Food from the Hart

Posts Tagged ‘good for groups’

Wine and Cheese Party

In Celebrations on March 10, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Throwing a wine and cheese party is fun, casual and doesn’t require much space.  It’s a great way to get a group of friends together without all the fuss of a classic cocktail party.  Here are a few easy tips to get you started:

  • When you invite guests ask them each to bring a wine and cheese pairing (see the chart below for pairing suggestions).  Ask that they let you know what they’re bringing so several people don’t come with the same thing.  It’ll be more fun if you have a variety of cheese and wine with different textures and from different regions.
  • Before the party stock up on crackers, baguettes, and fruit like apples, pears, figs, grapes, melon.  The fruit will bring out the flavor of the cheese and wine and add an extra element for tasting.  You might also consider purchasing a selection of smoked meats like prosciutto, salami, speck and bresola to serve along with the cheese.
  • Have wine glasses, cocktail napkins, hors d’oeuvre plates and large platters on hand.  When guests arrive, plate their cheese selections along with fruit and meat. Use index cards or place cards to label each cheese and wine pairing.
  • If space permits, scatter the platters of cheese and wine pairings around the room.  This way guests won’t gather in one spot.  It will make mingling and tasting easier and more fun.
  • Even though this is a casual shindig don’t forget the ambience.  Dim lights, light candles, and make sure you have some soft music in the background to set the scene.


Country Wine Type Fruit
Bel Paese Italy Chardonnay Semi-soft
Blue Varied Strong, Red Hard Apple, Grape, Pear
Brie France Champagne, Merlot Soft Plum, Apple, Pears
Camembert France Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir Soft Plum, Berries, Apple
Cheddar England Cabernet Sauvignon, Rioja, Chardonnay Hard Melon, Peach, Apple
Colby U.S. Riesling, Champagne, Cava Hard Apple, Peach
Edam Holland Riesling, Champagne, Pinot Noir Hard Apple, Grape, Pear
Emmentaler Switzerland Beaujolais Hard Pear
Gouda Holland Riesling, Champagne Semi-Hard Apple, Grape, Pear
Goat Cheese France / Varied Sancerre Soft Apple, Fig, Pear
Feta Greece Pinot Grigio, Sancerre, Beaujolais Soft Apple, Pear, Peach, Fig
Gorgonzola Italy Champagne, Cava, Prosecco Soft Pear
Grana  Padano Italy Barolo, Barbaresco, Hard Apple, Pear, Fig
Manchego Spain Rioja, Merlot Hard Pear, Melon
Mozzarella (Fresh) Italy Pinot Blanc, Light Reds Soft Melon, Peach, Nectarine
Muenster France Zinfandel Soft Melon
Parmesan -Reggiano Italy Chardonnay Hard Fig, Grape, Apple, Honey
Pecorino Italy Chianti Riserva Hard Fig, Grape, Apple, Honey
Swiss U.S. Riesling, Gewurztraminer Hard Apple, Grape, Pear
St. Andre Franch Fruity Rose Soft Apple
Port Salut Denmark / France Chardonnay Semi-soft Melon
Roquefort France Tawny Port Semi-hard Apple, Pear

Tip of the Day: Champagne Toasts

In Tips on March 3, 2011 at 10:50 am

There is something wonderful about starting an evening with a Champagne toast.  It’s fun, festive and puts everyone in the celebratory mood – even all you are celebrating is being together.

Even if you don’t want to splurge for Dom Perignon Rose you can raise a glass of bubbly in an affordable way.  Two great alternatives to Champagne are Cava (sparkler for Spain) or Prosecco (bubbles from Italy).

Here are some of my favorites:

Cristalino Brut Cava NV, $9.99

Marques de Gelida Brut Exclusive Reserva Cava, $12.99

NV Zardetto Prosecco Brut, $13.99

NV Althea – Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, $16.99

Seafood Gumbo

In Recipes on March 1, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Yield: 8

Cooking Time: 120 minutes

There are a million variations of Seafood Gumbo and every from New Orleans will swear their way is the best.  I don’t profess to have the best, so here I’m following one of Emeril’s recipe.  For a Northerner like me, I think his is the absolute best!  This particular version comes from Every Day’s A Party, by Emeril Lagasse, with Marcelle Bienvenu and Felicia Willett, William Morrow and Company, Copyright, 1999.

