I love to entertain, all of it! Planning a menu, buying the food, preparing everything, arranging the flowers, laying the table, making everything as inviting as I can. To me, it is a way of saying ‘I care’, ‘I want to spend time with you, and make you feel special in my home.’ I don’t pretend to be a gourmet cook, and firmly believe that you don’t need to be to entertain. Entertaining just requires a little bit of thought and some planning. I realize that some of you could suggest far more tips than I, please feel free to do so but I am also sure you’d agree, that today, when almost everything can be bought pre-prepared, the key to good entertaining is in the presentation.
Apart from a welcoming drink, greet your guests with an array of simple appetizers which you have selected from the store; bread sticks standing in a jug, or a glass or even a mason jar. A plate or wooden board of salamis and prosciutto, a wedge of cheese next to a dish of chutney, perhaps some hummus with crackers, a bowl of almonds or olives. The dishes you choose, the way you arrange them, maybe adding sprigs of rosemary or fresh greenery from your garden, makes all the difference. Make sure you have plenty of small servers and possibly some plates and napkins, make your guests feel comfortable.
As for the dinner; buy a pre-cooked chicken, arrange it on a platter with some arugula or other leaves scattered around the edge. A bagged salad just needs shaking into a bowl and then dressed, preferably with a homemade dressing, (see recipe below) but again, you can use one from the store! To make it more special add a handful of nuts, (such as hazelnuts, almonds walnuts or pecans) and /or a sprinkle of cheese, blue cheese or feta work well, you could also choose to chop up a pear or peach or throw in a handful of pomegranate seeds, experiment and see what you like! Your salad could be accompanied by a plate of juicy, sliced tomatoes, kissed with salt and pepper and maybe freshly chopped basil or chives. A large crusty loaf, laid out on board ready to be cut, accompanied by butter, set out in a pretty dish or some olive oil will complete the meal!
Dessert could be some fresh fruit, berries in glass dishes, sprinkled with a dusting of powdered sugar and an edible leaf (mint, basil etc.) laid on the top, accompanied by a small jug of fresh cream. Maybe a bowl of cherries or orange circles piled concentrically drizzled with orange liquor. Ice cream served in dainty bowls with some berries is always a favorite, so far, no cooking required!
The table just needs crisply ironed napkins, some candles, even those can be bought already set into their holders and if arranging flowers isn’t your thing, put a small plant (or several) on the table as a centerpiece.
China, glasses and silverware don’t even have to match; sometimes it’s fun to arrange an assortment of things. If you don’t want to lay a formal table and want to serve buffet style, have your dinner plates piled up where the food is to be served and put the silver ware into a basket or glass. As long as it’s all easily accessible for your guests to grab and sit down that’s all that matters.
Create a welcoming ambience by dotting some candles around your room, plump up the cushions and do a quick tidy up of any clutter. Have some wine chilled or pre opened, gather up some glasses, dim the lights, maybe light a fire and select some soft background music and you are all ready!
Enjoy an evening of friendship and laughter with those you care about, after all isn’t that what entertaining all about?!!
Home made salad dressing
1/2 cup Olive oil (preferably virgin)
1/2 Vinegar (balsamic, white or red wine, or any flavored)
Freshly ground salt and pepper
Mix all together ~ I keep a small preserve jar with a well fitting lid to shake it all up in!
Prepare ahead of time ready to drizzle over the salad a few minutes before you are ready to serve.