PATIO PARTY: Easy eats let you enjoy friends

Make-ahead finger foods and a little planning will leave you plenty of time to visit with guests. Photo by McClatchy

MILWAUKEE • Inviting friends over for a glass of wine on your patio is a great way to end a summer day. While you and your guests sip and relax, you can admire the flowers or the view and feast on tasty appetizers you whipped up in a flash.Well, at least it will appear that you whipped up a tasty spread in a snap, if you follow the basics of easy entertaining:Keep it simple, and make whatever you can in advance.It also helps to have a game plan of sorts.When guests arrive, pop the cork on the wine bottle, pour them a glass and then gradually bring out your chilled appetizers, all of which lend themselves to do-ahead or last-minute preparation. Dips are always great choices, as are foods that are marinated.Meanwhile, preheat your oven so that after you’ve spent some time sipping and nibbling with your guests, you can start cooking any hot dishes so they’ll be ready to serve when guests are ready for more snacks.When working with hot dishes, it’s smart to pick recipes that are heated — or reheated — at the same oven temperature.After a brief respite, it’s time for dessert — perhaps an ice cream pie or cake you could take out of the freezer to soften slightly. Then serve it to your guests and enjoy watching the sun set on a perfect gathering.Here are a couple of recipes to help you start planning a patio party.

 

SMOKED SALMON WITH CAPER SOUR CREAM—Yield: 4-6 appetizer servingsThis caper-and-sour-cream dip is the perfect accompaniment for smoked salmon on a hearty cracker or party rye. The recipe is adapted from “Picnics: Easy Recipes for the Best Alfresco Foods” by Robin Vitetta-Miller (Clarkson Potter, 2005).1 cup sour cream1/4 cup minced red onion2 tablespoons drained capers1 tablespoon freshly chopped dill1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper1 pound smoked salmon, slicedHearty crackers or 1 loaf party rye1 lemon, cut into wedgesProcedure:1. In small bowl, combine sour cream, onion, capers, dill, mustard and pepper. Mix well to combine.2. Serve with slices of the salmon and crackers or party rye. Garnish with lemon wedges.

MIXED OLIVES WITH ORANGE AND CORIANDER—Yield: 6 appetizer servings2 cups unpitted, unseasoned green and black olives2 tablespoons olive oil6 thin strips each lemon and orange peel2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice1/4 teaspoon finely chopped orange zest1/4 teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest1/4 teaspoon whole coriander seeds1 bay leafProcedure:1. In medium bowl, combine all ingredients.2. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 days, stirring occasionally.

Source: “Picnics: Delicious Recipes for Outdoor Entertaining” by Sara Deseran

CAPRESE BITES—Yield: 6-8 appetizer servingsThis dish goes together in minutes and brings some great flavor combinations to the table. It was adapted from Epicurious.com’s recipe swap message board.3/4-1 pound miniature fresh mozzarella balls1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halvedSmall skewers or toothpicks1 cup pesto (prepared, or your favorite recipe)Procedure:1. Thread a mozzarella ball onto a skewer or toothpick, then thread a tomato half onto the same toothpick, positioning it so the cut side of the tomato abuts the cheese at the end of the pick.2. Spoon pesto into a serving bowl, then set skewers around the edge of the bowl or set them in the bowl so that both the cheese balls and the tomatoes rest in the pesto.BAKED BRIE SPREAD—Yield: About 6 appetizer servingsYou can assemble this appetizer in advance, store it in the refrigerator and then bake it about 15 minutes before you want to serve it. This rich dish goes well with sliced pears or apples and can also be served on bread or crackers. It’s from the Cooks.com Web site.1 (8-ounce) wheel brie or Camembert cheese2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature1/4 cup sliced almondsSliced pears, apples or French breadProcedure:1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.2. Set cheese in oven-proof serving dish. Spread butter over top. Arrange sliced almonds over butter. Bake until softened and heated through, 12-15 minutes.3. Serve warm with the fruit or bread.

BARBECUED MEATBALLS—Yield: about 80 meatballs3 pounds ground beef1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk2 eggs1/2 cup chopped onion1/2 teaspoon garlic powder1/2 teaspoon pepper2 teaspoons chili powder1 cup rolled oats1 cup cracker crumbs or bread crumbs2 cups ketchup1 cup packed brown sugar (or to taste)1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke1/2 teaspoon garlic powderProcedure:1. For meatballs: In large bowl, combine meat, milk, eggs, onion, seasonings, oats and crumbs. Mix well and shape into small balls about the size of a walnut.2. Freeze on cookie sheets in a single layer. When frozen, place in a resealable plastic bag and freeze until needed.3. For sauce: Combine all remaining ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to use.4. When ready to serve, preheat oven to 350 degrees.5. Put meatballs in 13-by-9-inch baking dish or large, oval casserole, and pour sauce over, brushing to be sure the tops of all the meatballs are coated. Bake 1 hour.

Cook’s note: Smaller batches of frozen meatballs can be baked; reduce sauce amount proportionately.

LEMON-CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM PIE—Yield: About 8 servings3/4 package (18 ounces) double-filled Oreos1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted3/4 cup chocolate fudge ice cream topping, divided1 cup lemon curd1 teaspoon lemon zest5 cups vanilla ice cream, divided1 cup mini chocolate chipsProcedure:1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.2. Combine cookies and butter in food processor and process until crumbly. Press mixture onto bottom and up sides of a 10-inch glass pie plate. Bake 4-5 minutes, or until firm. Remove from oven and cool.3. Spread half of fudge topping over crust and freeze.4. Soften 2 cups ice cream in medium bowl. Add lemon curd and lemon zest; beat until well-blended. Spoon into frozen crust and return to freezer until solid, 30-45 minutes.5. Soften remaining 3 cups ice cream. Using same bowl as before, combine remaining ice cream with chocolate chips and mix well. Mound over frozen layer of ice cream. Return to freezer until firm, another 30-45 minutes.6. Remove from freezer and drizzle with remaining ice cream topping to garnish. Cover and return to freezer until ready to serve.7. To serve: Remove from freezer and let stand at room temperature about 10 minutes before slicing.

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