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Cocktail Party: Elevated Basics

You'll get a standing O for whipping up these puppies from scratch -- and no one has to know you put in only minor effort (and just one trip to the grocery store). A few everyday ingredients and a little inspiration make up the menu for a housewarming, a birthday bash, or any other advance-notice affair that you don't have a ton of time to cook up.
Blueprint, September/October 2007

Prosecco with Ginger (far left)

Stir together 1 cup ginger juice and 3 tablespoons honey in a small pitcher. To serve, pour 2 tablespoons of the mixture into a Champagne glass. Fill with Prosecco. Place 3 slivers of crystallized ginger in each glass. The Ginger People Ginger Juice (amazon.com), Val D'Oca Extra-Dry Prosecco (internationalcellar.com), the Ginger People Crystallized Ginger Chips (amazon.com)

Prosecco with Apricot and Cranberry (middle)
Stir together 1/2 cup cranberry juice with 1/2 cup apricot nectar in a small pitcher. To serve, pour 2 tablespoons of the mixture into a Champagne glass. Fill with Prosecco. Garnish with a thin slice of red apricot. Looza Apricot Nectar (amazon.com)

Prosecco with Blood Orange (far right)
To serve, shake a few drops blood-orange bitters into a Champagne glass. Fill with Prosecco and garnish with a twist of orange. Stirrings Blood-Orange Bitters (stirringsshop.com)

Green Bean Crudites (top row, left)
Make an ice-water bath and set aside. Rinse 12 ounces of fresh green beans, trim off ends, and steam beans for 3 to 4 minutes, until bright green. Drain, plunge beans into ice bath, drain again. For lemon mayonnaise: Mix together 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, the zest of 1 lemon, 1/4 teaspoon white pepper, and 1 cup mayonnaise.

Fig, Thyme, and Gorgonzola Tarts (top row, right)
Prebake 36 mini pastry shells according to package directions; set aside. Set oven temperature to 350 degrees. Divide 1 cup roughly chopped dried figs and 1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola among pastry shells, then sprinkle 2 tablespoons thyme leaves over the cheese and figs. Bake for 5 minutes; serve warm. DuFour 1 1/2-inch pastry shells (dufourpastrykitchens.com for stores)

Shrimp with Spicy Cocktail Sauce (middle row)
Boil, peel, and devein 1 pound of fresh medium shrimp. (Or thaw frozen cooked shrimp according to package directions.) For cocktail sauce: Stir together 1 cup ketchup; juice and zest of 1 lemon; 2 tablespoons horseradish, drained; 1 finely chopped whole jalapeno; 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce; and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Mix well. (Sauce can be refrigerated, covered, up to three days.)

Cantaloupe Slivers (bottom row, left)
Cut one ripe cantaloupe in half; scoop out seeds. Remove rind, and cut flesh into bite-size shards. Sprinkle with cracked pepper and fresh-squeezed lime juice. Spear each shard with a toothpick. Serve with lime wedges on the side.

Warm Olives (bottom row, right)
Place 2 cups of assorted drained olives (such as Kalamata and Cerignola) in a small saucepan; add water to cover. Bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat, drain olives, and return them to pan. Add 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil; 3 fresh bay leaves (or 2 dried bay leaves); 1 teaspoon fennel seeds; 1/2 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced; and 3 orange peels (2 inches long). Place over medium heat, and simmer for 12 minutes. Spoon into a dish and serve.

Comments (1)

  • SheTwee 31 Dec, 2010

    For the prosecco with ginger I made my own ginger juice (grate 2 cups of ginger and press through sieve to extract juices) and bought crystallized ginger from the bulk section at the grocers. It was overwhelmingly ginger, and the raw ginger juice burns the mouth and throat. So I only put in about a 1/2 tablespoon of the mixture and it was still very gingery but not so overwhelming.