Thursday, August 12, 2010

Patio Tapas Party

Here in South Florida, some days are just too hot and sticky to cook let alone eat large heavy meals.  It is days like this (when the humidity makes the air quality feel like you're trying to breathe pea soup) when I rely on either raw or nearly raw ingredients or super easy, quick cooking techniques.

Today's offering is rather like a tapas spread; a series of dishes meant to be shared.  I can fill the patio table with simple, delicious platters of finger foods and we can sit back under the monitone hum of the ceiling fans and languidly take a two hour repast with friends and family.  When the platters are empty and the dishes have been cleared away we usually end up engaging in a cut-throat game of Texas hold-um. Sometimes I feel a bit guilty about taking everyones' money...but not usually!

Roasted Asparagus Antipasto Platter

Use whatever veggies you like or have on hand to make an attractive antipasto platter.  I begin mine by coating tender young asparagus in olive oil and sprinkling with sea salt.  Then roasting in a 500 degree oven for 3-5 minutes; turning once. 

While the asparagus is warm, I toss it in a simple Dijon vinaigrette made with white wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, Dijon Mustard, garlic, a spoon full of sugar, salt, pepper and some fresh minced tarragon.

The other veggies pictured here are roasted red pepper strips (organic...water packed jars), baby artichoke hearts, sliced tomatoes, Greek Olives and sweet rings of fresh onion.  Arrange on platter and drizzle with more vinaigrette.  I just place a few coctail forks around and let people take what they want.

Next up is a series of dips; each of which can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to serve.  Everyone and their brother and the horse he rode in on has a recipe for Hummus so I won't bore you with mine.  Suffice it to say that it is the usual list of suspects: chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  I may differ somewhat with mine because I use roasted garlic instead of raw.  What you add to your basic hummus after that is up to you.  Pictured here is my Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and Mixed Olive Hummus (which has a little bit of kick too it from red pepper flakes)

I prefer to make my pita crisps by using purchased organic whole grain pita breads brushed lightly with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.  They take about 10 minutes to bake and you should turn once so they brown evenly on both sides.

Mixed Olive Hummus

 Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Creamy Baba Ganoush is made from grilled slices of eggplant that I first seasoned with salt and allowed to "weep" between layers of paper towels.  Then douse with olive oil and grill until soft.  The eggplant goes into the food processor with more roasted garlic, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice.  I add a touch of coriander to mine along with the salt and pepper.  I've made a simple gremolata for the top by browning homemade seasoned whole grain bread crumbs in olive oil and adding minced parsley, sesame seeds and a bit of fresh garlic.  Serve with more of the bake pita crisps.

Marinated Mixed Olives

There is always a jar of these waiting in my fridge.  I buy bulk olives from a local Italian Market and place them in a clean glass jar.  Slice 6 or 7 cloves of garlic and add to 1 1/2 cups olive oil (for a 1 quart jar of olive) to a saucepan.  Add the garlic to the cold oil; turn on the heat to medium and heat the oil and garlic simultaneously.  Allow to cook until garlic is golden brown.  Don't burn it...burnt garlic is some seriously bad juju!  When the oil is infused, remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and either discard or save for another use.  While the oil cools, toss your olives with some slices of fresh garlic, herbs of choice, lemon zest and whatever else you like.  Place this mixture in the clean jar and fill with the cooled garlic oil.  That's it.  I usually add the brine that the olives came in as well because I like it!  These will keep for months in the fridge.  Instant party food...

Quinoa Stuffed Swiss Chard Rolls

Another make ahead that is so simple.  These are very similar to the Greek Dolmas only instead of grape leaves, I've used blanched red chard.  Remove the thick vein from the center of the chard leaves and dip them into boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water.  Drain on paper towels while you prepare the filling.  I start by heating olive oil in a lidded saucepan and sauteeing minced shallot, garlic and the reserved stems of the chard (minced as well).  Add the quinoa and vegetable broth according to the amount of quinoa used.  Cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed.  Use this mixture to fill the chard leaves.  Prepare a large, shallow skillet with lid for steaming the chard rolls by laying down a layer of sliced lemons across the entire surface of the pan.  Rest the chard rolls on the lemon slices.  Drizzle with olive oil and add about 1/2 cup vegetable broth to the pan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and steam 5 minutes.  Pan juices can spooned over prepared rolls.  These are actually BETTER after they have sat in the fridge for about 24 hours.  I just pack the cooled rolls into containers and pour the pan juices over them, cover and chill. 

