Party Food


Before the Miracle Fruit 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.


  • 1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • olive oil

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

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

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



  • Baguette or loaf of country style bread, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper

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.


12 comments to “Party Food”

  1. Yum! So important to have make-ahead dishes for parties, or else the host misses out on the fun! This ricotta reminds me of Andrew Carmellini’s recipe in Urban Italian—he whips some milk into sheep’s-milk ricotta with thyme and olive oil, and it’s sooo delicious.

  2. Maggie! Just looked up that recipe-which I somehow never noticed- it looks good, real good. Will try that net time. Whipping some milk into the ricotta must be nice.

  3. Can I be invited?

    Looks like a wonderful party spread!

  4. looks delish! def making this trio the next time i have friends over.

  5. A great appetizer spread! You know how to treat your guests.

  6. any excuse to make ricotta and you can count me in!

  7. Those roasted tomatoes look so simple & yummy!

  8. Dawn in CA says:

    May 18th, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Yummy deliciousness. Your photos are genius – so beautiful. But I have a request… because I’m difficult that way, and I want what I want. ;) How about some photos with some real live people? I like seeing people enjoying good food.

  9. I love these kind of appetizers at a dinner party. I served a fig and olive tapenade this weekend that was a hit. I love oven roasted tomatoes, too!

  10. Wow! What wonderful nibbles. And I just love the tomato Idea. I bet it’d work great with large cherry tomatoes too. This is really the best way to eat!

  11. Molly Z. says:

    May 22nd, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Each is so delicious on its own, and they’re dreamy in any combination. Perfect! Such a wnonderful party from start to finish…that miracle fruit is amazing.

  12. Make these every single year at my kids’ birthday party and they are a consistent hit. Thanks!

What do you think?