The Hip Hostess

Menus, tips and ideas for hosting with style!

Tuna Stuffed Peppadew Peppers August 1, 2012

gluten-free party appetizer tuna stuffed peppers

I must admit that I first heard of peppadews a few weeks ago when a friend offered me one after her visit to a local olive bar.  Peppadews are tiny little peppers that are mildly spicy and slightly sweet, with a complex flavor.  They are seeded and pickled and typically found in a jar near olives or on an olive bar.

As you may know, I love all things mini and am always looking for new bite-size appetizers to serve at my next soiree.  Stuffing them with a creamy cheese or tuna salad makes for a lovely appetizer.  This tuna stuffing recipe is inspired by Andrew Carmellini’s recipe in Urban Italian, and is packed with protein, flavor and tang.

The tuna can be made up to 2 days in advance, but the peppers should only be stuffed up to 2 hours in advance.  Stuffing 30 peppers takes about 10-15 minutes so it can be done right before serving.

I made these little tuna stuffed peppers for a picnic in the park, but they would also be perfect for any cocktail party – especially a retro-themed party, complete with deviled eggs, a port wine cheese ball and pigs in a blanket.

Tuna Stuffed Peppadew Peppers

10 oz. can tuna (in oil)

3 scallions, divided

1 Tbs. mayonnaise

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 Tbs. picking juice from peppadew peppers

Juice of 1 lemon

6 basil leaves, chopped

1 jar peppadew peppers (about 30)

salt and pepper to taste

Drain oil from tuna.  Combine tuna and 2 minced scallions in bowl (reserve additional scallion for garnish).  Add mayo and olive oil and mix until well combined.  Add peppadew juice, lemon juice and basil and mix well.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Using your fingers, stuff each pepper with tuna mixture.  Place stuffed peppers on serving platter and sprinkle with reserved chopped scallion.  Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 2 hours.


Mediterranean Baked Olives October 26, 2011

marinated olives recipe

Imagine the best olive mix you’ve ever bought.  The marinated olives you can make at home are infinitely better.  Combine a few simple ingredients that you probably already have in your house (garlic, wine, bay leaf, oregano, etc.), bake them with your favorite mix of olives, and serve them with crusty bread for a simple tapas-style appetizer.  The smell of these olives cooking will elicit moans from anyone in the vicinity of your kitchen.

Mediterranean Baked Olives

1 cup Kalamata olives

1 cup green olives, such as Picholine

1 bay leaf

3 cloves garlic, 1 sliced and 2 minced

1 tsp. oregano

1 Tbs. parsley

1 ½ Tbs. olive oil

½ cup dry white wine

1 ½ Tbs. olive oil

1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1.            Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Combine olives, bay leaf, sliced garlic and wine in baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Bake in single layer, covered, for 45 minutes or until olives are fragrant and swollen.

2.            Meanwhile, combine minced garlic, parsley, oregano and olive oil in mortar and pestel until it resembles a thick paste.   When olives are done baking, pierce each olive with a knife or fork, and add parsley mixture, along with olive oil and crushed red pepper, tossing to combine.  Serve immediately or cool and store at room temperature for up to a week.

Serves 6-8


Basil & Garlic Rubbed Grilled Chicken June 30, 2011

I thought I’d post one of my favorite grilled chicken recipes for all those grilling over the holiday weekend.  Basil & garlic rubbed grilled chicken doesn’t sound particularly exciting, but this herb smothered chicken is really delicious.  This recipe is ideal for a last-minute dinner because the chicken absorbs the intense flavor of the basil without any significant marinating time.  I like to slice the chicken and serve it over salad with a simple balsamic vinaigrette.

To save time, ask the butcher at your grocery store to pound the chicken into cutlets for you, which cuts down on the cooking time.

Basil & Garlic Rubbed Grilled Chicken

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. kosher salt

½ C. fresh basil, chopped

½ tsp. fresh-ground black pepper

½ Tbs. olive oil (plus additional for grilling)

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, pounded to ½” thickness

1.            Place garlic in mortar and mash with salt to form a paste.  Add basil and black pepper and continue mashing until well combined.  Add in just enough olive oil (about ½ Tbs.) to form a paste.  Combine basil paste with chicken in a ziplock bag and turn the bag several times to coat the chicken with the basil.  Set aside for 5 minutes while you prepare the grill (or grill pan).

