Sunday, April 4, 2010

party food

Happy Easter everyone! Today my mom is making leg of lamb (from the shank, not the rump), and I am so excited! I, on the other hand, will be blogging about simple snacks to serve at a soiree. I'm going to leave out the photos of this sloppy looking food, especially because I didn't think to photograph any of it until midway through the party. You can thank me for saving you the sight of half eaten dips. Regardless of how these things look, they are crowd pleasers and are unlikely to leave you with leftovers.

Spinach Dip with Cilantro and Lime
adapted from The New York Times

2 10-ounce packages frozen spinach
8 oz softened cream cheese
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
½ cup sliced scallions
⅓ cup chopped cilantro
1 lime, juiced
a pinch of kosher salt and cracked black pepper
Tortilla chips, for dipping

The original recipe also calls for 1 tablespoon chopped chipotle in adobo sauce, but I tend not to like things spicy, and I also am not sure how easy that is to find. That being said, I'd sure it'd be a fine addition, but the dip is great without it.

Thaw the spinach and squeeze out excess water. Blend together all the other ingredients in a food processor or with an immersion blender until smooth. Add the spinach and blend again. Stir with a spoon to make sure the bottom is even mixed. Serve with chips. So easy!

Like the author of the original recipe, I am majorly skeeved out by the traditional spinach dip with the freeze dried Knorr soup mix and water chestnuts. My dad suggested we make that a couple of years ago for my graduation party. This seemed like a terrible idea to me, so I began searching for an alternative. Luckily, this dip is great. The cilantro and lime give it a nice kick, and it's not so thick that it breaks all the chips. It's also super easy to make, so I highly recommend you blend some up for your next party. Laura and I like to serve it with Hint of Lime chips, but Nathan prefers plain tortilla chips. YMMV.

Cheesy Refried Bean Dip
from Laura Barker

softened cream cheese
canned refried beans
grated cheddar cheese
tortilla chips, for dipping

Layer all three ingredients (cream cheese, then beans, then cheddar) in a baking dish or pan, and cook at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Serve with chips! If you've got lots pre-party things to take care of, using pre-made refried beans is a great time saver, but making your own is actually easy enough: simply chop an onion, cook it in a pan with a little oil over medium heat, and then add a can of pinto beans. Cook until everything is soft, season with salt and pepper, and then mash it all up. Voila! Regardless of what kind of beans you use, your guests will love this.

This dip is pretty much Laura's party specialty. In the past I've made my own taco dip with ground beef, refried beans and monterrey jack/cheddar cheese, which is something my Mom likes to make for Super Bowl parties. It's fantastic, but when you're hosting a party and making multiple dishes, this dip is way faster and easier, and is just as delicious. I tried my hand at making it myself for the first time for my brother Matt's birthday on Friday as per his request, and I wasn't quite set on the proportions. Basically, I'd say you want equal amounts of all three components. I used too much cream cheese, so alot of that was left was behind after the cheddar and beans on top had been eaten. My mom made the excellent suggestion of topping this dip with some sliced green onions for a little color and a fresh crunch. I think this would be a great addition!

Chunky Guacamole
adapted from Alton Brown's Guacamole Recipe

3 avocados
1 lime, juiced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ medium onion, diced
2½ small tomatoes, chopped
1 large handful chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, minced
tortilla chips

Use a potato masher to blend two of the avocados with the lime juice, salt, cumin and cayenne. Chop the third avocado into small chunks, and add along with the tomatoes, cilantro, tomatoes, and onion. Stir to combine and then let sit for one hour before serving to allow the flavors to meld. Serve with chips

We made this for Matt's party when we found some beautifully ripe avocados at Pat's Meat Farm on Larkfield. Unfortunately, since they were an impulse buy, I didn't think to buy more than two avocados, which definitely wasn't quite enough for this recipe. It was still tasty, but the ration of avocado to tomato was a bit off. Also, we chopped all the avocados, rather than mashing all of them as Alton would have instructed us, so ours turned out pretty chunky. Generally I'm am a fan of giant avocado globs, but I think that a smoother guacamole can be nice too and would try to strike a better textural balance next time. My final recommendation would be to measure the cayenne and cumin carefully, as I got a little cumin happy and it definitely tasted like it. Other than that, this is really simple and a great party food. Who doesn't like guacamole?

I will definitely be bringing these recipes back for future parties/gatherings!

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