A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about hosting, and the dos and doníts for ensuring everyone at your house, including you, has a great time. There are a lot of things that go into the gig beyond food. But all of those become a little easier if youíre able to serve something delicious.
That something might be a cake you pick up at
Mazzaroís. I get that. Many places can craft a cake much better than I can. But I tend to use hosting as the perfect excuse to flex my culinary muscles. I typically donít make something I never have before because that can go all kinds of ways in the wrong direction. But I do like to explore new cuisines and techniques for the main event ó pizza dough from scratch, slow-cooking Indian curries. Something accessible but still kind of elaborate.
But the only way that gets done is because I have some standby recipes at the ready to hold guests over until the big meal is served. Iíve written about my go-to cheese or charcuterie boards many times, but there are other simple recipes on deck in my kitchen.
Iím sharing one with you in this weekís recipe, a shrimp dish that can be served in a number of ways. Thatís one of the hallmarks of these sort of ready-to-go party dishes: versatility.
You can follow the recipe below and cook fresh shrimp, coated in some spices, before serving it warm with fresh lemon and a ton of herbs. Or you could buy cold, precooked shrimp at the store, a la shrimp cocktail, and simply mix the shrimp with the ingredients listed here, then serve it without heating it in a skillet.
Like the best dishes, it relies on just a handful of fresh ingredients. Shrimp especially lends itself to this sort of simple treatment: Itís a blank canvas on which myriad flavors can shine. And thatís good for a pre-dinner nibble: You donít want something too crazily flavored or something very filling that will detract from everything else.
I like to serve a big bowl of this lemony shrimp next to a loaf of crusty bread sliced thickly along with a shallow dish of olive oil seasoned with salt and dried herbs. The whole thing will take you 15 minutes to put together, allowing you to really focus on the more complicated components of your evening.
It can also serve as a solid component for a tapas-style meal or cocktail hour. These dishes would help round out that sort of meal.
Roasted Grape Salad: On a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper, toss 1 cup seedless red grapes with a big glug of olive oil and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Cook in an oven heated to 450 degrees for about 10 minutes, until grapes are slightly shriveled and releasing their juices. Remove from oven and scoop into a large serving bowl. Let cool for 5 minutes. To the bowl, add ľ cup chopped pecans or walnuts, a couple handfuls arugula, a couple handfuls baby spinach and ? cup crumbled goat or feta cheese. Toss. Top with your favorite dressing, preferably something like balsamic vinaigrette.
Tomato Crostini: Slice a baguette into slices about Ĺ-inch thick. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Place in an oven heated to 350 degrees and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until just starting to brown. In a bowl, add 2 ounces salami or pepperoni (or something fancy like soppressata), thinly sliced into strips. Add 1 large minced clove garlic, 1 large diced tomato, and a handful each fresh mint or basil and parsley. Stir, then season with salt, pepper and about 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar. Stir, and let marinate for at least 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Top with about ľ cup grated Parmesan cheese. Remove crostini from oven and serve with the tomato mixture.
Zesty Lemon Shrimp
1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 medium lemon)
3 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Combine shrimp in a bowl with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Toss to coat well.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
Add half of the oil to the pan, then add the shrimp. Cook undisturbed for about 2 minutes. You may need to do this in batches if the shrimp is too crowded in the pan. Turn the shrimp over and cook until opaque throughout, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate.
Return pan back to heat and add garlic and rest of olive oil. Cook for about 1 minute.
Return shrimp to skillet and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring so that the garlic is distributed evenly and everything is slightly browned.
Transfer shrimp to serving dish, and squeeze the lemon juice over the shrimp. Add the cilantro, toss well, and serve.
Source: Adapted from skinnytaste.com