2.            Heat the grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.  Rub grill or pan with olive oil.  Grill chicken, turning once, until cooked through (about 3-5 minutes per side).


Mediterranean Quinoa Salad June 9, 2011

Today I am sharing one of my very favorite recipes with you.  As you probably already know, I love myself some quinoa.  It’s high in protein, filled with fiber, quick-cooking, gluten-free and super tasty.  This recipe combines so many flavorful ingredients with the quinoa and is absolutely delicious.  It’s the perfect picnic dish (I brought it to a BBQ in the park last weekend and it was devoured), as it tastes great with any grilled meat.  It would be a great addition to a shower brunch/ lunch buffet, or for any summer menu.  I like to make double and bring leftovers for lunch in the summer.  On a hot day, it’s filling enough on it’s own for a light dinner when served with a mesclun salad.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

2 cups uncooked quinoa

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

1 lemon, zested and juiced (about 1 tsp. zest & 2 Tbs. juice)

½ Tbs. parsley, chopped

1 Tbs. shallots, minced

1 tsp. sherry vinegar

½ tsp. salt (or more to taste)

1 cup (about 10oz) grape tomatoes, halved

½ English cucumber (seedless), chopped

¾ cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped

12oz roasted red peppers, chopped (strained of liquid)

¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

Fresh-ground pepper, to taste

1.            Rinse quinoa under cold water until water runs clear (don’t skip this step – quinoa has a bitter outer layer that you need to rinse off).  Place quinoa and broth in medium saucepan and bring to boil.  Once boiling, cover and reduce heat.  Simmer 15 minutes, or until liquid absorbs into quinoa.  Fluff quinoa with a fork.  Transfer to a medium bowl and cool to room temperature.

2.            Combine olive oil through salt in a large bowl and whisk until well combined.  Add in quinoa, tomatoes, cucumber, olives and peppers; toss to combine.  Add in feta, if using.  Can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container.


Ouzo Lamb Meatballs (Kaftedes) September 3, 2010

The best lamb burger I ever had was prepared  by a Greek man at a farmer’s market in Kinsale, Ireland.  The secret ingredient, he told me, was the addition of ouzo – a Greek anise-flavored spirit (similar to Italy’s Sambuca).  So I decided to make lamb meatballs using ouzo and they were phenomenal!  Don’t be afraid of the anise flavor – it isn’t licoricey.  Ouzo gives depth of flavor and keeps the meatballs deliciously moist.  No dipping sauce is needed for these flavorful lamb meatballs.

To make-ahead for a party, prepare the meatballs up to 2 days in advance and undercook them.  Reheat in the microwave for about 2 minutes, adding an additional minute at a time if needed.

Ouzo Lamb Meatballs

1 lb. ground lamb

3 Tbs. ouzo

½ yellow onion, chopped

3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

1 medium garlic clove, minced

3 Tbs. fresh mint, finely chopped

1 ½ Tbs. fresh parsley, finely chopped

2 Tbs. capers (rinsed), finely chopped

1 large egg + 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten

½ tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. kosher salt

Fresh ground pepper

1 lemon, zested

1.            Place meat in medium bowl, add ouzo and let sit.  Sautee onions in 1 Tbs. olive oil until soft and caramelized, about 5 minutes.  Add onion to meat mixture.

2.            Add remaining ingredients to meat mixture and knead until well combined and smooth.  Using moistened hands or a small spring-loaded scoop, form meat mixture into 1” meatballs and place on a baking sheet.

3.            Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in large skillet, cooking meatballs in batches until browned on all sides (size of batch depends of size of your skillet – keep the skillet hot by leaving plenty of room for each meatball).  Keep cooked meatballs warm on a baking sheet in a pre-heated 200-degree oven.  Sprinkle meatballs with lemon zest before serving.


