So you’ve taken the plunge, and you want to have a cocktail party. Cool! Much more relaxed than a formal dinner party, cocktail parties allow your guests to flow and mingle, or mingle and flow. Their choice really. You’ve got things rolling with good tunes, Quintetto X: Novo Esquema da Bossa for example. You’ve got some classic cocktails flowing. And the conversations are popping. All you need now are some classy canapés! I’ve got a few here to get you started. Keep in mind you really want the food to compliment the party theme. For example, if you are throwing a retro “Rat Pack” style cocktail party, you want the food to be hip and yet classy. Veggie tray with low fat ranch…..OUT! Hummus with warmed pita triangles and flat breads…Oh yeah.
There are tons of variations on the basic hummus recipe. I’m going to give you mine, and how I change it up from time to time. The basic core recipe though stays the same. 2 cans of Chick Peas ( Garbanzo beans), one fully drained. Put the peas and the liquid into a food processor. Add in about 1/3 of a cup of Tahini paste. This is a paste made from sesame seeds and is a staple in Mid Eastern and North African cooking. Make sure you get good Tahini paste. The paste separates out fairly quickly, and is a bear to recombine. Get it in a glass jar, and make sure there isn’t more than an 1/8″ of oil on top. Start the food processor and let it run until things start to smooth out. At this point, add in the juice of 2 good sized lemons, and drizzle in some olive oil while the processor is running. You want to get a nice smooth paste like consistency. Add in salt and pepper to taste. The only thing left to add at this point is garlic. You have a choice here, add about 4-6 cloves of raw diced garlic or add 1 whole roasted garlic clove. Personally, I love the roasted garlic version. There, now you have a good hummus base. You can leave plain, or try the following: Add in 2 roasted red peppers, you may need to add a few more peas to thicken it back up, for Roasted Red Pepper Hummus. Add in a little lime zest right before serving. Try different things that would fit the party more. Throw in some pitted kalamata olives for example, they give a wonderful flavor and color to the hummus. Experiment people!!
To serve the hummus place in a large bowl and garnish with parsley and lemon wedges. Along side the bowl serve a plate of warmed pita bread cut into triangles, warmed flat bread, and crispy crackers or flat bread.
Crab stuffed Mushroom Caps
This is a classic, and really quite easy to make. Figure about 2 ounces of lump crab meat per person. Brown off a couple strips of bacon and remove from the pan. In the remaining bacon fat, saute the lump crab meat, making sure you break up the larger pieces. You really just want to warm up the crab meat at this point. Remove from the heat and place into a bowl. Add in some unseasoned bread crumbs, at about 1 to 4 ratio, crumbs to crab. Next add a good handful or two of parmesan. Do this to taste, you want to taste the cheese, but you don’t want it to overpower. Throw in some diced parsley or cilantro and mix well. Take some good sized mushroom caps. I’m not talking the portobello throw rug sized ‘shrooms you can get. Just good sized, like between a quarter and a half dollar. Crimini or white buttons work fine. Remove the stems, and brush any dirt off the caps. Brush the tops with olive oil then place on a lined backing sheet, top side down. Take the crab mixture and stuff each one so that it’s like a small ball sitting on the mushroom. Sprinkle with more cheese, then bake at 375 f until golden. Do not over bake, if the caps are on the small side, up the temp to 425. You want to heat and crust the stuffing, while keeping the cap firm.
To serve, place the caps on a nice serving tray, and garnish with lemon wedges as well as a crab claw or two if you have them. It’s a fun way of letting folks know what’s in the stuffing.
Smoked Salmon Mousse on Cucumber Rounds
I came up with this one when I ran out of crackers and Hummus at a party. Something so simple, yet…wow. Take some smoked salmon. I like the local apple wood smoked, but any will work. Place in a food processor and start to pulse it. Once it’s pretty well mushed up, add in equal parts sour cream and cream cheese. Start with small amounts. You want the salmon to become all “moussey”. Color should be a deep pastel pink, and you should still taste the salmon as the predominate flavor. Place this mixture into a piping bag, or make one out of a zip-lock gallon bag and just snip one bottom corner off. Put in the fridge. Now take several large cucumbers. Using a peeler, take thin strips of the skin off, leaving some on. In other words, you want strips, skin, no skin, skin, etc. Slice the cuke into quarter inch slices and place on a paper towel. Salt both sides and let set a bit. You are drawing out some of the water here. After 30 minutes or so, brush off any excess salt and place the cucumber rounds on a serving dish. Remove the mousse from the fridge, and pipe onto each round. To garnish, place a small piece of lemon zest and a couple of capers on top of each one. You will love this one. I promise.
Well, there you go. 3 to get you started. Let me hear how the parties turn out!