When I entertain, I almost always favor savory over sweet. I’d rather linger over a few small bites before dinner than serve a rich dessert after dinner.
This week, my selection of amuse-bouches required some foresight, but the elements came together easily. I served small portions of quinoa and farro salad with pickled fennel, a white tuna mousse with basil on small crackers, and roasted almonds.
Here’s my strategy for pulling together a harmonious appetizer tray:
The day before your dinner party
*Take stock of your materials. Do you have a sizeable serving tray or platter? Do you have verrines (small glasses), little jars, or shot glasses to serve soup or salad? No worries if you need to mix and match—it adds character and charm. Pull out bread plates, if you have them, and try to get your hands on some square cocktail napkins.
*Make a grain salad or soup. They will both taste even better the day of your gathering. I served this delightful and easily adaptable salad.
*Make a recipe of roasted almonds. I share my recipe at the end of this post. If you don’t have time to roast your own nuts, grab some at the grocery store.
The day of your dinner party
*Lay out your tray and accoutrements.
The hour before your dinner party
*Taste and freshen your soup or salad. Does it need a splash of oil or vinegar? Maybe some salt and pepper? Spoon into serving dishes and garnish with fresh herbs.
*Spread any dips on crackers or thinly sliced baguette. I served this mousse.
*Take a moment to prepare your tray. Resist the temptation of overcharging it with food and decoration. The goal is to whet your guests’ appetites, not stuff them before dinner.
When your guests arrive
*Begin your evening with the aperitif of your choice—sparkling wine, sparkling water, fruit juice, and bourbon are good choices.
*Enjoy conversation and pretty snacks with your guests before the main course. Slip away when you need to put the finishing touches on dinner.
*If you served a generous tray of appetizers, don’t feel obligated to prepare a substantial dessert. This week, I finished my dinner party with small madeleine cakes that I had in the freezer.