By Michael Harris-Arzon
If there is one thing I have learned over the years about hosting a party, it is this. Keep it simple, keep the food light and serve foods that can handle sitting out for a period of time. Most people think of a salad as that precursor to the meal that may be good, but not meal worthy. If you think outside the box and pick items that you love on their own, you can create an amazing salad that is more than satisfying. Keep it simple and choose flavors that compliment each other.
I have thrown more parties in my lifetime than you can imagine. There were times when it was once a week, at least, and there were many times when it was a last minute idea. you see, I am not the type of person that can just invite people over for a visit. I have to ffed and entertain them. Whether it is a group 6 or an entire office gathering, the goal is the same.
Keep things simple, make people happy and have them leave with a sense of wanting to be invited back.
I always have certain basic ingredients in the house. Things like bags of salad greens, canned beans, a variety of cheeses and the list goes on and on. For those times when entertaining is a last minute ordeal, I don’t even consider running to the grocery store. I simply turn to the fridge and pantry and start pulling out what ever catches my eye. I look for items that can be used to create an elegant salad bar with 10-15 choices on it. You see, the thing about salads are that almost everything goes with salads greens. It’s how you combine them that makes it a food experience that keeps people talking.
Besides the basic ingredients, I always try to incorporate something a little shocking or odd sounding to the mix. This may be shoe string potatoes, a can of mandarin oranges or maybe some dried cranberries and peanuts. The only rule of thumb I always follow is, that each component must be able to sit out in open air and not breakdown, dry out or potentially go bad. I also limit the amount of prep time by not choosing too many items that need to be cooked (yet can be eaten at room temp).
To set up a nice salad bar all you need, other than ingredients, is a table cloth or runner (a nice bed sheet folded works), a bunch of serving bowls, platters and dishes that work well together, silverware and dishes for your guests to build their salads upon, which I place at one end of the table.
Suggested Salad Bar Options
- Crispy, Bite-sized Bacon Pieces
- Hard Boiled Eggs, cut into quarters
- Bag of Frozen, Popcorn Chicken – baked
- Ham Slices (the kind you use for sandwiches), cut into small pieces or cubes
- Bag of Frozen Peas – thawed, rinsed and drained
- Fried Onions, in a bag
- Shoe String Potatoes
- Dried Fruits (not bananas or anything hard)
- Can of Seasoned Black Beans, well rinsed and drained
- Can of Kidney Beans, well rinsed and drained
- Shredded Cheddar Cheese
- Shredded Mozarella Cheese
- Blue Cheese Crumbles
- Can of Sweet Corn, rinsed and drained
- Chopped onion
- Chopped bell pepper
- 2-3 Salad Dressing Options
- Olive Oil
- Balsamic Vinegar
- 2 Different Types of Salad Greens (Spinach, Arugula, Romain Lettuce – chopped etc.)
- Tortilla Chips, slights broken
- Bean Sprouts
- Lemon or Lime Wedges (for squeezing over the salad)
Whatever you decide to lay out, take some risks and try new flavor combinations. You will be surprised at how things will turn out. Enjoy the time with your family, friends and peers and stay out of the kitchen.