Planning a Labor Day party? Try Chef Jim’s appetizer menu shortcuts, & cooking timeline.
As a personal chef I also provide in-home catering for some of my clients. Here’s a menu that I created for a client’s summer party. The number of items may sound daunting but you can easily recreate this or any similar menu with good planning. My favorite sous-chef (my wife) and I were able to knock the prep out in 2 ½ days with minimal cooking on the day of the party.
The menu has a good variety of meat, seafood and chicken dishes as well as tasty vegetable items that guests will appreciate. The filo pastry cups are very handy for lots of applications (such mini meat pastry puff pies); your imagination is the limit. I’ve chosen just two pretty simple filo dishes here to keep the work at a minimum.
You can also save time and preserve your sanity by combining good-quality, prepared products with a few homemade specialties and enlist a family member or good friend; the ones who enjoy cooking are always the best help. After all the two biggest secrets to a successful party are fun food and a stress-free host.
Have a safe Labor Day Weekend!
Eat Well… Be Well!
*Recipes with asterisks are included in the upcoming MasterCook e-book, Summer Entertaining with Chef Jim.
Crudités with Roasted Garlic Spinach Dip*
Crudités with Spicy Cucumber Yogurt Dip
Garlic Toasted Pita Chips with Avocado Hummus
Smoky Garlic Roasted Shrimp Cocktail with Cocktail Sauce*
Assorted Sushi Platters
Mini Filo Pastry Cups with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Gorgonzola & Balsamic Glaze
Roasted Asparagus wrapped with Prosciutto & Balsamic Glaze
Mini Filo Pastry Cups with Eggplant Caponata & Shaved Parmesan
Wonton Cups and Chicken Salad with Grapes & Walnuts
Marinated Steak Skewers
Chicken Satay Skewers with Spicy Peanut Sauce
Assorted Mini Desserts: Chocolate Covered Strawberries, Mini Cheesecakes and assorted Cookie Platters
Select crudités from your grocer’s prepared salad bar or containers of pre-cut veggies.
Use peeled & deveined frozen raw shrimp, rather than cleaning it yourself
Order pick up for the sushi & mini desserts
Purchase frozen mini filo cups for two of the dishes
Use your favorite jarred caponata
Purchase crumbled gorgonzola and shredded parmesan cheeses
Use a store cooked rotisserie chicken for the chicken salad
Use bottled marinade for steak skewers; spicy peanut sauce for chicken satay; cocktail sauce for shrimp.
Two days before party: bake pita chips and Wonton cups; marinate steak
One day before party: prep spinach dip and cucumber yogurt; marinate chicken strips; roast shrimp, cherry tomatoes and asparagus.
Morning of party: make avocado hummus; make chicken salad; soak skewers.
Two hours before party: have a helpful friend pick up sushi and desserts; thread steak & chicken skewers.
One hour before Party: on a sheet pan set up filo cups fill ½ with cherry tomatoes & Gorgonzola and ½ with caponata and Parmesan. Preheat oven 350º; wrap asparagus with prosciutto set on platter drizzle with balsamic glaze. Prep platters for crudités & dips; avocado hummus & chips; shrimp & cocktail sauce; fill Wonton cups with chicken salad and plate.
Party time: preheat grill; bake off filo cups and platter (drizzle roasted cherry tomatoes with balsamic glaze). Set all prepped platters on tables.
One hour into party: grill steak & chicken skewers serve immediately.
Three hours into party: offer coffee & dessert.
End of party: bask in the glory of the compliments!
Chef Jim’s Avocado Hummus
Serve on a radicchio leaf and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and enjoy with garlic toasted pita chips.
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Yield: 20 servings
– 2 ripe avocados — split, seeded, peeled, roughly chopped
– 1/4 cups tahini
– 2 cloves garlic — minced
– 3 dashes Tabasco sauce
– 2 teaspoons ground cumin
– 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
– 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
– 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
– 1/8 cup fresh flat leaf parsley — chopped
Place all ingredients into food processor and blend until smooth. Store refrigerated with the avocado pit buried and plastic wrap covering the top to slow browning process until ready to serve. Best if made 1-2 hours prior to serving.
- 2 ripe avocados — split, seeded, peeled, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 2 cloves garlic — minced
- 3 dashes Tabasco sauce
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 cup fresh flat leaf parsley — chopped
- Place all ingredients into food processor and blend until smooth.
- Store refrigerated with the avocado pit buried and plastic wrap covering the top to slow browning process until ready to serve.
- Best if made 1-2 hours prior to serving.
- To serve: scoop onto a radicchio leaf and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
About the Chef
Chef Jim Huff is the brain behind the Traveling Culinary Artist, a NYC based personal chef service which has been known to cause the welcome side effects of improved healthy eating habits, more quality ‘family time’, and fast food withdrawal syndrome in some people. The mission of the Traveling Culinary Artist is to provide services that will support and benefit individuals and families by creating tasty mealtime solutions for today’s busy households with all the savory flavors of home. Chef Huff is also a longtime MasterCook user and collects table pieces for entertaining at home. To find out more about Chef Jim, visit his website: Traveling Culinary Artist.