We hosted a shindig Friday evening, quite a nice party with just over 20 people milling around the house. I had hoped to be outside on the patio, but of course, it rained; and just as the first guests began to arrive, it poured. It was still nice and possibly even more intimate inside than if we had been seated around the pool with the birds and the white noise from the highway as distraction.
I didn't talk about this party beforehand because it was sort of a mums-the-word affair. The guests were part of a much larger group of associated people with too many for us to accommodate, so we chose just a select few as representatives. Next time, we'll choose a different set and so on, with the intention of being sociable and hospitable with every one. Have you noticed I'm still being sort of secretive about the group? I just don't want to hurt anyone's feelings—I would hate to feel excluded myself, so shhhh.
Because the party was larger than our typical dinner party, and even more had been expected, I opted for a buffet instead of a sit-down meal with traditional courses. I have some standard things on such a menu, things I think I might retire for a while—a pasta salad with pesto and peas, a tomato/feta salad, shrimp with mint pesto. I served those and some newer things, a collection of crostinis topped with a variety of flavors—crab salad with a dill garnish, herbed cream cheese/goat cheese with cucumber and apricot with blue cheese and walnuts. I also served chilled cucumber soup that I would make again. And I had a separate table for dessert—tiny lime curd tarts, chocolate-dipped strawberries, miniature carrot cupcakes and miniature chocolate cupcakes with an orange/butter frosting.
People seemed to enjoy themselves, which always does my heart good. I plan these things as if my life depends on it (and in some way, I suppose it does because I enjoy taking care of people with food and a comfortable chair so much), and with all of that thought and preparation, I always hope that people can walk in and feel welcome right off the bat. With the first hello and may-I-take-your-coat, I want anyone and everyone who walks through our open door to feel at home and be glad they came. Have another cupcake, and have you tried the sangria?
One of my favorite things on the table was the apricot crostini. I loved it so much, I think you should make it and love it, too. I found it at mirassou.com. Mirassou is a California winery that offers some wine-friendly recipes at its website. Here's the stuff—because I was using goat cheese with the cucumber things, I sliced Danish bleu cheese for these, using thin slices so as not to be overwhelming. I think the flavors work well together. Even though the recipe calls for white balsamic, I used a syrupy dark balsamic from Perugia, Italy someone had given me for creating a postcard for them. I may have to see about doing another project for those people because now I'm all out.
2 (15.25-oz.) cans apricot halves, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons minced onion
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, plus additional for garnish
1 cup chevre (may substitute bleu cheese, brie or another soft cheese)
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Place the apricots, vinegar, onion and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes or until mixture is thickened, stirring frequently (reduce heat to low towards the end of the cook time to avoid scorching). Stir in thyme and let cool. *Meanwhile, brush the baguette slices with walnut oil. Place on a baking sheet and broil for 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly browned. To serve, top each baguette slice with ½ tablespoon of cheese (or a thin slice of good bleu cheese) and ½ tablespoon of the apricot mixture. Sprinkle with chopped fresh thyme and toasted walnuts.
Makes 32 appetizers.
*I used a crisp baguette from a local store and chose not to toast it, so I skipped the oil.