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Party Food

Before the Miracle Fruit [1] came dinner. My #1 rule for entertaining is that things need to be made in advance. I want to be able to enjoy my friends and spend time with them. I gravitate towards dishes that can be prepared in advance and assembled or cooked when guests arrive. Salad ingredients are washed and chopped, salad dressing is made, a pitcher of ice water is set out and the rest is ready to be popped in the oven and heated and I am ready to relax and enjoy my friends and our time together.

These three crostini toppings, artichoke-olive dip, ricotta cheese, and roasted cherry tomatoes, have become a favorite of mine for dinner parties. This combination of starters allows guests to assemble their own snacks and the three toppings work well in any combination. I originally discovered the artichoke dip a couple of years ago on Smitten Kitchen—I’ve been making it ever since. It is so delicious and leftovers make an excellent sandwich spread. I know not everyone loves olives, so I diversified with a simple ricotta mixture and these very easy roasted cherry tomatoes. Even mediocre cherry tomatoes are transformed through oven roasting. I hope you’ll try these next time you have friends over. All three can be made in advance and served at room temperature.

The ricotta needs to be fresh ricotta, not the stuff you buy in tubs next to cottage cheese. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you’ll make your own [2].

Ricotta

Mix the ricotta, thyme, salt, and peppers in a small bowl and drizzle some good quality olive oil over the top.

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Preheat oven to 450° F. If cherry tomatoes are large, cut in half. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss cherry tomatoes with olive oil, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until tomatoes are wrinkling and beginning to release juices. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Artichoke + Olive Spread

Crostini

Preheat oven to 425° F. Arrange bread in single layer on a baking sheet. Brush tops of bread lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until edges begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool. Store in an airtight container.