Ladies’ Cocktail Hour

One of my favorite things is spending time with good friends. Gathering a small group of ladies to talk, laugh, and bond over snacks and drinks is a perfect way to spend an afternoon, in my book. With the husbands off doing their own thing, several of us congregated on my front porch this past Saturday. After a trip to the Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning, I put together a few light snacks and whipped up a cocktail before the ladies’ arrival.

This time of year, the Farmers’ Market is teeming with early season herbs like cilantro, mint and dill. I picked up a bunch of each, along with a few bunches of mild, delicate radishes. I also got a small bundle of great looking green onions with thin, spindly stems, and a dozen gingersnap cookies from Wine Hill Bakery. With only a few hours before cocktail time, I got to work on our snacks.

I started by making an herbed goat cheese dip for my crudités platter. With finely chopped herbs, a clove of garlic and a few shavings of lemon zest, the herbed goat cheese dip was the rich and creamy alternative to my other dip: a simple, garlicky Dijon vinaigrette. The veggies I chose for the platter included celery, carrots, radishes, and even a few of those green onions. Radishes are often a hit-or-miss with guests, but these radishes were especially mild and delectable, and pleased even the one radish naysayer of the group. I have always been fond of them – my German grandmother would keep a glass jar full of radishes submerged in water in the fridge; she claimed this kept them extra cold and crunchy, and she was right.

The next snack only looked fancy and fussed-over – puff pastry breadsticks with poppy seeds, sesame seeds and sundried tomatoes. I thawed a package of store-bought puff pastry dough (find it next to the frozen desserts at the grocery store) and rolled it out a little, then cut it into 4″ strips. I gave them just a few brushes of egg wash and sprinkled each with one of my three toppings, and into the oven they went. 15 minutes later, the breadsticks were puffed and golden brown. Of course, I had to check the quality of my goods before my guests arrived – flaky, crispy and just a little chewy on the inside. Perfect.

Just before cocktail hour, I made the first batch of the afternoon’s drink, Lemon Collins. This is my take on an old standard, the Tom Collins. Instead of using gin, I used the sweet, syrupy and oh-so-lemony liqueur produced in the Southern regions of Italy, Limoncello. To impart more layers of citrus flavor, I also added a small amount of Triple Sec and some freshly squeezed lemon juice. The drink was topped off with club soda to give it some fizz, and garnished with a few slices of lemon. Bubbly, sweet and refreshing – a lot like my guests!

Combining good snacks, good drinks and good friends is always a good thing. The remainder of Saturday’s afternoon was spent on the porch, enjoying the sunshine, the breeze and each other’s company (although the remainder of Saturday’s evening was spent shooting Limoncello and attempting to recreate Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” video – but that’s another post for another time)… Enjoy!

Herbed Goat Cheese Dip

6 oz. goat cheese, room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tbs. cilantro, chopped
2 Tbs. dill, chopped
2 Tbs. mint, chopped
2 Tbs. green onion, chopped
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 clove of garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Combine goat cheese and cream cheese in a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a medium bowl using a hand mixer and whip until fluffy. Add herbs, lemon zest and garlic and mix until combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Simple Dijon Dressing

2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 c. cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
1/2 c. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in a mason jar with a tight fitting lid, or a Tupperware container with a tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously until emulsified. Stores in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Puff Pastry Breadsticks

1 package of puff pastry, thawed
1 egg
flour for dusting
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, minced sundried tomatoes or any other topping of your choice

Preheat oven to 400°. Carefully unfold one sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured board and roll out until dough is about 1/8″ thick. Cut into strips and place on a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick mat. Brush a thin layer of egg wash over each strip and sprinkle with toppings. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned and puffed. Serve immediately.

Lemon Collins

(makes one batch)

1 c. simple syrup
2 c. Limoncello
1/2 c. Triple Sec
1/3 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
club soda
lemons for garnish

For simple syrup: Combine 2 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer, covered, for about 5 minutes, until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and bring to room temperature.

Combine simple syrup, Limoncello, Triple Sec and lemon juice in a large pitcher and stir. Pour one cup of drink mixture into a tall Collins glass filled with ice, and top with club soda. Garnish with lemon wedge.

[If the slideshow doesn’t load, you can see all the photos on our Flickr page.]