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No-Fuss Finger Food and Dips - No-fuss Finger Food and Dips

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks

No-fuss Finger Food and Dips

A little planning is the key to an effortless party, along with great food, plenty of drinks, and happy guests. Individual bites that can be eaten without plates and cutlery are ideal party food, and can be served with drinks at an informal party, or before the main meal at a more formal sit down dinner. Decide what type of party you are having, and you’re halfway there.


5 instant store cupboard nibbles

Perfect for unexpected guests.


Breadsticks

Let guests help themselves to plain, cheese, or sesame-coated sticks. Fill up decorative glasses with them, and offer a selection of ready-bought dips. Or, wrap them with Parma ham and serve with a plate of mozzarella drizzled with a fruity extra virgin olive oil.


Tortilla chips

These are great for dipping or topping. Serve a variety of plain and spicy chips. Top with pieces of chicken and sliced peppers from a jar, or with a spoonful of finely chopped tomatoes and capers, and a dollop of sour cream.


Melba toast

Top these crisp bites with a simple ready-made pâté and a caper berry, or a meat pâté and a teaspoon of fruity chutney. For a sweeter bite, cover with cream cheese, and top with a slice of exotic fruit such as kiwi, mango, or papaya.


Nuts and seeds

A bowl of mixed nuts is a good standby accompaniment for drinks. Better still, pan-fry a selection of nuts with a little sugar, and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds; or, toast some sunflower and pumpkin seeds with a sprinkling of soy sauce or tamarind.


Rice paper

Soak in water for 20 seconds, drain, and fill with scallions and other vegetables cut into matchstick-size pieces, or cooked shrimp and fresh ginger, and roll into cones. Tie the cones with fresh chives, for a smart finish.


Fuss-free entertaining

Keep it simple. It will make life easier if food loosely falls into some sort of theme; for example, Middle Eastern or Mediterranean. It can simplify shopping, and will prevent too many competing flavors.

Budget. Have a rough idea of how much you want to spend, and write a shopping list. The more choices you offer, the more costly it will be.

Seasons. In summer, all items can be served cold, but in winter it is preferable to have at least 2 or 3 hot items on the menu.

Variety. Choose a good variety of ingredients, from meat and fish, to vegetables and herbs. Always include 3–4 vegetarian dishes.

Prepare. Make up as much as you can the day before (dips, for instance), and keep in the refrigerator, or even earlier, and freeze. Assemble at the last minute.


Skewer it

Flavorsome little bites on sticks are the perfect easy-to-eat finger food. The combinations are endless—here are some ideas to get you started.

Sausage and squash A great combination that can be made ahead, and served hot or cold. Roast a pan of chipolata or other spicy Italian-style sausages, halved, with a peeled, seeded, and cubed butternut squash. Toss with olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, and a sprinkling of hot red pepper flakes (if you wish), and cook in the oven at 400°F (200°C) for about 30 minutes, until cooked through. Thread onto skewers.

Watermelon and feta cheese An updated version of the classic cheese and pineapple combination. Chop watermelon flesh into small bite-size pieces, and skewer with small cubes of good-quality feta cheese cubes.

Spiced shrimp Toss a handful of shelled raw shrimp with olive oil, sea salt and ground black pepper, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Pan-fry in a little hot oil until pink, then skewer onto lemon grass stalks or wooden skewers.

Seared tuna and lime Cut a raw tuna steak into bite-size pieces, and toss with olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. Sear briefly on a hot ridged cast-iron grill pan for 1 minute, then skewer with segmented pieces of lime.


Servings per person

Most recipes in this section serve 8 people. If you want to increase the recipe yield, simply double the quantities, although do watch the herbs and spices, as these only need to be increased by half.

If serving finger foods and dips as a substitute for a main course, allow 8–12 pieces per person.

If serving finger foods and dips as appetizers only, allow 4–6 pieces per person, per hour. So the longer the party, the more appetizers needed.

It’s always better to have too much than too little. Many appetizers will keep for the next day.


4 instant bases

Use vegetables for a no-effort quick canapé.


Belgian endive

These bitter leaves are fabulous scoops for homemade dips, or can be filled with a store-bought dip or hummus for convenience. Red endive is also available, so mix and match for plenty of color. These bases won’t wilt quickly, and so can be prepared a few hours ahead.


Radicchio

These bitter leaves make excellent cups to fill and serve as substantial finger food. Fill with a mixture of couscous, raisins, and toasted pine nuts or try filling with strong-flavored blue cheese, tossed with diced apple and walnuts. If filling with a food that isn’t too wet, they can be prepared a couple of hours ahead.


Cucumber

Slices of cucumber make the simplest of bases, and can be used for a variety of toppings, such as store-bought tzatziki and a mint leaf for garnish. Slice a few hours ahead, and top at the last minute.


Baby peppers

These are sweet peppers, great halved and filled with a strong cheese, crumbled feta cheese, or a store-bought dip sprinkled with black pepper. They stay crisp for a long time, so prepare the night before, keep in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, then fill at the last minute.


Mayonnaise

It’s easier than you think, and a great base for dips. Eggs should be at room temperature before you start.

Add 2 egg yolks to a glass bowl with a pinch of sea salt, 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard, and 2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar. In a cup, measure out 3/4 cup of light olive oil. Using a balloon whisk, whisk the egg yolk, slowly adding drops of olive oil. Continue adding the oil, a drop at a time, whisking constantly.

The mixture will begin to thicken and emulsify. Continue adding the oil, a little more quickly now, whisking until all the oil has been added. Don’t add the oil too quickly, as the mixture will curdle. (If this does happen, add an egg yolk to a clean bowl, then add the curdled mixture slowly and whisk until it emulsifies again.)

When the mayonnaise has thickened and all the oil has been incorporated, taste, and add a little more vinegar and sea salt and black pepper, if needed. If it is too thick, dilute with a little warm water. Serve with cold cooked meats, fish, or eggs.

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