3/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup bleached all-purpose flour

2 cups yellow onions, chopped

1 cup green bell peppers, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon cayenne

5 bay leaves

8 cups shrimp stock (or water)

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage

2 dozen oysters, shucked, with their liquor

2 tablespoons green onions (or scallions), chopped, green part only

2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped

Shrimp and Ham Jambalaya (or steamed long-grain white rice)


Combine the oil and flour in a large cast-iron Dutch oven or large heavy pot over medium heat. Stirring slowly and constantly, make a dark brown roux, the color of chocolate, 20 to 25 minutes. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, salt, cayenne, and bay leaves. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft, about 10 minutes. Add the stock, and stir to blend with the roux. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours.

Add the shrimp and crabmeat and cook for 15 minutes. Add the oysters, green onions, and parsley and cook until the edges of the oysters curl, 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaves. Serve immediately ladled into soup bowls over Shrimp and Ham Jambalaya, or over steamed long-grain rice.

Classic New Orleans Hurricane

In Recipes on March 1, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Yield: 10

Hurricane’s are classic New Orleans Mardi Gras cocktails.  They might look tame with their inviting pink hue, but be warned they will knock you down just like a real hurricane!  Make these in large batches and serve guests out of a pitcher.  It will save on time and space!

10 oz white rum

10 oz Jamaican Dark rum

10 oz Bacardi 151 rum

30 oz orange juice

30 oz pineapple juice

5 oz Grenadine syrup


Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Serve in large glasses over crushed ice with an orange slice as garnish.

Red Beans and Rice

In Recipes on March 1, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Yield: 8

Cooking Time: 30 Minutes

2 tablespoons canola oil

24 oz Andouille sausage, sliced in 1/2 inch pieces

1 yellow onion, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

1 green bell pepper, seeded, steam removed and diced

4 large garlic cloves, finely diced

2 15.5 oz cans of red kidney beans

2 teaspoons onion salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

2 tablespoons Tabasco sauce

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 cup water

1 cup white, long grain rice

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon parsley leaves


Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a large sauce pan.  Add the sliced sausage and cook until the sausage is brown.  About 5 minutes. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add another 1 tablespoon of canola oil and sauté onion, celery, and green bell pepper for 3 minutes or until they begin to soften.  Add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.

Stir in the cooked sausage, beans, onion salt, pepper and Tabasco and simmer while cooking the rice.

Bring the chicken stock and water to a rapid boil.  Add the rice and butter and return to a boil.  Then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes until the rice has absorbed all the liquid.

Fold the rice and beans together.  Garnish with parsley.

Ultimate No-Cook Cocktail Party

In Features on February 25, 2011 at 10:51 am

Having a party is fun but can also be a lot of work. The reality is most of us don’t have the time or space to organize an elaborate spread.  Don’t let that stop you from inviting friends and family over for a get together.  Here are some ideas for easy and delicious hors d’oeuvres that you can whip up in mere minutes – even in the smallest of kitchens.

Artichoke Dip

Drain a can of artichoke hearts and roughly chop. Mix with Boursin cheese.  Microwave in 45 second increments, stirring in between, until warm.  Serve with pita chips or tortilla chips.


Slice a baguette 1/2 inch thick pieces. Rub with a piece of garlic and brush with olive oil.  Toast in the oven on 250 degrees. Dice plum tomatoes and basil.  Mix with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Serve on top of the garlic toasts. Garnish with fresh parmesan cheese.

Caprese Skewers

Push a cherry tomato, boconccini (small ball of mozzarella), and a folded basil leave on a skewer.  Season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with good extra-virgin olive oil.


Antipasto Skewers

Think antipasto platter favorites served on a skewer.  This is one of those hors d’oeuvres you can really customize.  Try a combination of roasted red pepper, provolone cheese, salami, and an olive. Or marinated artichoke, feta and proscuitto.  Whatever the combo might be, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and serve.

Cream Cheese Spread

Cover a 5 oz block of plain cream cheese with your favorite jelly or chutney. Serve with crackers or apple slices.


Cut a baguette in 1 inch slices.  Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Then toast in a 250 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Cover the pieces of bread with assorted toppings like salami and ricotta, pesto and mozzarella, white beans and capers, goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. The possibilities are really endless so be creative!

Endive Leaves

Fill leaves with a store-bought olive tapenade, roquefort cheese, hummus or goat cheese and walnuts.

