Monthly Archives: July 2016

Impromptu Entertaining

Last week I hosted a last minute evening of cocktails and nibbles for some friends in the neighborhood.  My son is away camping which usually allows me with some free time that I otherwise wouldn’t have.  I didn’t expect everyone to make it since it was very impromptu but ended up with a few yeses, a few maybes and a final count of four.  What I hadn’t thought of was what to serve, and I didn’t have much time to shop with my work schedule.  Luckily I generally keep a stocked pantry and freezer for just such occasions.  Here’s what I was able to pull together without going to the store:

  • Yellow squash sticks & Pita chips with store bought Hummus
  • Mango & Nectarine salsa with Tortilla chips
  • Grilled Shrimp marinated with chilies, lemon zest, cilantro & turmeric
  • Belgian Endive with a filling of Greek yogurt, radishes & watercress

I even whipped up a very light cocktail with gin, homemade watermelon juice (I had made some earlier in the week with watermelon, ginger, mint & lime juice), cucumber soda (I order the RW Knudsen brand which is not sweet) & lime juice.  It was refreshing without going to our heads since I only used ½ Cup of gin for the pitcher.  There is always wine & beer in my house in case someone didn’t want the cocktail.
How did I manage this?
I always have most of these ingredients on hand.  Shrimp can be frozen and thaws out in minutes which makes for quick last minute scampi with linguine in a pinch.  I always have yogurt, limes, lemons, chilies, cilantro & various kinds of fruit for my daily meals.  Watercress, endive & radishes were in my fridge for my salads that week.  I mix up different salad ingredients each week.  It could have easily been arugula, cucumber & sprouts.  Since I eat veggies and hummus for an afternoon snack, I usually have those on hand too.  I only had one ripe mango and one not so ripe nectarine.  Combining the two gave me enough quantity on the salsa and the mango helped tenderize the hard nectarine by the time I served it.
So here are a couple of the recipes:

Mango-Nectarine Salsa

1 ripe mango cut into small cubes
1 nectarine cut into small cubes
½ red onion chopped finely
¼ cup chopped cilantro
½ jalapeno chopped finely (remove seeds & veins to reduce heat level)
Sea salt to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well.  Serve at room temperature with tortilla chips.

Grilled Shrimp
1 lb jumbo shrimp
½ jalapeno finely chopped
½ cup cilantro finely chopped
Zest of one lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp turmeric
Peel, devein, wash & dry shrimp thoroughly.  Combine remaining ingredients and add to the shrimp in a bowl and mix well.  Allow to sit for 20 – 30 minutes but not longer.  Heat the grill (indoor or outdoor) and cook the shrimp for approximately 1 minute on each side till it just turns pink.  Do not overcook as it will get tough.  Serve immediately. 

Gin-Watermelon Cocktail – I don’t have exact proportions for this as I usually taste and add ingredients to taste until it’s what I’m looking to achieve.  But here are approximate quantities:

½ cup gin (I used Tanqueray Rangpur)
2 cans cucumber soda
2 cups watermelon juice (Juice has ginger & mint in it)
Juice of 1 lime
2-3 mint sprigs
Muddle the mint in a pitcher with a wooden spoon. Add all other ingredients to the pitcher.  Add ice just before serving.  Stir and serve in martini glasses garnished with a slice of lime.

So, it’s true what they say – when you have lemons, make lemonade.  What can you pull together for an impromptu evening with friends?
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