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last-minute party food
by Yee-Fan Sun | 1 2 3
continued from page 1

if you’re just supplying after- or pre-dinner munchies
The Perfect Host(ess), of course, always has her cupboards stocked with most of the necessities for a spontaneous gathering of friends. For the rest of us, though, who find it hard enough to keep our fridges full of the bare minimum required just to sustain the busy folks who live there, here’s our handy guide on how to throw together a great spread in less than an hour’s time. Some of these foods you might already have sitting around in your kitchen; everything else should be easy to find at a regular old supermarket.

For a crowd of 12, supply a plate each of any three of the following …
antipasti goodies | Stop by the supermarket and pick up a jar of roasted red pepper strips, good olives (preferably unpitted), maybe some marinated artichoke hearts. Bocconcini balls drizzled in olive oil, then sprinkled with salt and pepper are also delicious. If you can find all four of the above, it makes for a beautiful presentation arranged on a platter; otherwise, choose a couple and either serve on a smaller plate, or in bowls. You’ll need toothpicks to make everything easy to spear, of course.

cheese plate | If you want to keep it simple and low-budget, a big fat wedge of ripe brie and a good crusty loaf of bread are always crowd-pleasers. If you want a little more variety, add in a good sharp cheddar and smoked gouda, or some chevre (roll it in chives or scallions, if you’re willing to put in just a little bit of work).

hummus with pita | That old college staple is vastly improved when the hummus is homemade. I just toss a can of drained chickpeas in my mini food processor along with a clove of garlic and tahini paste, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. It takes maybe three minutes to make, and yields way more hummus – about two cups – for way cheaper than you can get in those little plastic tubs at the supermarket. If you’re really super-pressed for time, however, or lacking in a food processor, dress up that store-bought hummus by serving it in a nice bowl, or even a hollowed-out bell pepper.

tapenade with bread or crackers | You can buy tapenade, a Provençal black olive and caper spread, ready-made (it’s often sitting by the fancy cheeses, near the deli counter), but as with the hummus, it’s much tastier and cheaper if you make it yourself. Again, a food processor will be your best friend: I dump a can of drained black olives in my mini processor, add a handful of good pitted kalamata olives, along with a couple of spoonfuls of capers (I skip the anchovies that are traditionally a part of this dish), then zizz it all up, adding olive oil until it’s just spreadable, but still a little chunky, in consistency.

don't stop: there's more this way!

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