Tortellini Skewers

Cook fresh, store-bought tortellini according to the directions on the package. Drain and push one or two tortellini on skewers.  Serve with a warm Marinara or Alfredo sauce.


Heat store-bought sausage in a sauté or grill pan.  Slice and serve with spicy or Dijon mustard.

Salmon Pinwheels

Spread a thin layer of cream cheese over a piece of smoked salmon. Roll up – jelly roll style and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm then cut in 1/2 inch thick slices.  Serve on a toothpick or skewer with pieces of cucumber.

Prosciutto and Melon

Cut melon into 1 inch cubes and wrap a piece of prosciutto around each.  Serve with a toothpick.


Elevate this classic by adding some unique veggies to the usual suspects like carrots, celery, bell peppers, green beans, tomatoes, etc.  Try jicama, sugar snap peas, edamame, radishes, orange, green or purple cauliflower.  When putting together the tray, think about contrasting colors.  Put celery next to carrots and radishes next to purple cauliflower.  Avoid putting all the green veggies next to each other.  Serve with a dip of your choice.

Tip of the Day: Create More Space

In Tips on February 2, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Not enough sofa space for all your guests?  Purchase large throw pillows and some cozy blankets then scatter them around your living room before party time.  It’s an easy way to make everyone comfortable and when the party is over throw the pillows on the sofa for some added color.  This is great for a Super Bowl party or Oscar party where people are likely going to be seated for a long period of time.

For some budget friendly pillow options check out: Ikea, Amazon and

Cranberry Cosmo Punch

In Recipes on February 2, 2011 at 11:46 am

This is a great recipe and open to interpretation.  Feel free to play with the ingredients – add some orange or lemon juice.

4 parts citrus vodka

4 parts sparkling water

2 parts triple sec or Cointreau

2 parts cranberry juice

1 part fresh lime juice


Mix everything together in a pitcher.  Add sparkling water as needed.  Serve with slices of limes.

Chocolate Fondue

In Recipes on February 2, 2011 at 11:24 am

Yield: 8 servings

Cooking Time: 25 minutes

Fondue is such a fun dessert and can be really fun for a cocktail party.  It’s interactive and who doesn’t love chocolate and fruit.  Make sure you remind people, no double dipping!




1 cup cocoa powder

1 cup water

1 1/2 cup super fine sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1 cup heavy cream, added gradually

7 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

1-2 tablespoons of Frangelico or Amaretto (optional)

Fruit (banana, strawberries, apples, pineapple, mango in bite sized pieces)

Pound cake, lady fingers, pretzels, marshmallows


Bring water, corn syrup, and sugar in the saucepan. Cook for 10 minutes until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture has thickened. Whisk in the cocoa powder until the mixture is smooth. Add the heavy 3/4 cup of cream and bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce to simmer for 5 minutes.  Mix in the chocolate pieces.  Remove from the heat and stir in liquor if using.

If the mixture still seems thick gradually add in the rest of the cream.  Keep chocolate warm and serve with fruit and cake.

Frittata with Swiss Chard, Italian Sausage and Feta

In Recipes on January 25, 2011 at 11:53 am


Yield: 6 servings

Cooking Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Frittatas are a brunch staple.  They are as elegant and delicious as quiche without the hassle of making a complicated crust.  Once you master the basic technique, you can add anything under the sun to your frittata.


Nonstick spray

1 bunch swiss chard, cleaned, stems and center ribs removed

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 cup yellow onions, chopped

8 oz mild italian sausage, casings removed

10 large eggs

1/3 cup heavy cream

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 cup feta, crumbled

Fresh flat leaf parsley


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Spray a 8x8x8 pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Boil salted water in a medium saucepan.  Add the swiss chard and blanch until wilted, about 2 minutes. Drain and submerge in ice water to stop cooking and retain color.  Once cooled, finely chop the chard and place in a kitchen towel to squeeze the moisture out until dry. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a saute pan and add the sausage.  Use a wooden spoon to break up into small pieces. Cook until the sausage us brown.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Add the onions and cook until they are translucent and soft.  5-7 minutes.  Combine the sausage and onion and let cool.

Whisk eggs, cream, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl.  Add the chard, sausage and onion to the mixture and stir until combined. Stir in the feta cheese.

Transfer to prepared baking dish and cook for 45-55 minutes until the center is set.  Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes.  Then slice, garnish with parsley and serve.

You can make this dish 1 day in advance.  To reheat, heat at 325 degrees for 10 minutes until warm and then serve.

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