I’m having the bookclub over…

Having some friends over, here’s a whole host of ideas for party food:

Cindy Lebeau Says:

Hi Rachael,

I’m having the Book Club over to discuss To Kill a Mockingbird. But, first we’ll watch the movie. So, I’m wanting an appetizer or something that will work in the movie room while everyone is seated.

Any ideas?


Here are a few ideas: Put out 4 to 5 different kinds of dip and dippers OR make a variety of different kinds of French bread pizzas and stuffed breads OR do a couple of different kinds of Paninis.  Here are some recipes you can use that I enjoy serving my friends:

Roasted Veggie Dip

1 bulb fennel, cored and chopped

1 small onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, smashed

1/2 small eggplant, peeled and chopped

1 small zucchini, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise then cut into thick half moons

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

20 basil leaves, roughly chopped

1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves (a handful), chopped

Preheat oven 400°F.

Place veggies on a cookie sheet, drizzle with EVOO and balsamic vinegar, and season liberally with the salt and pepper.  Toss to coat thoroughly and transfer to the oven to roast for 30-40 minute until brown and tender.  Cool and transfer to a food processor with the basil and parsley. Pulse to chop and combine. Transfer to a bowl and stir, season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with baked pita chips, celery stick and carrot sticks for a healthy snack.

Next time you make a turkey sandwich, slap some of this veggie dip on the bread rather than mayo for a lighter and more flavorful lunch.

White Bean Dip

1 14-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 clove garlic

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)

4 sprigs fresh mint leaves

6 sprigs fresh thyme leaves, stripped from stem

Coarse salt and black pepper

3 tablespoons chives, chopped

Pulse all ingredients except chives in food processor until a smooth paste forms and transfer to a bowl. Garnish with chives sprinkled on top.

Creamy Cremini Dip

½ cup sliced almonds

3 tablespoons butter

1 pound cremini (baby portabella) mushrooms caps, diced

3 tablespoons flour

1 splash good quality dry sherry

1 cup half and half

Salt and pepper, to taste

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 palmful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 package square party rye bread

Toast the almonds in a small skillet until lightly browned. Remove and reserve. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the butter melt it then add mushrooms and sauté until tender. Add flour to the mushrooms and cook for a minute or two, add the sherry and then stir in the half and half cook until thickened. Season the dip with the salt and pepper.  Remove from heat, stir in the almonds, nutmeg, and parsley, and pour into a serving bowl and serve immediately with the rye.

About 15 servings

Deviled Ham Dip

1/2 pound deli ham, chopped

1/2 small white onion, cut in large pieces

2 teaspoons paprika

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon hot sauce, plus additional if desired

2 tablespoons yellow mustard

1 8-ounce package cream cheese at room temperature

1 cup extra-sharp yellow cheddar cheese, shredded

A handful of flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup small pimento olives, sliced into thin rounds

1 box Ritz crackers or any other kind you like

In a food processor, combine all the ingredients except the olives and crackers, and pulse until it forms a paste-like dip. Remove to a serving dish and top with the olives. Serve crackers around for dipping and enjoy!
Roasted Garlic Ricotta Dip

1 head garlic, roasted

2 cups ricotta cheese

1/2 cup Asiago cheese, shredded

8-10 leaves basil, cut into thin strips

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), plus some for drizzling

Heat oven to 375°F.

Cut the garlic head a thirds of the way down from the top to expose the cloves. Drizzle the open end of the garlic with some EVOO and wrap in aluminum foil and place in oven for 45-60 minutes. Once the garlic is roasted, remove from the oven to cool. When it’s cool enough to handle, you can either squeeze the garlic out of remove each individual clove.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mash the garlic cloves until a paste is formed. Add in the remaining ingredients and mix together until combined. Serve with some cheesy bread, homemade or store-bought, and dip away!

You can also spread on the dip on focaccia and pop it in the oven until the cheese melts. Yum-O!

Eggplant Caviar

1 medium, firm eggplant

1 clove garlic, cracked away from the skin

Coarse salt and black pepper

1 handful flat-leaf parsley tops

3 sprigs of mint removed from stem

2 sprigs of oregano removed from stem

A drizzle extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Flat bread and pita bread, cut into pieces for dipping

Preheat oven to highest setting, at least 500°F.

Cut 2 or 3 slits into whole eggplant. Place eggplant directly on the oven rack in the middle of the oven and roast the eggplant until it is tender, about 20 minutes. Keep the slits facing up so that the eggplant does not loose liquids as it roasts. The roasted eggplant should look like a flat tire when you remove it from the oven.

Using a sharp utility knife, carefully peel the skin away from eggplant flesh. Add cooked eggplant flesh and juice to a food processor and combine with garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. Pulse the eggplant into a paste, add a drizzle of olive oil. Transfer to a serving dish — the seeds of the eggplant will make the spread resemble caviar eggs. To serve, surround a bowlful of spread with bread pieces.

