Over the years I’ve become pretty good at planning and executing parties. I’ve definitely made many mistakes along the way–there really is not an accurate description of the realization that the dirty pot you were going to soak/leave-there-all-night is now overflowing and a river of potato water is now approaching your guests in the other room. Their faces. I’m. Not. Over. It. You’ve never lived until you’re washing a floor by candlelight the night before Thanksgiving and the power’s out and your pies are only half-done baking in the oven. I prayed so hard.
I guess I’m not really doing a good job of convincing anybody I’m particularly good at planning parties but I’m probably not the worst, either. For every horrific failure there have been great successes and lessons learned along the way. One of the most important things I’ve learned about parties/the-human-condition is that people like appetizers. More than like, they expect them. And if you don’t have appetizers out and ready when the party starts your brother might go to 7-11 and buy a bag of Doritos, pour them in an oversized bowl, and throw daggers at you with his eyes. “You try planning a dinner for twenty people!”, you want to scream but you don’t. You keep your cool because that’s 90% of being a good host/hostess. (You might lose your cool a little).
Appetizers are essential but I don’t believe in overstuffing your guests either. Having too many appetizers creates logistical problems especially when the main event is dinner. At some point, you’ll have to put away the appetizers to make room for the food-food and there’s no place to put the leftovers because the fridge is packed and then you’ve got to wash the plates that they’re on so people have room to put their dirty plates somewhere after dinner. Also simultaneously get dinner out so everything is hot at the same time. You might go have a quick cry at this point (it’s tradition!) but you can avoid it altogether by putting out one or two things that will tide people over and keep them civil. The ideal appetizer is something that doesn’t have to be cooked and can, essentially, be prepared in advance so it’s as easy as assembly on the big day.
Let me introduce you to a great solution: summer hummus with chimichurri. Why summer? Because the hummus is full of roasted yellow summer squash and the chimichurri provides two flavors that instantly smell like summer to me, red wine vinegar and fresh parsley. The chimichurri (dressing of fresh herbs) works so well because it really amps up the flavor of the hummus which can sometimes be…boring? I know that’s controversial but hummus for me, unless it’s super authentic, can just be a little dull. The store bought versions can be even worse (the word musty comes to mind). They do in a pinch but this version is special enough for a party and simple enough to make for yourself and eat as dinner (raises hand). It ticks all the boxes. No cooking required. Easy to make ahead. Delicious.
Summer Hummus with Chimichurri
- 1/4 c. red wine vinegar
- 1/3 c. olive oil
- 1 tbs. shallot, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flake (or to taste)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 c. fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 2 tbs. fresh oregano, finely chopped
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, whisk lightly to combine.
- 1 summer squash, tossed in 1 tbs. olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1 15-oz can chickpeas
- 1/4 c. tahini
- 2 cloves garlic
- 4 tbs. fresh lemon juice (about two lemons)
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
Roast squash in 350° oven for 20-25 minutes, flipping once halfway through. Once the squash has cooled combine all ingredients in a food processor until very smooth. If the hummus is very thick, add a drizzle of olive oil through the tube until texture is light and creamy. Top with a few tablespoons of chimichurri mixture (you will have extra, use it as a marinade for something else). Serve with crudités and pita chips.