Cooking for a Cocktail Party
When I have a cocktail party coming up, whether I’ve know about it ages in advance or it’s a last minute affair, my first go-to is always a tomato bruschetta bar.
I love getting the chance to serve all the different varieties of tomatoes on their own and let people really taste the differences and get to know the personalities of each one… basically I like to dice each type a little differently to what I think best suits their shape and texture, but I finish each individual variety’s batch with the exact same seasoning, so it’s really about the tomato.
On top of that, it’s a super light healthy appy, and I think people really appreciate it when they can eat really vibrant, flavorful food, and know at the same time that it’s really good for them. The high levels of antioxidants and vitamins in these tomatoes is fantastic,
( and the fact that the tomatoes are so low calorie and zero cholesterol also makes more room in your dietary budget for more olive oil 😉 )
(You can also easily substitute a gluten free baguette for the crostini or go even lighter by serving them on radicchio and lettuce leaves, for that matter).
There’s really something special about a perfectly ripened tomato, and that’s what makes these bruschetta stand out, so part of making this really shine is to be managing your tomatoes. That means you should have your tomatoes a few days ahead of time and have a bit of a surplus so you can pick and choose the right ones when you need them.
That’s a good game plan as a rule of thumb, by the way- we always have a collection of tomatoes on the go on the counter at our house and you just pick out the ripe ones every day. That’s another key point- tomatoes should be kept out at room temperature and not in the fridge. Refrigeration causes vital essential oils in the tomato to fade away and they lose flavor as well as stopping the ripening process, so you definitely don’t want to do that.
(Here’s a tip- I think part of the best part of the ripe tomato is the smell of the green vine, so I like to bruise up the fresh green vines at the last moment and put them on the platters when I’m serving bruschetta, to pass on the aroma.)
Another great option for entertaining that’s quick, simple, elegant and healthy, is gazpacho. (Gazpacho is typically a chilled vegetable soup, usually tomato based, originating from Spain.)
My twist on gazpacho is the “Sweet & Spicy Gazpacho” – I like to use the True Rebel Mix tomatoes as the base, give it a sweet boost from some ripe Sinfully Sweet Campari tomatoes as the backdrop, and then give it some spicy attitude with fresh jalapeno and fresh grated horseradish.
On top of being crisp and refreshing, this is essentially a nutrient packed smoothie. Between the cucumber, the peppers and the tomatoes, it’s pretty much an antioxidant boost, so once again, everyone can indulge guilt-free, gluten-free, and feel like they’re doing themselves some good.
In small shot glasses they make a very elegant canapé, or you can serve them in a chilled bowl as a little more substantial grazing course on a hot day. It’s also fun to freeze and scrap out with a fork to make a rustic granité.
Very straightforward to put together, just a quick zip in the blender, and in this version a little extra fresh horseradish at the end gives it just a little more edge… (for that matter it wouldn’t be a huge leap of the imagination for this to transition into a cocktail, but I’ll leave that up to you…)
Another nice quick and easy option for a cocktail party where you’re serving small plates is a really simple peperonata style salad, lightly grilled and pickled sweet bell peppers.
I tend to do all different versions of peperonata depending on my mood- this one has a bit of extra character from having lightly pickled the peppers after grilling them, as well as adding some mustard seeds. Peperonata is super versatile, so you can use it all on it’s own as a tapas style bite, on bruschetta or flatbread, garnish for grilled sausages or satays, or even tossed with some kale and radicchio for a hearty mini salad.
That one’s a summer favorite around my house.
All light, clean & fresh options for entertaining, well suited for a tapas and grazing type cocktail party, or even the basis for a little more substantial family style offering. Can’t go wrong with greenhouse veggies