Garden party


POSTED: Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Warm weather provides the perfect excuse for inviting a few foodie friends for a cool summer party.

There's nothing like hosting a successful get-together that has people raving later. The generosity of welcoming others into your home and exhibiting your culinary skills will come back tenfold!

But as quickly as you imagine it, you also imagine a dozen excuses to settle for takeout and television: “;It's too hot to cook. ... It's too much work. ... It's too much planning.”;


Release your inner Julia Child and be bold and audacious. And don't even think of slaving over a hot stove in September, typically the hottest time of year. It's possible to put together simple fare that involves as little range cooking as possible, the better to enjoy prepping the food while keeping cool and presentable.

Each selection here is delicious and substantial enough to satisfy even the men at your party, lest they start whining to leave the party early to grab a hamburger. (Of course, the host never discovers the real reason male guests disappear suddenly.)

With the menu set, turn your attention to adding a little atmosphere: Whether you plan to hold your party indoors or outdoors, a visual presentation of light colors and pastels or, better still, green plants and flowers will give your gathering a cool, breezy ambience.

And remember that the host of the party should always be the coolest one there. Don't leave guests wondering if perhaps the food placed before them may have been seasoned with personal touches straight from your forehead.

Who hasn't seen a disheveled, perspiring cook emerging from a restaurant kitchen for a break or to meet guests?

Luckily for them, this usually happens at the end of the meal, when it's too late to reconsider venues.

So what are you waiting for? I've done the hard part of planning the menu. You're now free to party! When it's over, you might be surprised by the fun you had, and find yourself planning the next big bash.



1 3-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1-1/4 cup flour
2 6-ounce cans boneless, skinless salmon
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated onions
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cream cheese
Dill springs

In a bowl, blend cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add flour and mix well.

Shape into 24 balls and flatten into palm of hand.

Transfer flattened dough into miniature muffin pan and press onto the bottom and up the sides of the cup.

In a bowl, flake salmon with fork. Add lemon juice, grated onions, horseradish, dill, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and softened cream cheese and blend well.

Place about a heaping tablespoon into each dough cup.

Bake at 350 degrees 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes and gently twist out of muffin pan. Top with sprig of dill. Yields 24 puffs.

Hint: Filling can also be served without baking and used as a dip. Also good as a filling for cherry tomatoes.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per mousse cup: 110 calories, 8 g total fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 140 mg sodium, 5 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 4 g protein.



12 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
4 teaspoons ginger, minced
Salt to taste

1 cucumber, sliced into thin rounds
Salmon roe to taste

Cut eggs in half lengthwise. Gently separate yolks into a small bowl; arrange whites on platter. Mash yolks with a fork.

Mix in mayonnaise, horseradish and ginger. Sprinkle salt to taste. Using a resealable sandwich bag, snip off a corner and fill with egg filling. Pipe filling into egg whites.

Garnish with thinly sliced cucumber rounds and place into egg yolk filling over top end of egg white. Delicately place 1/2 teaspoon salmon roe on top of egg yolk filling and chill until ready to serve. Serves 24.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per 1/2 egg (based on 1/2 teaspoon roe per egg half and not including salt to taste): 90 calories, 7 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 110 mg cholesterol, 100 mg sodium, 1 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 4 g protein.



2 pounds chicken breasts
1/3 cup coarse or kosher salt, for brine
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3-1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon grated onion
1/4 teaspoon salt

10 mini croissants
Plum tomatoes, thinly sliced lengthwise
Cucumber, thinly sliced rounds
Lettuce leaves, small

Alfalfa sprouts

Place chicken breasts in 6-quart saucepan and cover with water and 1/3 cup salt to make brine. Simmer chicken in brine for 45 minutes or until meat is tender when tested with a fork.

Remove chicken frombrine and chop into fine chicken salad consistency. Add mayonnaise, curry powder, grated onion, salt and pepper and mix well.

To serve, slice croissant in half and spread chicken salad on bottom half. Layer with tomato, cucumber, lettuce and sprouts. Cover with top half of croissant. Yields 10 petite sandwiches.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per croissant sandwich (assumes 6 plum tomato and 1 cucumber): 350 calories, 18 g total fat, 5 g saturated fat, 100 mg cholesterol, 350 mg sodium, 15 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 31 g protein.



2 pounds chicken breasts
1/3 cup coarse or kosher salt, for brine

2/3 cup plum sauce
10 large dinner rolls
10 sesame (beefsteak or shiso) leaves

Place chicken breasts in a 6-quart saucepan and cover with water and 1/3 cup salt to make brine. Simmer chicken in brine for 45 minutes or until meat is tender when tested with a fork.

Remove chicken breasts from brine and place in bowl. Shredmeat in “;pulled pork”; fashion. Add about 2 tablespoons of brine to keep chicken moist. Add plum sauce to chicken. It should thoroughly season the meat.

Heat chicken, covered, in microwave or conventional oven when ready to serve.

Slice dinner rolls in half and spread mayonnaise on both sides. Mound chicken in bun and top with sesame leaf. Yields 10 petite sandwiches.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per sandwich (not including salt to taste): 300 calories, 6 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 90 mg cholesterol, 320 mg sodium, 27 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 31 g protein.



1-1/2 tablespoons instant coffee
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 18.25-ounce box dark chocolate fudge cake mix
1-1/3 cups water
» Mint Frosting:
1-1/2 cup white chocolate chips
3/8 cup sugar
1 8-ounce box cream cheese
2 teaspoons mint extract
Dab green food color

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place paper cupcake cups in muffin pan. Dissolve coffee in water and combine oil, eggs and cake mix.

Make fudge cake mix as directed on box and fill batter 1/3 full into each cupcake cup.

Bake 19 to 22 minutes or until center of cupcake springs back to the touch.

To make mint frosting: In a small microwavable bowl, microwave white chocolate chips on high for 1 minute or until melted, stopping and stirring first at 30 seconds, then every 15 seconds thereafter. Heat another 15 seconds if needed.

Mix in sugar. Cool slightly, then add blend into mint extract and softened cream cheese.

Refrigerate until cupcakes are ready to be frosted. Transfer to a pastry bag to ice cupcakes. Yields 24 cupcakes.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per cupcake: 270 calories, 15 g total fat, 6 g saturated fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, 29 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 20 g sugar, 4 g protein.