Simple Summer Appetizer – Cantaloupe Caprese Salad or Skewers July 27, 2010

Since the heat wave moved in I haven’t been able to turn on my oven.  As a result, I have gotten creative with my no-cook recipes.  A caprese salad is one of my favorites this time of year, when the tomatoes and basil are at their best.  But instead of tomatoes, I substitute cantaloupe and made a delicious hip twist on this Italian classic.  Serve this combo as a salad or on mini skewers for a party (or kids).  This is a savory recipe – think of it like a vegetarian version of cantaloupe and prosciutto, another delicious sweet-salty combo. 

Seed and cut one ripe cantaloupe into chunks or round balls (with a mellon baller).  Use one container of Bocconcini (mini Mozzarella balls) and a small bunch of fresh basil.  Layer cantaloupe, Bocconcini and basil on skewers and repeat until the skewers are full, leaving an inch or so at the end.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Instead of skewers, make a salad using the same ingredients and tossing until combined.  Serve with a nice glass of white wine or prosecco and enjoy!


Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus Bundles May 18, 2010

This recipe is the perfect example of how a single seasonal ingredient like asparagus can be transformed into a spectacular appetizer when paired with a few other choice ingredients.  Blanched asparagus and creamy herbed cheese are enveloped by paper-thin slices of prosciutto.  Although tying the chives is a bit time-consuming, the wow factor makes it worthwhile.  If you are pressed for time you can skip the chives all together, but they do add a fresh flavor component to these delicious bundles. 

Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus Bundles

1 lb. Asparagus, trimmed and peeled from tip down

1 package spreadable herb cheese, such as Alouette*

12 slices Prosciutto di Parma, sliced paper-thin

1 bunch chives (choose the longest available)

1.  Prepare water bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water, set aside.  Blanche asparagus by dropping into boiling water for 1 minute or until bright green.  Strain asparagus and rinse with cold water.  Immediately plunge blanched asparagus into ice bath.  Once cooled, strain asparagus, dry with paper towel and refrigerate until ready to use (can be done 1 day ahead).

2.  Cut prosciutto slices in half to make 24 short pieces.  Place ½ tsp. herb cheese at one end of the prosciutto halve and top with asparagus.  Carefully roll prosciutto around asparagus.  Tie asparagus bundle with 1 chive.

* Herb goat cheese or cream cheese are good substitutes. 


Sundried Tomato & Pesto Torta January 16, 2010

Rather than a making a dip, give this torta a try.  Similar to a savory cheesecake, the bright flavor of pesto and sundried tomoatoes are layered with creamy deliciousness.  This hearty spread will serve a large group and is a true crowd-pleaser.

It’s a bit time consuming to prepare and requires a fair amount of patience, but the end result is well worth it.  The torta can be prepared up to three days in advance and kept refrigerated.  It also freezes well and can be frozen for up to one month and defrosted in the refrigerator for 1 day before serving.  Be sure to make neat layers so each color is separate once inverted.

This recipe is adapted from a recipe originally found in Bon Appetit (August 1999).

Sundried Tomato & Pesto Torta

4 garlic cloves

1 1/2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup pine nuts

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 2/3 cups cream cheese, room temperature (about 21 ounces)

1 cup goat cheese, softened

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/3 cups oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained

1/3 cup tomato paste

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

Fresh basil sprigs

Toasted pine nuts

Sourdough baguette slices, lightly toasted

To make pesto:  With the motor running, put garlic cloves through the feeding shoot of a food processor until garlic is minced.  Add basil, ¼ cup pine nuts, olive oil and lemon juice and process until well combined.  Add ¼ cup parmesan cheese and 1/3 cup cream cheese and pulse with basil mixture until mostly smooth and blended.  Transfer to a medium bowl.

To make sun-dried tomato pesto:  Puree tomatoes in food processor until smooth.  Add tomato paste and mix into tomato mixture.  Add 1/3 cup cream cheese and pulse with tomato until mostly smooth and blended.

To make goat cheese mixture:  Using electric mixer, beat 1 cups cream cheese, 1 cup goat cheese and softened butter in large bowl until fluffy.  Season with salt and pepper.

