Sweet and spicy calamari, an antipasto plate, and pan-seared artichokes: fantastic party dishes that also make great first courses for dinner.
Preparing party food or appetizers for a small group of friends and family doesn’t need to be stressful—especially when you serve delicious, fresh, and unexpected dishes.
Party Food Key: Fewer Dishes, Greater Variety
We’ve all been to parties where the table was full of bowls of chips and pretzels, and more bowls of different kinds of chips and pretzels, two dips that look the same, and some vegetable sticks straight out of the bag. Instead of buying the same typical party foods, try preparing a few dishes that your guests will find both tasty and appealing.
The recipes below include panko-crusted calamari, which cooks in less than 5 five minutes, tossed in a quick and easy spicy sauce; a no-cook antipasto plate (even if you’re not serving pasta afterwards); and some simple, lemony pan-seared artichokes.
Sweet and Spicy Calamari
Make the sauce first so that it’s ready to go when the calamari is ready. It cooks fast!
Ingredients and Preparation
- 1 small garlic clove, chopped
- 3 tbsp peach or apricot preserves
- 1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp hot chili paste
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- flour, for dusting
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp milk
- 3/4 cup panko
- 1/2 lb cleaned calamari, sliced into 1/2-inch rings (slice the tentacle parts in half lengthwise)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
1. To make the sauce, combine the garlic, preserves, vinegar, and chili paste in a small food processor. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
2. Whisk the egg and milk together in a bowl.
3. Dredge the calamari rings in flour, then dip in the egg mixture. Let the excess drip off, then shake in a bag with panko.
4. Heat the oil in a large skillet over med-high heat until the oil shimmers.
5. Add the calamari in a single layer and fry 2 minutes, until golden brown. Turn over and fry 2 minutes longer. Turn off the heat and pour the sauce over the calamari. Toss to coat well. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Easy Antipasto Plate
No cooking here—just buy the best ingredients you can and serve on a large plate or platter.
1. Place 1/4-lb strip of smoked salmon on one part of the plate. (Find it already prepared at a quality fish market.)
2. Place a variety of olives (pitted or unpitted) on another part of the plate.
3. Choose a small block of creamy, flavored cheese (such as pistachio and honey goat cheese) and place on another part of the plate.
4. Place a line of sesame or garlic crackers on the remaining empty spot and you’re ready to serve.
Pan-Seared Artichokes with Lemon-Butter and Herbs
The artichokes take a little while to prepare and cook, but they make great party food and can be cut into as large or small pieces as you want. In this recipe, cut each artichoke into 8 pieces instead of 4. (In other words, quarter the quarters, and you’ll have a total of 16 artichoke slices from 2 large artichokes.)
These 3 appetizer recipes result in a variety of textures and flavors—savory, sweet, salty, and spicy. Adjust the amount of ingredients for the number of people you’re serving, but keep in mind that these recipes are mostly suited for small gatherings of 6-8 people.