Summer really is the perfect time to throw a party, isn’t it? The weather welcomes outdoor events, quick preparation, colorful foods to adorn backyard tabletops, and people are just generally. . . . happier (okay, so I’m talking about me. In summer, I am generally happier).
For instance, I’ve already mentioned the huge annual end-of-term bashes thrown by my friend Irish Eyes (and the bean salad alternative that came out of that memory). Last month, we visited Montreal for my dad’s 92nd (!!) birthday. I swear, the guy is in better physical condition that I am. He still goes dancing every Sunday and regales the audience with song and stories. I can only pray that I inherited some of those genes.*
“Mum, we’re happier in summer, too! When else do we get to go swimming every day, and fly through the air chasing Frisbees?”
One of the most ambitious summer parties I ever hosted took place at the tail end of the Decade of the Dinner party, just after I’d met the HH. It was two days before we moved house, and the place was already half emptied. Despite it diminutive size (we dubbed it “the IKEA house,” since everything was only 3/4 as big as it would be in a regular bungalow), the back yard was positively palatial, 116 feet (35. 5 meters) long and lined with mature rose bushes, ash trees, and the occasional jalapeno plant.
After three years of putting up with the ornery neighbor, an octogenarian who refused the banana bread I’d brought as a gift when we moved in (“I’m diabetic, I can’t eat that poison!” she snapped when I presented it at her door), we decided we’d go out with a bang and damn the old harridan in the end. (We figured she was half deaf and wouldn’t hear the music anyway).
We invited pretty much everyone we knew, bought bags of potato chips and cases of pop (“soda” to those of you in the US), threaded the wires for the stereo through the porch windows and into the yard, set out noma lights, candles, mosquito coils and ashtrays throughout the yard, and waited. (Yes, ashtrays. Back in those days, everyone I knew smoked cigarettes! In fact, the HH and I were just reminiscing the other day about this party and how we set out boxes of cigarettes for our guests in case they had forgotten their own!! My, how times–and I–have changed. . . ).
I must say, though I probably spent less time preparing food for that party than for any of the parties I’d ever thrown–or even attended–up to that point, it turned out to be outstanding, and remains a gleaming memory from those early days. People from various compartments in our lives met up and mingled harmoniously, music infiltrated the yard and floated through the treetops, everyone danced and laughed and told their finest “first impression” anecdotes, and some of my best friends lingered until the first orange and purple streaks of sun began to shimmer across the skyline.
Apart from providing all that activity with friends, the party also taught me something very important: that preparation need not be onerous to guarantee a successful soirée (oh, and also, “make sure you finish packing before you throw a farewell bash two days before moving house.“).
From that point on, I’ve sought out party fare that is either very quick and easy to prepare or can be prepared days in advance. I still enjoy entertaining, but these days attempt to ensure at least a couple hours respite between the final food prep and the first guest ringing the doorbell.
These coconut-crusted tofu bites fit both my major requirements for ideal finger food: they are fairly quick to make and can be put together long in advance, so your time on party day is left open. As soon as the guests arrive, pull them out of the fridge and either re-heat while you shake (or, if you prefer, stir) those cocktails; alternately, serve them as-is at room temperature. They’re just as good either way. And be sure to enjoy time with your guests. After all, it’s summer!
*Not the singing genes–we already know I didn’t get those. When I used to croon along with the radio at home, The Nurse regularly asked me to lip synch instead. Yep, that bad.
Coconut Crusted Tofu & Pineapple Bites with Creamy Green Curry Sauce
An easy, visually impressive appetizer that’s sure to please all your guests. These aer just as appealing when served on a platter, with a small bowl of dipping sauce on the side, if you prefer an even less fussy preparation.
For the sauce:
1/4 cup (60 ml) full fat canned coconut milk
1/4-1/2 tsp (1-2.5 ml) green curry paste (I like Thai Kitchen)
4 tsp (20 ml) pineapple juice
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) finely grated lime zest
10 drops plain liquid stevia
1 tsp (5 ml) arrowroot powder
For the tofu:
2 tsp (10 ml) Dijon mustard
1/4 cup (60 ml) full fat canned coconut milk
2 Tbsp (30 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
10-15 drops plain liquid stevia, to your taste
Pinch fine sea salt
1 block (about 1 lb/500 g) firm or extra firm tofu
1 cup (65 g) finely shredded unsweetened coconut
18-24 small chunks of fresh pineapple
Cilantro leaves, to garnish (optional)
Make the sauce: In a small saucepan, whisk together all ingredients except arrowroot until smooth. Cook over medium-low heat until the mixture begins to bubble. Remove about 2 Tbsp (30 ml) of the liquid to a small bowl and mix with the arrowroot until smooth, then pour back into the pot and continue to cook and stir until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. (May be made up to a day ahead and refrigerated until ready to use).
Make the tofu: Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Line two cookie sheets with parchment or spray with non-stick spray.
In a shallow bowl, whisk together the mustard, coconut milk, lime juice, stevia and salt. Set aside.
Cut the block of tofu into cubes about 1 inch (2.5 cm) big. Coat the cubes in the coconut-mustard mixture (you can do this individually, or place about half the cubes in the bowl and gently mix with a rubber spatula until they are all coated; repeat with second half of the tofu).
Place the shredded coconut on a plate and gently roll each tofu cube in it to coat on all sides. Place the cubes on the cookie sheets and bake until they are well browned on top, 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. (May be baked up to a day ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to serve).
To serve, place one cube of tofu and one chunk of pineapple on a soup spoon or other small serving plate, or serve on individual skewers (or pierce with toothpicks). Spoon a small amount of the sauce over all and garnish with a cilantro leaf if desired. Serve. Makes 18-24 appetizers.
Suitable for: ACD Stage 3 and beyond, sugar-free, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, egg free, nut free, vegan, low glycemic.
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