ISSUE 48  |  California Dreaming

5 Easy Pieces: A Weeknight Holiday Party Menu

December 04, 2014 5:00 PM

BY Lindsey Love

Everybody loves a good holiday party; whether the theme is ugly sweaters or fancy sit-down dinner. What’s not to love is the prep and the scheduling. (Everyone’s weekends are usually booked far in advance.) Why not throw a weeknight holiday party? Your friends will love not having to cook dinner.

Here’s a menu with five easy recipes. All you need are a few pre-bought food items, some ingredients from your pantry, and a string of twinkling lights.

Read on for the ingredients and step-by-step instructions:

Photography by Lindsey Love for Gardenista.

On the Menu

  • Crispy Smoky Chickpeas
  • Grape and Pine Nut Crostini
  • Za’atar Dip
  • Sesame Butternut Squash Skewers 
  • Fizzy Grapefruit Punch

Crispy Smoky Chickpeas

Above: Crispy, baked chickpeas are best eaten on the day they are made. Serve at room temperature. They’re a quick and fun snack to serve, plus after a long day of work, I’m sure everyone will enjoy a tasty punch of protein.     

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans chickpeas, drain and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay rinsed chickpeas out and let dry.  In a mixing bowl, combine chickpeas, olive oil, paprika, cayenne, and salt. Toss to mix. Transfer to prepared baking sheet, and bake for 35-40 minutes, until crisp. Remove from oven; let cool to room temperature. Transfer to serving bowl and garnish with chopped parsley.

Grape and Pine Nut Crostini

Above: Sautéed grapes are an easy way to dress up your crostini and holiday table. An easy sauté with pine nuts, a splash of olive oil, and some crushed garlic gives this crostini a sweet and savory flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons raw pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cups halved grapes
  • 1 loaf bread (baguette, ciabatta, etc.), sliced to ½ inch thickness
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped fine
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a skillet over medium heat. While pan is heating, take one clove of garlic, place it between a cutting board and the flat side of a broad knife, and press the knife against the garlic to crush it.  Add garlic, pine nuts, and a pinch of salt to the hot oil, swirl a few times to prevent burning, and cook for 1-2 minutes, until nuts are lightly browned and garlic is fragrant.  Add the grapes, a pinch of salt, and a couple cracks of pepper; sauté for roughly 2-3 minutes, until grapes are juicy and slightly browned. Remove from heat, dispose of crushed garlic, and set aside.

Above: Preheat oven to 350 degrees, arrange bread slices on two large rimmed baking sheets and brush with oil. Bake until bread is golden and toasted, roughly 15 minutes. Take the other piece of garlic and slice it in half; rub each piece of bread with cut side of garlic. Top the bread with grapes and pine nuts, and garnish with chopped parsley. 

Za’atar Dip

Above: This is an easy way to take something store-bought and put a personal, and perhaps elevated, spin on it. By adding the za’atar spice, parsley, and olive oil you make an ordinary dip more flavorful and exciting. If you don’t have za’atar on hand, or can’t readily find it, use a blend of herbs you do have; whether it’s a mixture of parsley and rosemary, or thyme and sage, use what you have to make it personal.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package hummus, white bean dip, etc.
  • 2 tablespoons za’atar spice
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish
  • Olive oil, for garnish

Place packaged hummus or white bean dip in a serving bowl. Using the back of a spoon, make decorative swirls; sprinkle za’atar spice on top, garnish with chopped parsley and drizzled olive oil.

Sesame Butternut Squash Skewers

Above: These skewers are a favorite of mine; the pre-cut, packaged butternut squash requires minimal prep, and utilizes many ingredients already found in the pantry. To make this even easier, toast the sesame seeds the day before so it’s one less thing to do on the day of the party.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package pre-cut and peeled butternut squash (if need be, cut pieces to uniform size)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon shoyu (or tamari)
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • Pinch of cayenne (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • Miniature skewers (3-5 inches long)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. In a large mixing bowl, combine squash with sesame oil, shoyu (or tamari), rice vinegar, cayenne (if using), salt, and pepper. Place onto baking sheet and cook, stirring halfway through, until edges are lightly browned; 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven; let rest until ready to handle. Thread three pieces of squash onto skewers and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Repeat with remaining squash and seeds. 

Above: Squash can be kept in the oven on warm for roughly 20 minutes before serving. 

Fizzy Grapefruit Punch

Above: So much of the holiday season calls for heaviness, but this punch, with its citrus notes, keeps it light and bright.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle dry white wine
  • 1 bottle prosecco
  • 1/4 cup Cointreau
  • Juice from 2 pink grapefruits
  • Rosemary, to garnish 

Above: In a large bowl or pitcher, combine the white wine, prosecco, and fresh grapefruit juice; cover and refrigerate. Add a couple of ice cubes and few rosemary leaves to each glass and serve.

Above: Twinkling lights say festive party.

Above: The full spread. 

N.B.: For more of Lindsey’s recipes, visit her blog at Dolly and Oatmeal.

‘Tis the season for making merry. Here are more ideas for throwing the perfect holiday party: