Mediterranean Inspired Cocktail Party

Since most New Year’s Eves are cold and icky I thought it would be a nice change of pace to feature the sunny, happy flavors of the Mediterranean (though with the recent warm weather everywhere it might be even more fitting!).  This is an easy to throw together cocktail party to help wile away the time before the clock strikes midnight.  Even better, all of the dishes go really well with bubbly so you can serve it all night or save it till the end and pair these with some nice Spanish or Greek wines if you can find them.  This would be good for a party for 4 to 6 people but all of the dishes are really easy to scale up if you invite over more friends.  And while I think this would be a great way to ring in the New Year, this menu is practically seasonless – you can find all the ingredients year round so it’s a good back pocket party for when the mood strikes.  I will feature a great cocktail on Wednesday to go with these dishes so don’t miss it!

Charred Shallots with Labneh and Pita

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If you have never had labneh I strongly encourage you to track it down (or you can make it yourself using a recipe like this).  It is basically greek yogurt that has been strained so it’s even thicker than the original.  A good Middle Eastern store will always have it but it has also been showing up at Whole Foods and other higher end stores.  In a pinch just use regular greek yogurt as the base and it will still be great.  I broiled the shallots instead of grilling them so they are a bit darker in color but even better I think.

Feta Stuffed Dates

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No recipe for this one – essentially just get some medjool dates, take the pit out and replace it with a chunk of feta.  Doesn’t get much easier than that right?  I had some extra prosciutto laying around so I wrapped half of them for my meat loving friends.  I used to always fill my dates with goat cheese (also delicious) but my dad turned me on to using feta and I haven’t looked back.  The salty tang really cuts through the sweetness of the dates.

Garbano Bean and Olive Tapenade 

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I make this dip a lot – it’s a great one by Giada and perfect for folks who think they don’t like olive tapenade.  The addition of the garbanzos adds volume without adding a ton of flavor so the olives aren’t as overwhelming with other tapenades.  The fresh parsley and lemon zest make it light and fresh tasting.  I served it with endive leaves so there were at least some veggies on the table, but pita or pita chips would also be great.  This also gets better after a day so make it in advance and just let it come up to room temperature before serving.

Lamb and Pistacio Meatballs

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YUM.  These little meatballs pack a lot of flavor as they are made with ground lamb and great spices like coriander and cumin.  You cook down pomegranate juice to make a glaze which ensures that these little meatballs stay moist even as they cool.  I made two batches so I could refresh them over the evening, they really only take a couple minutes to cook since they are so small.

Since you will probably have left over pistachios from the meatballs set those out and some olives so other snacks, load up the drink bucket with wine and bubbly and voila – a perfect cocktail party for New Year’s Eve or the other 364 days of the year!  

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