Do you feel it in the air? The seasons are changing. The days are still warm, but evenings are a little chillier than they were just a week ago.
Autumn is just around the corner, but we can enjoy these last days of summer before fall settles in, and one fun way to do that is by throwing a cocktail party. For appetizers, take advantage of the remaining bounty from your garden, or stop by the to gather fresh ingredients.
The recipes below are a good start for your hors d’oeuvre table. If you don’t want to cook everything yourself, ask each guest to contribute something. I’m always amazed at the variety of dishes at a potluck, and these “small plates” are a fun way to eat a meal.
As for drinks, serve up wines from some of the excellent wineries right in our own backyard. Be sure to have a variety of alcoholic beverages, mixers and non-alcoholic drinks so your guests have some choices.
For a real treat, offer the inventive drink Shizuka (recipe below) created by Jeff Bareilles, Wine and Beverage Director at . Currently, this is the most popular drink at the restaurant.
Buon appetito, amici!
Courtesy of Jeff Bareilles
8 ¼ inch thick cucumber slices
12 small shiso* leaves
¼ cup Hendrick’s gin
6 Tbsp. tonic water (Fentimans tonic water preferably)
¼ cup aloe juice (note aloe juice can be obtained at almost any Asian market)
2 tsp. VEP Green Chartreuse
Muddle cucumber and shiso in a cocktail shaker. Add gin and muddle again. Fill shaker half way with ice cubes add tonic, aloe juice and Chartreuse. Stir well. Fill old fashion glass half way with ice. Strain cocktail into glass. Garnish with shiso leaves.
*Shiso definition from epicurious.com: Aromatic green, jagged-edged leaf from the perilla (or beefsteak) plant, which is part of the mint and basil family.
This is a delicious and simple way to showcase ripe garden tomatoes. Quantities will depend on how many people you’re serving.
Sourdough baguette, cut into ½ inch slices
Ripe tomatoes cut into small chunks (peeled and seeded if desired)
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Thinly sliced Serrano ham or prosciutto
Sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
Toast the bread slices until they are golden brown. Rub the toasts with a garlic clove. Then place a spoonful of chopped tomato onto each toast and gently press the tomato into the toast. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. If desired, top with basil, cured meat or cheese.
Courtesy of epicurious.com. Makes 18 pockets.
12 oz zucchini (trimmed coarsely grated)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
¾ cup onion (chopped)
6 tbsp fresh basil (chopped)
2 tbsp fresh parsley (chopped)
2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup feta cheese (crumbled)
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (packed)
6 tbsp pine nuts (toasted)
6 sheet phyllo pastry (fresh phyllo pastry or frozen thawed)
1/2 cup unsalted butter (melted)
1 egg white (beaten to blend glaze)
Toss zucchini with 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl, let stand 30 minutes and then drain and squeeze dry in kitchen towel.
Sauté onion in olive oil until beginning to brown, about 6 minutes.
Add zucchini; sauté until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes
Mix in basil, parsley and garlic; add wine, then cover and simmer 3 minutes.
Uncover; stir until any liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes.
Transfer zucchini mixture to large bowl, cool, and then mix in cheeses, pine nuts, salt, pepper. Mix in egg.
Lightly oil 2 large baking sheets.
Place 1 phyllo sheet on work surface with 1 short end parallel to edge of work surface (keep remaining phyllo covered with plastic wrap and damp kitchen towel).
Brush phyllo sheet lightly with melted butter; cut lengthwise into 3 equal strips, each about 4 inches wide.
Place 1 generous tablespoon filling at bottom end of 1 strip
Fold 1 corner of phyllo over filling
Repeat folding down length of strip as for flag, brushing twice with butter and forming triangle.
Place pastry on prepared baking sheet; brush with butter. Repeat with remaining phyllo sheets and filling.
(Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover tightly with plastic and chill)
Preheat oven to 400°F
Brush pastries with egg white
Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes
Shrimp Gazpacho Shots
Add a shot of tequila or vodka to each glass if desired. Makes about 1 quart.
3 pounds very ripe tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
1 mild green chili pepper or jalapeño, seeded and roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and roughly chopped
1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Salt to taste
Shelled cooked shrimp, one for each shot glass
Combine tomatoes, garlic, cucumber, chili, red bell pepper and onion in a large bowl. Working in batches, puree vegetables in a blender or food processor until smooth, adding a little water if mixture is too thick. Strain pureed vegetables through a sieve; discard any solids. Transfer strained puree to a pitcher and whisk in juice and salt. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Pour gazpacho into shot glasses and garnish each one with a shrimp.