by: meredith cabarrus
We get it - it's America's birthday and burgers and dogs are flying off the grocery store shelves. As party planners, we can't help but up the ante and challenge the norm a bit! These Summery party-food recipes from Meredith's Summer Soiree are too good not to revisit just before the holiday! We promise, they can be mostly done in advance, work perfectly together, and are delicious served at room temperature. We’ve got you covered with a step by step to put those burgers and dogs to shame.
Think a bit about where these nibbles will be sitting. If you know you are heading to a cookout where food is out all day in the sun, you probably want to opt for the usual - pasta salad, fruit kabobs or potato salad. If not, shake it up with one of the recipes below!!
Lamb Kofta Meatballs with Feta and Tzatzikii
We’ve taken the flavors of kofta and simply shaped them into smaller, party-sized bites, and baked. The ingredient list is really meant as a guide, and can easily be shifted to meet your tastes and likes – the idea is ground meat flavored with fresh herbs and spices. These little babies will be totally devoured by your guests!
1 lb ground lamb (or beef, bison, pork or other ground meat)
Big handful chopped fresh mixed herbs - mint, cilantro, parsley
3-4 cloves garlic, minced, divided
6 scallions, sliced thin, divided
1 T paprika
½ T cumin
Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
¼- ½ Cup Panko Breadcrumbs
Chunk of good quality feta, cubed
1 Cup Whole Milk Greek or other thick yogurt
½ cucumber, grated on a box grater and squeezed of excess liquid
¼ Cup chopped fresh dill
1 Lemon, zested
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
For the Meatballs: (Mixture can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated until ready to bake) In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground meat, chopped herbs, ¾ of the minced garlic, ½ of the scallions, paprika, cumin and egg with 2 t salt and 1 t ground pepper. Once combined, mix in breadcrumbs and a little olive oil if mixture looks dry. To cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Form mixture into small (2-inch diameter) meatballs, and place on large baking tray. Bake approximately 15-20 minutes until done. Set aside to cool.
For Tzatziki: In medium mixing bowl, combine Greek yogurt, grated cucumber (be sure it’s been squeezed), chopped dill, remaining minced garlic and scallions, juice and zest from lemon, 2-3 T olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
For serving, arrange meatballs and feta cubes on large platter with a bowl of Tzatzikii alongside. Garnish with fresh herbs, lemon wedges, and serve with bamboo toothpicks. Pita wedges would also be great here!
Prosciutto and Herbed Cheese Wrapped Asparagus
This has been a go-to appetizer every Summer for YEARS. It’s so incredibly easy, can be done in advance and is so, so delicious. It’s truly a croud-pleasah’ (I can’t help it, I live in BOSTON!). Anyway, you’re going to love this one, and so will all of your guests. You can’t get better than that!
1-2 Bunches of Thick Asparagus (see tip and note below)
1 Container Soft Herbed Cheese, such as Boursin
As many thin slices of prosciutto as you have asparagus spears
Prepare your asparagus. Simmer enough water in a large shallow sauté pan to cover asparagus. If using thick spears (see note and tip below) then you have 2 choices: (1) cut off tough portion of the bottom of each spears, about 2 inches; or (2) with a vegetable peeler, peel 2-3 inches all around the bottom of each spears, removing this tough part, and trim the very bottom of each spears to remove the old, dried cut. Add asparagus to simmering water and cook just until crisp-tender (don’t overcook or they’ll go mushy). Just before they’re totally done, drain and place on plate or tray to cool. If you’re afraid you’ve overcooked them, stop the cooking quickly by plunging them into an ice bath or spreading them out on a tray and placing them in the freezer for a few minutes. Once cool, start your assembly line. Cut each asparagus in half on an angle. Lay out a few slices of prosciutto on your work surface, and cut each slice in half lengthwise. With a spatula or wide knife, spread a thin layer of herbed cheese along each slice of prosciutto. Place a piece of asparagus on the end, and roll up. Place on tray. Repeat until all asparagus pieces are rolled in their beautiful, cheesy, herby, salty, porky blankets! Now, devour!
Tip: Look for the nice, fresh, fat spring asparagus. When searching out the freshest bunches, check the asparagus heads. The heads should be nice and tight and dry. If the asparagus tops are looking sort of slimy, loose, and/or frayed, then they’re old and on their way out.
Note: You could use the thin pencil asparagus here, but if you do, you’ll want to bunch 3 or 4 thin spears together for 1 prosciutto roll.
Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraiche Endive Cups
What’s so great about this little party nibble, aside from how incredibly easy, elegant and delicious it is, is that the endive acts as your guests’ personal, edible spoon for the luscious salmon and crème fraiche! Cute and practical!
2 Heads of Endive
1 Package of Good Smoked Salmon or Lox
1 small container of Crème Fraiche (or Sour Cream, Mascarpone or Cream Cheese!)
Fresh Chives, chopped
Salt, Pepper and Lemon
Cut the very bottom off of the endive, and carefully separate each leaf from the head. Arrange leaves on platter. Add crème fraiche to a small Ziploc baggie, and cut a small hole in the bottom corner. Squeeze a dollop of crème fraiche onto the bottom of each leaf. Top each dolloped leaf with a small piece of salmon. Squeeze some fresh lemon over the top and shower the whole platter with salt, pepper and chopped chives. This one shouldn’t be made too far in advance. Make it an hour or two ahead day-of is fine, simply arrange on platter, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. Now, marvel at the elegance of your creation, and vow to take the barrage of compliments with grace and poise.
Burgers and dogs, you've just been served! Happy 4th everyone!
Photo credit: Sabrina Cole Quinn Photography