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Easy appetizers for summer parties

Backyard cookouts, frequent weekend get-togethers and festive dinner parties are the delicious events we anticipate for summer. Nibbling tasty little appetizers before the main course – or simply enjoying an array of small bites as the main course – help whet the appetite for engaging conversations and warm weather relaxation amongst family and friends. Here are three party food recipes from the recently released Food & Wine Cocktails ’09, a thirst-quenching compendium of over 130 cocktail recipes, including 25 appetizers that no cocktail should be without.

Caramelized Onion Dip

Maple Glazed Peanuts & Bacon

Makes about 4 cups

Recipe courtesy of Meg Grace of The Redhead in Manhattan. These sweet and salty nuts have become so popular at The Redhead, the New York restaurant now sells them online in packs of three (8-ounce) mason jars. However, this recipe is easy to make and keep on hand for parties or everyday snacking poolside.

3 thick slices of bacon
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, minced
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
3 cups unsalted peanuts
1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a medium skillet, cook bacon over moderate heat until crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then finely chop. In a medium bowl, mix thyme, salt, Old Bay, cayenne and dry mustard. Add peanuts, maple syrup and bacon and toss until peanuts are evenly coated.

2. Scrape the nuts onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes, stirring once, until the maple syrup has thickened. Let the peanuts cool completely, stirring frequently to break up any large clumps. Transfer peanuts to glass jars or a large bowl and serve.

Make ahead: The peanuts can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Caramelized Onion Dip

Makes about 4 cups

Recipe courtesy of Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami. Schwatrz’s ode to Lipton’s famous onion soup dip includes rich, sweet caramelized onions, which add a lovely contrast of flavor to the cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise. Serve with thick-cut potato chips, crackers, or crudités or smear on party toasts.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
5 medium onions, halved, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon chopped parsley

1. In a large saucepan, melt butter in the oil. Add onions and cook over high heat, stirring frequently until just softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to moderate and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are golden and softened, about 20 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Let cool, then coarsely chop the onions.

2. In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, beat cream cheese at medium speed until smooth. Beat in mayonnaise and sour cream. Fold in onions and season generously with salt and pepper. Scrape into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until chilled. Sprinkle with parsley to serve.

Tuna Tartare Crisps

Serves 8

Recipe courtesy of Lee Hefter of CUT in Las Vegas. For his clever twist on tartare, Hefter tops baguette with sushi-grade tuna, avocado, pickled ginger and dollop of wasabi mayonnaise.

32 thin baguette slices, cut from a medium loaf
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon wasabi paste
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound sushi-grade tuna, cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 Hass avocado, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/3 cup finely diced seedless cucumber
1 scallion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons chopped pickled ginger

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toast the baguette slices on a large baking sheet until light golden and crisp, about 15 minutes. Let cool. In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise with the wasabi paste and season with salt and pepper.

2. In a medium bowl, gently mix the tuna with the soy sauce, avocado, cucumber, scallion and ginger. Spoon a dollop of the wasabi mayonnaise onto each toast, top with the tuna tartare and serve.

More party food and cocktail recipes

Bruschetta – two ways
Low-carb appetizers
Puff pastry twists
Trendy floral cocktails
Healthy summer cocktails
Fruity summer drinks

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