Now that Food52's Editorial Assistant Brette Warshaw has stocked her First Kitchen, she's ready to throw parties in it: no-stress weeknight parties for anyone, anytime, and (almost) every kitchen. You're invited.
Today: The way to justify snacks for dinner.
I'd like to say I'm the kind of person who eats three balanced, complete, perfectly-coordinated meals a day: the kind of person who does not remember at 3pm that she hasn't eaten anything all day, and then eats a brownie, and then snacks on crackers until dinner time, and then eats three-person's-worth of Thai food at 11:30pm. And then makes herself an Oreo milkshake before her 3:30am bedtime.
And yet, I did all of that yesterday.
Sure, sometimes I eat like a normal person. And sometimes, I cook like a normal person. But in reality, my life is what I like to euphemistically call a "mezze": a collection of snack-y foodstuffs eaten at odd hours, but a collection eaten happily, with gusto.
Which is how I came up with a mezze dinner party: a dinner party where small things were the main event. A party where your guests could snack freely, wildly, without any pangs of guilt: the kind of party where one never gets bored.
But instead of Oreo milkshakes, brownies, crackers, and curries, I served the mezze of my dream-life: the salads and dips and spreads and kabobs that color a Middle Eastern-style (ish) dinner. Because if you're snacking for dinner, then you should snack nobly -- with a bunch of friends for company.
Sweet Pea Hummus + toasted pita + sliced vegetables
Smoky Fried Chickpeas
Kefta-Style Meatballs with Grilled Grapes and Yogurt Sauce
Meg's Marinated Mushrooms
Banana Cardamom Milkshake (because I couldn't help myself)
The night before: Whizz up your Sweet Pea Hummus. (Make lots of this -- it will go quickly.) Chop up your accompanying vegetables; I used carrots, endive, radishes, peppers, and cucumbers, but the choice is yours. Drain your chickpeas. Make Meg's Marinated Mushrooms; the flavors are best when melded overnight.
When you get home from school/work: Whisk together the shrimp marinade, and stick your shrimp in there. Make the yogurt sauce for your meatballs, and mix and shape the meat mixture. When all that's out of the way, fry the chickpeas; you want the smell of the oil to subside before your guests arrive. These will stay good at room temperature, anyway.
An hour before your guests arrive: Take out the mushrooms, and let them come to room temperature.
A half hour later: Grill your grapes; set them aside.
Party time. Keep your guests occupied with hummus and chickpeas, and sneak into the kitchen. Grill the shrimp (I used a grill pan), and set them out. Next, move onto the meatballs; since they're so small, they will cook quickly. Enlist a helper to get them onto skewers, and then bring them out while they're hot.
When all of the food is gone: Make your milkshakes, and bask in the fact it's not 3:30am. Or maybe it is. It was that good of a party.