When it comes to small plates for parties, there's no reason to feel limited to the classic standbys. A single base ingredient can yield multiple dishes perfect for entertaining—and accommodate a wide range of wine pairings. Whether you choose to try one, two or all three of the recipes below, we hope that they add a little variety to your menu.
When I entertain guests, I’m a sucker for a good cheese plate: It’s versatile, easy to assemble and allows for a wide range of wine pairings. But as summer winds down and cool-weather nostalgia for ripe yellow peaches and just-picked basil kicks in, it’s nice to abandon your everyday fallbacks in favor of appetizers that are bright, fresh and colorful.
While this approach requires a touch more hands-on time than unwrapping a round of Camembert, the recipes don’t need to be difficult. (In fact, for you to enjoy your own party, they shouldn’t be.) Shrimp are a great canvas for a variety of late-summer produce; all the easy-to-prep dishes here feature a make-ahead component and require only minimal time spent with a knife and cutting board.
The first recipe, a roasted shrimp cocktail, features a riff on a green goddess sauce, a creamy dressing brightened by handfuls of fresh herbs. In this version, tangy Greek yogurt and mayonnaise are blended with avocado, basil and lime juice to keep the dish fresh, while the final addition of prepared horseradish brings a mild kick and just enough vinegar to keep this dressing light on its feet.
The other two dishes are great fits for the grill. A shrimp salad with avocado incorporates roasted corn and red bell pepper; it can be served in ramekins or small mason jars if you’re keen on appetizer-sized portions. The pancetta-wrapped honey-glazed shrimp is topped with a peach and bell pepper salsa.
This trio of recipes offers the opportunity for three distinct wine pairings. A savory and herbal Sauvignon Blanc from Mendoza provided a backbone for the assertive basil and avocado dressing and helped to marry the flavors of the shrimp cocktail.
A crisp, Tuscan white with moderate length proved an ideal pairing for the salad. Made from the indigenous Vernaccia grape, the wine’s sharp acidity played off the creamy avocado, and the crisp apple flavors brought out the sweetness of the shrimp and vegetables.
Finally, the grilled shrimp with honey glaze found its match in a juicy German Riesling from the Mosel, with notes of peach, mineral and candied citrus. Echoing the fruit flavors in the salsa, the wine offset the crisp, fresh red bell pepper and highlighted the savory, slightly charred flavors of the grilled pancetta.
Photographs by Lizzie Munro; click any thumbnail image to open the slideshow.
Pair with an herbal Sauvignon Blanc, such as Bodegas y Viñedos O. Fournier Sauvignon Blanc Uco Valley Bcrux 2012 (87 points, $19)
For the shrimp
Preheat oven to 425° F. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with a few tablespoons of olive oil to coat, and season with salt and pepper. Spread the shrimp in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast for 6 to 7 minutes until cooked through. Allow the shrimp to cool before serving. Serves 6.
For the sauce
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use. (The sauce can be made several hours ahead of time.) Yields about three cups.
Pair with a crisp Tuscan white, such as Riccardo Falchini Vernaccia di San Gimignano Vigna a Solatio 2011 (88, $15)
1. Preheat oven to 425° F. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with a few tablespoons of olive oil to coat and season with salt and pepper. Spread the shrimp in an even layer on a baking sheet, and roast for 6 to 7 minutes until cooked through. Set aside.
2. Preheat grill to high and brush the corn with just enough oil to coat. Place the corn on the grate alongside the red bell pepper and grill, turning often, until the corn is lightly charred. Remove from grill and allow to cool.
3. Turn the pepper on the grill until charred on all sides, then place in a brown paper bag. Seal the bag by folding the top downward, and let the pepper cool for 20 to 30 minutes.
4. When the pepper is cool enough to handle, scrape away the skin using the back of a knife. Don’t rinse the pepper under water, but do remove the stem and seeds. Finely dice the pepper.
5. Cut the kernels from the corn and place in a bowl with the shrimp (halved lengthwise or chopped, if desired), roasted red bell pepper and remaining ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper and keep refrigerated until ready to serve. (Can be made several hours ahead of time.) Serves 6 to 8.
Pair with a Mosel Riesling such as Bischöfliche Weingüter Trier Riesling QbA Mosel DOM 2011 (89, $17)
For the grilled pancetta-wrapped shrimp
1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Wrap a slice of pancetta around each of the shrimp and skewer with either one or two wooden skewers (two makes for especially easy handling). Place the shrimp on a baking sheet and brush lightly with oil on either side.
2. In a small bowl, mix the honey with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water, and blend with a whisk or a fork. Set aside.
3. When the grill is hot, grill the shrimp for about 3 minutes on the first side, until beginning to brown. Flip the shrimp and baste with the honey glaze. After another 3 to 4 minutes, when the shrimp are cooked through, remove them from the fire and baste once more with the glaze. Serve warm, with peach and bell pepper salsa. Serves 6.
For the peach and red bell pepper salsa
In a bowl, combine all ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use. (The salsa can be made several hours ahead of time.)