How to Host a No-Stress Holiday Gathering

Many joyful times with family and friends are just ahead, but how do we navigate the crazy busy holiday season without becoming a super-Grinch?

Many joyful times with family and friends are just ahead, but how do we navigate the crazy busy holiday season without becoming a super-Grinch?

Here’s a plan: raid your local market shelves for a selection of gourmet treats: open up a few jars and packages: have a few tricks up your sleeve…and in five minutes, or less, you’ll be ready to party.

Here are some tips for super-easy, no stress entertaining and a few suggestions of gourmet treats to add to your holiday shopping list this week

GO NUTS:

Roasted almonds, cashews, pistachios or mixed nuts are the perfect nibble with the holiday cocktail. Look for smoked paprika marcona almonds from Spain- irresistible flavour and crunch.

DELVE INTO DIPS:

A Greek-inspired spread is always a big hit: colourful bowls of hummus, baba ghanoush, taramosalada, tabbouleh and/or tzatziki, crisp green and ripe olives, cubes of marinated feta cheese, thin slices of aged Manchego cheese and wedges of warm pita bread. SO quick and easy to put together!!

Create decadent party bites in minutes. Smoked Cheddar and Bacon Hot Cheese Melts: Spread a spoonful of one of SUmmerhill Market’s savoury melts on crostini. Place on a baking sheet and set under the broiler until the mixture bubbles and begins to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve hot. (Try Crab Melt too: I warn you-it’s addictive!)

SMOKED SALMON:

Smoked fish of all kinds is a perennial favourite. Top crostini with luscious smoked salmon or smoked trout spread and garnish with slivers of cornichons or chopped capers.

You’ll find that a platter of Smoked Salmon Canapés always disappears in a flash! Spread rounds of whole wheat baguette (toasted or fresh) with deli-style cream cheese. Add a curl of smoked salmon (Toronto’s own Kristapsons cold-smoked salmon is a personal favourite) and top with a mix of finely chopped red onion, capers, fresh dill and grated lemon zest. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper for the finishing touch.

TEMPTING TERRINES AND CHARCUTERIE:

‘Tis the season to indulge a little! Arrange thin slices of 100% foie gras, duck terrine or luscious chicken liver mousse on sliced fresh baguette or crostini paired with an interesting condiment. Look for a jar of something deliciously unique…apple cider jelly, cranberry chutney, caramelized onions, pickled shallots, caper berries, raw honey…these treats make great hostess gifts too.

Roasted Asparagus Prosciutto Bundles: Toss asparagus spears in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on a baking sheet. Roast at 400°F/200°C until lightly charred and almost tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and toss spears with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Wrap two spears with a strip of prosciutto, Serrano or Iberico ham. Tie with a knot of chives, if you like.

CLASSIC CHEESES:

As long as I have fine cheese and crackers on hand, I’m a happy camper! Ask what is at peak condition at the market…perhaps a wedge of premium Stilton or Bleu d’Auvergne, fine aged Canadian cheddar, cave-aged Gruyère and a decadent triple crème such as award-winning La Liberté from Quebec. Accompany with fresh white or whole wheat breads, plain crackers and crackerbreads: (avoid ones that are highly flavoured that can overwhelm the cheese.)  Add grapes, fresh figs, ripe pear or crisp apple slices and a handful of toasted walnuts or almonds to the cheese board and you’ve created a totally delicious combination of textures and flavours.

Your guests will be happy and you’ll be happy too!

Cheers!

 

 

Jane Rodmell

Jane Rodmell

Jane was co-founder and President of All The Best Fine Foods, a Toronto gourmet food landmark, from 1984 to 2016. Jane continues to be fascinated by the world of food over decades as a food writer, recipe developer, researcher, teacher and entrepreneur. She was part of the Epicure team at Toronto Life Magazine for twenty-one years producing a column about food in Toronto and has contributed to Cottage Life Magazine’s award-winning Cottage Cook column since 1988. She is the author of seven cookbooks including ‘The Summer Weekend Cookbook’, Cuisine Canada’s Cookbook of the Year in 1998.

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