There is a reason why giving a party is also called “throwing a party”. And once you get the concept, you’ll never go back. It is not about throwing anything away, nor it is about throwing things at each other; it is about tossing, casting, pitching, and slinging to create an easy, inviting, and fun event. And even though “throwing a party” has its origins in the word “toss” as in “toss a feast”, nowadays it seems it is more akin to “putting things together” rather than “cooking”. And that is where I am going with this:
How to throw a party without cooking or how to put things together and invite friends. Perfect for spring and summer dinners where a little effort and a lot of taste are all I am looking for. This is not about serving previously frozen foods or going to the deli counter for pre-made sandwiches; it is about a few readily available ingredients, jazzing them all up, and serving a delicious meal without turning the stove on. Of course, the success of all of these simple meals is in the quality of the ingredients. The better, the better.
Because you are saving so much time with your non-cook meal, go on a discovery adventure to the different food stores in your area. The best mozzarella, fresh fruit, and white asparagus are most probably not in the same store. Neighborhood specialty stores are a great source of gourmet foods and a good way to get to know the uber-local produce in your town.
Do set the table and serve all the food on platters family style. There is something very inviting about sitting around a table and passing food among each other. Those simple gestures connect us on a subliminal level, creating deeper affection for each other. Yes. It’s true.
Here are some ideas to pick and choose as you like:
Cheese board with different types of cheeses, blue, creamy, and hard. For example, Gorgonzola, Comte, and creamy goat cheese. Serve with different kinds of bread and crackers, bunches of grapes, and dried apricots. Yes, we have seen this a million times, but we can easily make a dinner party with cheese, fruit, and bread. Right? Everyone loves it.
Green salad. Use different types of lettuce cut to the same size, and toss with a simple vinaigrette (recipe below). So simple and so easy. I don’t think that making a salad is cooking. I love the baby Boston lettuce tossed with my creamy vinaigrette. The leaves are so tender and juicy and actually have flavor.
Already cooked shrimp (yes, you can buy them already cooked from your fishmonger) Use them to fill half avocados or hollowed-out heirloom tomatoes. Deliciously simple and very good-looking. Toss the shrimp with finely diced celery and a spicy pink mayonnaise for extra brownie points.
Sliced tomatoes and peaches make a perfectly juicy and flavorful salad. Serve it over hummus for a great side dish. - sprinkle it with crumbled goat or blue cheese and some bread for a perfect summer meal
Have you ever tried the raw zucchini salad? It is really good. With a mandolin, slice the zucchini into thin strips lengthwise. Arrange on a platter and drizzle generously with lemon juice. Season with salt and let it sit for 30 minutes or so. Just before serving, drizzle with olive oil.
If you are a carnivore, make a platter of different types of paté, cured ham, and salami. Really, a perfect dinner for a casual summer night would be a slice of pate de foie gras, some creamy cheeses, a green salad, and a nice glass of red wine—a good crusty toasted baguette. Remember to serve different types of mustards, jams, honey, and if so inclined, a pad or two of butter. Heaven.
Opening cans is also a great idea. Sardines are on top of my list. Second are smoked anchovies. Yes, super flavorful and delicious on toast. And there are so many choices out there! (let’s just agree that toasting bread is not considered cooking) Have really good olive oil at hand to dip the bread and aged red wine vinegar to add even more flavor.
Also, there are lots of jarred items that are perfectly acceptable when throwing a party. Roasted peppers, white asparagus, all sorts of beans… put them in pretty bowls or platters, garnish with fresh parsley, and…. voila!
The mixture of fruit and cheese makes for a great combination. Figs with blue cheese, peaches with goat cheese, manchego with quince, and plums with brie. Can you make a non-cook dinner course with these? Absolutely. Add seeded bread and a chilled rosé.
I love sorbets for dessert after a meal with so many flavors and textures. Explore your local ice cream shops for their specialties… a great way to taste something new!
Here is my favorite creamy salad dressing that works beautifully on just about everything.
In a jar with a lid, add:
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
The juice of 1 lemon (and some of its rind if you like)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
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