Need a few tips? Entertainer and party expert Colin Cowie shares some of his secrets and recipes in a visit to The Early Show.
The party planner has put together soirees for the likes of Elton John's annual Oscar party and many more. He also has a show on the Women's Entertainment network called "Everyday Elegance with Colin Cowie."
Cowie's ideas offer an element of surprise, and can all be prepared in advance, so you, as the host or hostess, can spend your time enjoying yourself instead of worrying about when the food will be ready. And for all of the food, the presentation is truly spectacular.
Cowie shows ideas for an endive salad that is wrapped up like a gift, a delicious way to serve stuffed tomatoes, an ingenious way to make egg shells filled with smoked salmon and even a spicy-pumkin ravioli soup served in a way you'd never imagine.
When it comes to entertaining, he says he considers parties to be along the same lines as theater. He wants to make sure the first course has show-stopping value for the guests, to set the proper tone and mood of the evening. All of the appetizers, Cowie says, are inexpensive, can be prepared in advance, can be served at room temperature (except the soup) and will make you look like a party planner extraordinaire.
The first thing Cowie makes is an endive flower salad. This sounds complicated, but it is easy and quick to prepare. This endive salad idea works great for any party, whether it's for 10 people or a party of 100. It can be prepared well in advance, and it's great to serve all year round. Cowie sets up the appetizer on cream plates with a gold tinge to them. It's minimalist. He says he is showing it with gold flatware, which he designed, and a taupe-colored napkin. It's an elegant and chic look.
1/2 leek, washed thoroughly and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch ribbons
Salt to taste
1 bunch of watercress, trimmed, washed and dried
2 heads of baby frisee lettuce, trimmed, washed and dried
2 ounces crumbled blue cheese (or goat cheese)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, chopped
4 large endives, washed (30 leaves)
1/2 bunch of chives, finely chopped, for garnish
- Blanch the leek in a pot of boiling salted water for 1 minute. Plunge into ice-cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine watercress, baby frisee, cheese, and all but 1 tablespoon of the pine nuts.
- To assemble each serving, select endive leaves and place them upright in a teacup, forming an open flower arrangement.
- Fill the inside of the flower with salad mixture. Close the leaves together in the original shape of the endive and secure with a blanched leek ribbon.
- Trim the base of each flower so it can stand on its own.
- Repeat the process for each of the remaining five portions. Set the salads aside (laying the flowers on their sides in a shallow dish) until you are ready to dress and serve them. They can be refrigerated for up to two hours. Cover with a damp paper towel and plastic wrap until ready to serve.
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (plus more to taste)
3/4 cup grape seed oil
1/4 cup walnut oil
- Combine the mustards, vinegar, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the oils. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Set aside at room temperature for up to 30 minutes, or refrigerate if preparing well in advance.
- To serve, place a single endive flower upright in the middle of each plate. Inject a small amount of the vinaigrette into each of the flowers with a squeeze bottle and drizzle some vinaigrette around the plate. Alternatively, you can serve the dressing in a gravy boat, pass it around, and let everyone dress his or her own salad.
- Garnish with the reserved tablespoon of pine nuts and chopped chives.
NOTE: If you are working on your own, a loose rubber band can act as a second set of hands to help secure the flower bundles.
NOTE: To toast the pine nuts, simply place them in a cast iron skillet over medium heat, shaking and turning them once or twice, until golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Alternatively, place them in a toaster oven, set to medium, and toast until fragrant.
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 cups water
3 chicken bullion cubes
1 (15 ounce) can of cooked pumpkin
1 cup half-and-half
Sour cream (to taste)
- Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until tender.
- Stir in curry powder, salt, coriander and crushed red pepper; cook for 1 minute.
- Add water and bouillon; bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes to develop flavors.
- Stir in pumpkin and half-and-half; cook for 5 minutes or until heated through.
- Transfer mixture to food processor or blender (in batches, if necessary); cover. Blend until creamy.
- Serve warm or reheat to desired temperature. Garnish with dollop of sour cream and chives.
NOTE: Soup may be prepared a day in advance. Cool to room temperature after adding pumpkin and half-and-half. Cover and refrigerate. Just before serving, blend, then reheat to serving temperature, but do not boil.
This is essentially a caprese salad inside the tomato. You take peeled tomatoes, cut the bottom off and hollow out the tomato completely. Then, you stuff it with basil and mozzarella cheese. Turn the tomato back right-side-up so it looks like a regular tomato - the trick is that your guests have no idea that the basil and mozzarella cheese are inside. Then, I use a shot glass with bright green basil vinaigrette dressing to drizzle over the whole thing. This is chic, cheap and fully fabulous.
6 ripe, medium sized red tomatoes
2 large balls of Buffalo mozzarella cheese, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup fresh basil, torn into pieces
- Peel tomatoes by scalding them in hot water for 30 seconds. Place in cold water and remove skin.
- Remove bottom quarter of tomato and hollow out contents of tomato.
- Combine basil and mozzarella and stuff the cavity of tomato.
- Place tomato on a serving plate with vinaigrette in a shot glass placed next to it. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 clove of garlic, crushed
8 teaspoon olive oil
1/3 cup packed basil leaves
1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend for 30 seconds or until smooth.
The Salmon in the Egg is an unusual take on a "stuffed egg" dish. The cooked egg will look completely whole until your guests open it up and see the scrambled egg topped with smoked salmon. Genius.
12 jumbo eggs
36 pieces Melba toast (see recipe)
1/4 cup cream
2 tablespoons minced shallots
12 ounces of smoked salmon (preferably Scottish), diced
- Remove the tops of the eggs by holding the egg, point side up, in the palm of your hand. Place an inverted empty spice bottle on top of the pointed side of the egg and secure with thumb and forefinger of the same hand. With the other hand, using a heavy wooden spoon, hit the bottom of the bottle. The shock will create a crack around the top of the egg. Use a sharp knife to pry open. Pour egg into a metal bowl. Set aside.
- Rinse the egg shells and their tops under warm running water. Turn them upside down on paper towels to dry, then set the bottom shells in egg cups. Set the egg cups on small serving plates. Arrange 3 toast points around the base of each egg cup.
- Whisk the reserved eggs in the bowl, then strain through a fine sieve. Season the eggs with white pepper to taste.
- Just before serving, cook eggs in a metal pot over low-medium heat. Whisk continuously. When the eggs start to thicken, whisk in the cream and the shallots. Cook, whisking constantly, 30 seconds longer. Remove from heat and immediately transfer to a glass bowl.
- Spoon some of the egg mixture in each egg shell bottom, filling about two-thirds full. Spoon the salmon on top until full, then cover each egg with top portion of its shell.
NOTE: This dish can be prepared 20 minutes in advance.
- Toast the white bread until lightly browned.
- Remove the crusts and with a serrated knife, cut through each slice horizontally. Then cut each slice into triangles.
- Place the triangles on a cookie sheet, white side up, and broil until lightly browned.
- Remove from the oven and set on a tray with the salmon and a small spoon.
NOTE: Watch the broiler closely, or the toast will burn within seconds. Toast can be made up to three days in advance and stored in an airtight container.