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party foods
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I'm beginning to see the merits of minimalist party foods. They take less time. They don’t cause stress. They don’t force me to spend my entire party puttering about in the kitchen. And they can taste just as good as the elaborately complex hors-d’oeuvre sculptures that Martha is always assuring us are really very simple to assemble. (Yeah, right. Maybe if you have fifty little helpers doing all the gruntwork for you.)

It’s taken a few parties for me to reach this epiphany, but I’m learning to ignore that little voice of perfectionism inside me that likes to insist that food is only good if it’s been slaved over and prepared entirely from scratch. When it comes to party foods, cheating isn't merely acceptable. It’s just plain sensible.

Maybe you’re a hopeless cook who wants to serve food that doesn’t look like it came straight out a jar or supermarket deli container. Or maybe your life’s just too hectic to allow you the luxury of spending two days crafting appetizers. Either way, you’ll want to know these secrets to fabulous party foods that only look like they took days to prepare.

1. Good, bakery-fresh bread: It all begins with good bread. You know, crusty on the outside, moist on the inside. And no, that smushy "French" bread you get for 99 cents at your supermarket will not do. Buy the very best bread you can possibly get your hands on, and you’ll need little more than a wheel of brie to keep your guests happily snacking the night away.

2. Fresh fruit: I never make a dessert for parties – baking’s just not my thing – so I balance the salty stuff with some sweet, fresh fruits. Fruit salads take time – all that peeling and de-seeding and chopping – and you always end up having no space in the fridge because you’ve got all these unused canteloupe and watermelon and other fruit halves -- so I like to keep it simple, offering just two or three types of fruit and in bowls scattered strategically around the house. Make your life really easy by using no-/low-prep foods like seedless grapes, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Buy peeled, cored pineapple, and seedless Clementines. Oh, but avoid apples and pears, which turn brown as they oxidize.

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