Magazine article Sunset

Easy, Expandable Buffet

Magazine article Sunset

Easy, Expandable Buffet

Article excerpt

Quick start with buy-and-serve foods

THIS HOME-FOR-THE-holidays buffet menu for 10 to 12, shown on pages 80 and 81, comes together quickly and expands easily if the guest list grows. The buffet is also geared to look fresh over a period of several hours, so guests can arrive at staggered times and dine comfortably at their own pace.

All of the recipes have make-ahead steps or start with ready-to-serve ingredients that go together rapidly.

Buy-and-serve appetizers. Plan on 4 or 5 appetizer portions per person.

The key offering is sliced smoked salmon; for buffet serving, a 1-ounce portion is adequate, but a whole fillet looks festive, and extras can be used later. With the salmon, offer sour cream, capers, lemon wedges, and chopped chives or green onions.

Also use purchased frozen bite-size appetizers such as tiny tacos, individual spanakopitas, dim sum, or miniature quiches; follow package instructions to thaw or heat. You can keep several extra packages of these foods in your freezer, just in case the guest list gets bigger.

Garden vegetables. To serve 10 to 12, you need at least 2 pounds of fresh vegetables such as small carrots with tops, baby squash, edible-pod peas, cucumbers, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes; rinse well. Leave small vegetables whole; cut larger vegetables into chunks. If making ahead, wrap in towels, enclose in plastic bags, and chill up to 48 hours.

Arrange vegetables attractively, perhaps with a just-harvested look from a basket. Nibble plain, season with salt, or dunk into the curry yogurt dip (recipe follows).

Sugar-crusted baked ham. For 10 to 12, buy at least a 5-pound portion (or half) of a cooked, seasoned, sliced-on-the-bone ham. Serve cold ham and breads (following) with a pot of mustard or mustards of your choice. You can also offer chutney, prepared horse-radish, or other relishes.

Basket of assorted breads. Buy at least 10 crusty rolls or 30 breadsticks, as well as 2 whole-grain loaves (1 lb. each) to slice.

Marinated vegetable salad. For 10 to 12, drain 24 ounces (1 or more jars to equal this weight) roasted red peppers. Slice peppers and put on a platter. With a slotted spoon, lay 14 ounces (1 or more jars to equal this weight) marinated artichoke hearts on peppers; moisten salad with about 1/2 cup of the artichoke marinade, or to taste.

Curry Yogurt Dip

2 cups unflavored nonfat yogurt 2 teaspoons curry powder 2 teaspoons cumin seed 1 teaspoon pepper Salt

Mix yogurt, curry, cumin, pepper, and salt to taste. Pour into a small bowl and serve, or cover and chill up to 1 week. Makes 2 cups, 10 to 12 servings.

Per tablespoon: 9 cal. (10 percent from fat); 0.8 g protein; 0.1 g fat (0 g sat.); 1.2 g carbo.; 11 mg sodium; 0.3 mg chol.

Bulgur Salad

4 cups (about 1 1/2 lb.) bulgur (cracked wheat) 5 cups boiling water 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar (or 3/4 cup red wine vinegar plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar) 1 tablespoon grated orange peel 1 1/4 cups orange juice 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 teaspoon crushed dried hot red chilies Salt Romaine lettuce spears, rinsed and crisped Thin orange slices

In a large bowl, combine bulgur and boiling water. Let stand until most of the liquid is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain.

Mix vinegar, orange peel, orange juice, oil, and chilies; mix with bulgur. Season mixture to taste with salt. …

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