6-8 servings
Four-Layer Mediterranean Dip

1 family-size (17-ounce) container of hummus

1 cup pickled vegetable salad, such as giardiniera

1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped

1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped

Pita chips, cucumber or celery for dipping

Place hummus in the bottom of a small to medium-size bowl and spread giardiniera over it. Top with the olives, spreading them out in an even layer, then the roasted red peppers. Place on a serving platter and surround with pita chips, cucumber or celery for dipping.

About 15-20 servings

Artichoke, Spinach Cheeses Wrap Or Dip

1 container boursin cheese, 2.5 ounces

1 lemon, juiced

1 4-ounce package cream cheese

1 15-ounce can artichokes in water, drained rough chop

1 10-ounce bag of spinach, stems removed

Salt and black pepper

2 roasted red peppers, chopped

2 bags, bagel chips

To a food processor, add all the ingredients and pulse until combined.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with bagel chips or spread in a spinach wrap, top with red peppers and take on the go!

4 servings

Really French, French Bread Pizza

2 pounds large white mushrooms

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)

3 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

1 bay leaf

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Salt and pepper

1/3 cup dry white wine (eyeball it)

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (eyeball it)

1 tablespoon, 4 sprigs, fresh thyme leaves, stripped and chopped

1 24-inch loaf of crusty French bread

3 cups shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese

Preheat the broiler.

Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp towel and slice.  Heat a deep skillet with EVOO and butter over medium heat.  When the butter melts into oil, add the bay leaf, garlic and mushrooms.  Cook until the mushrooms are dark and tender, 12-15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add in the Dijon, Worcestershire and thyme, let reduce and thicken. Turn off the heat and reserve.

Split bread lengthwise.  Hollow out some of the insides.  Toast the bread lightly under the broiler.  Fill evenly with mushrooms then top with cheese.  Put loaves back under the broiler until cheese is melted and starting to brown.  Remove from oven, cut each half into thirds and serve.

6 servings

Artichoke & Spinach Rolled Stuffed Bread

1 package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted with extra water squeezed out

2 packages frozen spinach, defrosted with extra water squeezed out

2 cups provolone cheese, shredded

1 cup Asiago cheese, grated

Zest of 1 lemon

8 springs of thyme, leaves removed

2 cloves garlic, grated

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 package pizza dough, such as Pillsbury

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

In a large bowl, combine the artichoke hearts, spinach, provolone, Asiago, lemon zest, thyme, garlic, salt and ground pepper.

Unroll the pizza dough onto on a baking sheet with the long edge facing you. Be careful not to stretch it too much.

Pour the filling into the middle of the dough, shaping it into a thick log running lengthwise down the center of the dough.  Fold one edge of the pizza dough over the filling, then fold the other half over to seal the filling inside the dough.  Turn the stuffed bread over on the sheet pan so the seam is on the bottom.  Brush with EVOO and sprinkle sesame seeds over the top.

Bake the stuffed bread until evenly golden brown, 15-18 minutes.  Cool slightly before slicing.

Serves 8 as a snack

White French Bread Pizza

1 loaf crusty French bread, split in half lengthwise

3 to 4 cloves garlic

2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese

2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/4 cup (about a handful) Italian parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Place the bread halves onto a baking sheet and toast them in the oven until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

As soon as the bread comes out of the oven, rub the garlic cloves over each piece of bread.  Sprinkle the two cheeses evenly over both halves then transfer the baking sheet back into the oven to melt the cheese, 3-4 minutes.

Serve immediately, garnished with fresh parsley.

Serves 6

Red French Bread Pizza

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), divided

1 head garlic, divided

2 pints grape tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 loaf crusty French bread, split in half lengthwise

2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese

2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

1/4 cup (about a handful) Italian parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Cut the tip off the head of garlic. Place it in the middle of a piece of foil, drizzle with EVOO and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Fold foil up around it then transfer to the oven and roast 40-45 minutes, until the cloves are tender.

After the garlic has been roasting for 20 minutes, place tomatoes onto a baking sheet and toss them in the remaining 2 tablespoons EVOO.  Season them with salt and freshly ground black pepper and roast them until they’ve softened and burst open, about 10-15 minutes.

Transfer the roasted tomatoes to a medium-size mixing bowl and let cool slightly. When the garlic has finished roasting, squeeze the softened cloves into the bowl of tomatoes and mash them together.

Once the tomatoes come out of the oven, place the French bread halves onto a baking sheet and toast them in the oven until golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Spread the tomato-roasted garlic mixture over both halves and sprinkle the cheeses evenly over both of them.  Place the bread back into the oven to melt the cheese, 3-4 minutes. Serve immediately, garnished with chopped parsley.

Serves 6

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