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Cocktails and Cuisine

By Rajni Hatti

Easy Appetizers

Planning a party can seem like a daunting task, whether you’re inviting over a small group or throwing a large party. Creating a guest list, cleaning house and planning a menu might be some of the chores on your mind when you’re having guests. At times it’s easy to get lost in the details, but the most important goal is that your guests feel relaxed and enjoy themselves—and so should you!

Help yourself keep the preparation time manageable by serving both ready-made and homemade dishes. For example, order samosas and chutney from your favorite restaurant, but make a couple dishes yourself to keep the home-cooked feel. If your guests offer to bring something, consider making the party potluck, where each guest brings a dish for the meal. Even guests that don't cook can get involved by bringing wine or a ready-made snack like chips and salsa.

Rajni Hatti

Appetizers are great way to get your guests relaxed and into the party mood. You can use appetizers as a start to a main meal, or, for a more casual party, you can serve many different types of filling appetizers as the main meal. Here are a couple of my favorite appetizers that are easy to make and are crowd-pleasers as well!

Tandoori Chicken Kebabs
Makes 16 kebabs

This hearty appetizer uses the traditional ingredients in tandoori chicken, such as yogurt, lemon juice and spices, to make quick-cooking kebabs. To turn this into a main meal, simply make six larger kebabs instead of sixteen.

1 pound ground chicken
Vegetable or canola oil, to coat pan

3 tablespoons plain, low fat yogurt
1 slice white bread
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon peeled grated ginger
1 small clove garlic, chopped finely
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt, adjust as desired

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all marinade ingredients. Mix ingredients with your hands until smooth, making sure the bread is completely incorporated into mixture (Alternatively, you can use a food processor to make the marinade).

2. Add ground chicken and mix gently to combine.


Tip: You can make this dish a day before your guests arrive. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. To reheat, place kebabs on a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees until warmed through.

Tip: South Asian grocers and many large supermarkets stock ready-made South Asian chutney. Try the chutney out before the party to make sure you like it.

3. Divide the meat into 16 portions. Shape each portion into a small kebab, about 3 inches long and 1 inch thick.

4. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of a large non-stick pan and heat over medium heat. Place kebabs in the pan (leave enough room between kebabs so that they are not touching each other). Turn kebabs occasionally, until all sides are golden brown.

Serving Suggestion: Serve with mango or coriander chutney, naan (cut into wedges), and slices of lemon.


Tip: Ready-made naan, which you can freeze until ready to use, is also available at South Asian grocers and many large supermarkets. Simply prepare it according to the package directions and cut into wedges when serving.


Desi Fruit Salad
Makes 4 servings

This dish livens up popular fruits with the use of fragrant South Asian spices and can be served as an appetizer or dessert. The salad is best prepared a few hours before your guests arrive, so that the fruits stay fresh and firm.

2 cups canned pears, cut into bite size pieces
2 cups canned peaches, cut into bite size pieces
1 4.4 oz package blueberries
2 cups chopped watermelon
1 cup chopped bananas
2 tablespoons water
15-20 saffron threads, crumbled
¼ cup condensed milk
1 teaspoon ground cardamom


Photos by Rajni Hatti

1. Put all the chopped fruits in a large serving dish.

2. Warm the water in the microwave and add the crumbled saffron. Set aside for about 10 minutes.

3. Add the condensed milk and cardamom to the saffron water and mix thoroughly. Pour the mixture over the fruits and mix gently to combine.

4. Serve chilled.

Copyright © 2007 Rajni Hatti. All rights reserved.

Rajni Hatti teaches Indian cooking classes in the greater Washington D.C. area and is currently writing a cookbook that focuses on simple and delicious South Asian cooking. Email with comments or questions about this column.

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