)

Kim said...

Actually, I've made babaghanouj several times but it has never been THAT exciting. I'll do some research. :)

Love the tapas you mentioned, especially the piquillo-manchego-corn bites and anything with jamon serrano/iberico. Also, sweet and salty pecans? I'm there.

ms said...

kim your blog is making me hungry at 1am when i really shouldn't eat anything :)