Spray 6-cup soufflé dish with nonstick spray.  Line with plastic wrap, extending plastic over sides.  Spread 3/4 cup goat cheese mixture into an even layer on the bottom of prepared dish.  Freeze for a few minutes to harden and help evenly spread next layer.  Top with half of tomato pesto, then 1/2 cup goat cheese mixture, then half of pesto mixture, using the back of a spoon to spread each layer and freezing for 2 minutes between each layer.  Repeat layering and freezing with 1/2 cup goat cheese mixture, remaining tomato pesto, 1/2 cup goat cheese mixture and remaining pesto.  Top with remaining goat cheese mixture.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.  (Can be made 3 days ahead and kept refrigerated, or frozen for up to 1 month and defrosted 1 day in advance.)

Invert torta onto platter by gently pulling edges of plastic wrap to lift torta out of prepared dish.  Peel off plastic and smooth any wrinkles with the edge of a knife run under hot water.  Top with sprigs of fresh basil and toasted pine nuts.  Serve with sourdough baguette slices.


Tapas Menu September 26, 2009


Tapas is one of my favorite theme menus to serve when hosting a cocktail party.  Compliment delicious small bites with a big batch of sangria.  Several items on a tapas menu – such as olives, nuts, cheese, bread and cured meat – don’t require any cooking.   Here’s a menu to get your tapas party started.

Tapas Menu

Marcona Almonds
Gazpacho “Shots” (served in tall shot glasses)
Spanish Cured Olives or any mixed olives
Spanish Tortilla Bites
(link to recipe below)
Patatas Bravas (fried spicy potatoes)
Gambas Al Ajillo (shrimp in garlic sauce)
Spanish Green Bean Salad with Pimientos
Garbanzo Bean Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette
Spanish Cheese Platter: include Manchego (sheep’s milk cheese), Calabraza (Spanish blue cheese), Iberico (cow, sheep and goat’s milk cheese), Tetilla (soft cow’s milk cheese), Membrillo (quince paste – link to post about Membrillo below) and paper thin slices of Serrano Ham wrapped around store-bought breadsticks
Country-style Bread or Sourdough, sliced thin

Mini Delce de Leche Brownies (link to recipe below)
Caramel Flan

Sangria (link to recipe below)
Spanish red wine, such as Rioja, Garnacha or Tempranillo
Cava (Spanish sparkling white wine, similar to Champagne)
Spanish Cervesa (Beer), such as Mahou, Voll Damm and Mahou Negra

Spanish Tortilla Recipe


Dulce de Leche Brownie Recipe

Sangria Recipe


Fig & Goat Cheese Crostini September 12, 2009

fig preserves

Fig jam has somehow managed to fly under the radar on grocery store shelves.  It’s available in most stores among the many common varieties, though likely placed above or below the more popular fruit flavors like strawberry and grape.  This is a spread that is not to be missed.  It’s a delicious fruit jam that has a sweet and complex flavor (think moderately sweet raisin with peach with vanilla). 


Fig jam pairs nicely with both sweet and savory foods, and is especially tasty with any type of creamy or salty cheese.  Use it on a roasted turkey and brie cheese sandwhich, pour it over cream cheese and serve with whole wheat crackers, or use it as a topping for a cheesecake.


Crostini provides a perfect vehicle for transporting fig jam and tangy goat cheese into one delectable bite.  Serve the crostini as an appetizer for a casual dinner or a cocktail party, as the fig jam makes it both rustic and sophisticated all at once.



1 loaf baguette (white or whole wheat), sliced into ½ inch rounds

6oz goat cheese, softened

6oz jar of fig jam (or homemade)

extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled


1.       Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Slice baguette into rounds; place rounds in single layer on baking sheet.  Drizzle or brush with olive oil.  Baked on rack in middle of oven until golden brown and slightly crisp (about 8 minutes).  Remove from oven and rub garlic clove on oiled side each round.  Cool to room temperature.  This step can be done up to a week in advance; store in n air-tight container.


2.       Spread a thin layer of goat cheese on each piece of crostini using a small butter knife.  Put a dallop of fig jam on top of goat cheese.  Garnish platter with fresh figs sliced in half.  Serve at room temperature.


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