Starting at the tender age of eight or so, my parents shipped me off to camp for one week during the summer. It wasn't a particularly awesome camp. I often hear my peers speak rapturously of...
We all have slightly unrealistic expectations about parties. When we plan one, we imagine (at least I do) perfectly ironed vintage linens atop the table, a loaf of homemade rustic bread, delicious cheeses and charcuterie, and home-canned jams, pickles, and conserves.
The guests are all lovely and well-dressed, and someone will bring a too-nice bottle of something delicious. No one will overindulge, and all will head home at a civilized hour. Oh, and some good Samaritan will stay a bit late to help with the dishes.
Sounds nice, doesn't it?
But really, have you ever been to, much less thrown, a party like that? Perhaps I give my readers too little credit. Perhaps a great many of you are seasoned hosts and hostesses who can entertain without a fuss.
As for me, however, I am still unsure of myself when it comes to planning a party.
One thing I have learned, however, is to prepare simple but satisfying fare. A cheese plate almost always factors in with its accompanying breads and crackers, fruit and olives. And the most rewarding thing about a cheese plate is perhaps the fact that you didn't have to make any of it.
But cooking should still be factored in to a party, and I'm not talking osso buco or rack of lamb, but rather something much simpler, less messy, and easy to handle with a glass of wine.
Well, perhaps "cooking" is the wrong term. Maybe "assembly" is closer to what I'm looking for here. In any case, the basic idea is that you can put small bits of meat, cheese, herbs, and spreads on bread, and you're golden. You should attempt to do this artfully and tastefully, of course, but there's really no pressure here.
One of our perennial favorite canapé "recipes" is smoked salmon on little toast rounds. We typically spread the bread with just a bit of cultured butter, then layer on the cold-smoked salmon, crème fraîche or Greek yogurt, and dill or chives. We have also used a pungent camembert instead of the butter, which turned out just fine, thank you.
Feel free to improvise on this. You may want to use pumpernickel slices or sections of bagel. Hot-smoked salmon instead of cold-smoked would not be amiss, nor would smoked trout, whitefish, or herring. We tend to use a thick, Greek-style yogurt instead of crème fraîche because we almost always have some on hand, but you can make your own crème fraîche pretty easily if you're feeling particularly motivated. A few arugula leaves, sprouts, or sprigs of mesclun could add some color and crunch.
Essentially, the canapé is your oyster.
Thin rounds of French bread, slices of pumpernickel, or sections of bagel
Spread the bread with:
Cultured butter, camembert, or cream cheese
Place on top:
Thin strips of smoked salmon or other fish
Crème fraîche or Greek yogurt
Chopped chives and/or dill