*Rolls are pictured here with crumbles of Feta cheese but you may forego this if you're Vegan. 

Don't let the heat get to you!  With a little bit of preparation and minimum of heat, you can have a little tapas buffet on the table in no time!

Serve with this amazing Virgin Sangria...made from Natural Peach Nectar, Mango Puree, White Grape Juice and Sparkling Mineral water.  It is garnished with frozen grapes, slices of orange and white nectarine.

Go ahead, you know you want to take a big sip.....

(c)copyright Jill Anderson
The Homegrown Gourmet


  1. This looks absolutely phenomenal! What a healthy feast you made!

  2. Wow, all of these look great! thanks for all these ideas for a get together. I love that most of them are "make ahead" recipes. that's awesome.

  3. Nice Jilly, I want that asparagus dish in front of me with some crusty baguette. I could finish that off by myself;)
    Hey, algae is seaweed by the way, so probably no bueno for someone with Iodine allergy!

  4. Thanks for passing by my blog. Love all the antipastos (or mezedes as we call them in Greece), especially the various hoummous you have made.

  5. Oh wow, does that all look great! What time does the party get started?

    Bon appetit!

  6. Thanks for looking that up Stella...I was fairly sure it was but just one of those things I never took the time to verify. I guess I won't be making any organic gummie bears anytime soon..LOL

    Oh, my pleasure Ivy! I love your blog. Yes, I was going to call this a Mezz Party but figured less people would not know what that means..LOL

    Thanks Chef Ryan...the party starts whenever everyone gets here..there's always a party at my house!

  7. What a fantastic idea! I love all the dishes you served, specially the Quinoa Stuffed Swiss Chard Rolls because I've never tasted either ingredient. This is one of my favorite ways to eat, a little of this and that, yum!

  8. Hi Jilly! Okay.... the quinoa swiss chard rolls are pure genius! I love chard and quinoa.. Can't wait to whip that one up. And of course I want to drink that virgin sangria.... the entire thing. Thanks for the super sweet comments on my blog... - I was happy to hear that you made a chocolate orange cappuccino cake... we have similar tastes!

  9. What a terrific feast! Everything looks super delicious, perfect summer party eats!

  10. That meal looks perfect for the heat. We don't have much i the way of humidity here in Phoenix, but its definitely warm enough for this to sound like the perfect meal!

  11. Everything looks aboslutely gorgeous and delicious! I especially like the antipasto platter and the "dolmas". Using Swiss chard is a great idea as grape leaves are so hard to come by.

  12. what a truly lovely spread, I could devour thedips all alone..yum and your sangria, oh I could use this here in Texas the heat in unbearable..


  13. Thks for sharing this lovely post! What a coincident..... I didn't eat Spanish food last nite but Celebrity Chef Bobby Chinn was in Singapore yesterday & I was invited to his cooking show.

    It was a Middle Eastern theme & I'd eggplant Ganoush, Tahini & lots of olive oil in the dishes. I'd a great time. Watch out for my post :)

  14. That one good tapas party. Agreed this is perfect for South FLA. Great photos as well.

  15. Your baba ganoush is beautiful and just about like my mom makes it. Makes me crave it badly.

  16. That hummus looks so good! I could go for a snack now.

  17. Hey Jill

    now those are some great dips....I love roasted red pepper hummus, and baba ganoush...yummmm!! your olive hummus sounds like a winner too!! A few years ago who knew I would be eating and enjoying these foods.....sigh...I've come so far and yet so far to go.

  18. THanks Dennis! Yes, there was a time when I could not have imagined myself eating something like Hummus and now it is one of my favorite foods. Go figure!!

  19. i am your newest follower and i'm so glad i found you!


  20. pea soup...funny - hey, next time you feel like hosting, I'm coming over, this sounds incredible...

  21. What a fantastic spread! You know how to entertain right. Hang in there with the "pea soup". :)

  22. Thanks Drick and Lisa! When the soup gets too thick...I just throw myself in the pool!

  23. What a great spread! It's so nice that all of that beautiful food is good for you!!!

  24. That looks lovely, Jill! And healthy to boot!!

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  26. These are great for a party. i love food & Drink like this so much! this sounds so good!

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Fort Myers, Florida, United States