Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cocktail (Food) Party

As a lover of food, it's always fun for me to gather others lovers and share my recipes, tricks, and tips. The other night I invited a few friends over for a Grown-up Girls Night In. On the menu: a lovely antipasto platter, shrimp scampi, brownie fingers with chocolate ganache, and almond cakes with almond whipped cream. And of course, a nice white wine.

I bought Marcona almonds from Trader Joe's - roasted and flavored with rosemary. They were a perfect nibbly treat to start off the meal. Marcona almonds are kind of pricey, but it's good to splurge on a few ingredients. I also found some great marinated olives at Whole Foods.

For the antipasto plate, I tried to mix color and flavor. I chose to showcase only one cheese: goat cheese, which I knew all my friends loved. I left it plain, but I noticed there are many types available now in the cheese market: honey spiked, blueberry, savory... you could even roll the cheese in fresh chopped herbs or cracked black pepper if you wanted. With my log, I chose to serve it alongside a lemon balm and sour cherry compote. I left the sauce separate so guests could choose to spoon it over if they wanted. For the fruits I got some nice strawberries and green grapes and also served some pepperoni slices.

Shrimp scampi is the easiest dish to make at a party - and something that can be done in front of your guests if you want, because it should be made-to-eat. I was sure to get the water boiling before my guests got here and also defrosted the scrimp in warm water. These are the two longest steps in the dish, can you believe it? To make the shrimp, heat olive oil in a pan until it's hot. Add the shrimp and "sear" on both sides (i.e. wait till they turn light pink). Squeeze in a half lemon, sprinkle in some salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Test your flakes to see how hot they are because mine were pretty spicy. Then add the drained pasta, a hefty spoonful of pesto, and a splash of cream. Serve immediately with a wedge of lemon.

Dessert time! I just made some brownies, cut them into strips, and smothered the tops with a mixture of 3 Tbs room temperature butter and 4 oz of heated, cooled chocolate. For the almond cakes, shown at the top, I used a pound cake recipe and added 1 1/2 tsp almond extract. I baked the cake in a 9x13 Pyrex dish at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes (note this is much LESS time than the recipe would call for). Then I let it cool and cut out rounds using a cookie cutter. I topped these with fresh whipped cream and a strawberry.

Here is the recipe I used:

Mix 1 ½ c flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp baking soda

Add 3 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla, and ½ cup melted butter, cooled

½ cup yogurt or sour cream and a little over ¼ cup cream

Finally, add 1 1/2 tsp almond extract

What was really great about this party was that the guests pitched in for the ingredients - this way the burden of high gas prices (and therefore, high grocery costs), wasn't placed on one person (a great strategy for grad students who are penny pinching). I made sure everyone went home with a little goodie bag, too - always a nice give your guests something to extend the night's festivities.

1 comment:

  1. Those brownies look absolutely luscious. I have a sweet treat linky party going on at my blog till Monday night and I'd love it if you'd come by and link your brownies up.