I love eating alfresco. Even if it's horribly hot and humid (as it typically is in Atlanta), I still want to eat outside. I had some friends over for dinner last week and served a mezze platter and cocktails on the porch. I bought everything, so all I had to do was assemble it all on a platter. My friends came over on a Wednesday, so after working all day the last thing I wanted to do was cook anything. Thankfully, our porch has overhead fans, so we were able to sit outside while sipping some refreshing cocktails.
Since this was a weeknight, I didn't want to serve anything too alcoholic. I settled on a Campari orange spritzer and a sparkling limonana. Campari is a bitter Italian apéritif. I paired it with orange juice, balancing out the bitterness with sweet. While there is alcohol in Campari, there's only a little bit used in this drink so it's not too strong to enjoy on a weeknight.
The second drink I served, a sparkling limonana, is alcohol free. It's simply mint simple syrup, lemon juice, and sparkling water. I like it tart, but you could up the sugar to make it sweeter. This drink is so refreshing. I think it would be good with vodka or white rum in it, but served it as a "mocktail." I made the simple syrup and squeezed the lemons the day before, further reducing my day-of prep.
I had never heard of the term "mezze" before I started researching recipes for this dinner. A mezze platter is simply a selection of small dishes served as appetizers. It can either be served as part of a multi-course meal, or could serve as snacks while guests are eating and drinking.
The star of this platter was the marinated feta. You can make this ahead and keep it in the fridge. You add dried thyme, red pepper flakes, and fennel seeds to fresh Greek feta, drizzle with olive oil, and add a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Set it out about a half hour before guests arrive to let it come up to room temperature. I served this with store bought pita chips, but it would also be delicious with fresh pita bread.
Get the Recipe: The Barefoot Contessa Marinated Feta
My most used entertaining "hack" is store bought hummus. Jazz it up with some pignolis and a drizzle of olive oil and serve with cucumber slices and pita chips. In addition to the feta and hummus, I also served marinated peppadews, marinated artichokes, fried Marcona almonds, and Castelvetrano olives, all of which I picked up from Whole Foods.
Get the Look:
I placed all of the components of my cocktails on a large sisal tray. I included some white linen cocktail napkins, and placed the almonds in a silver bowl. I found some craspedias at my local Trader Joe's, and while they're not Mediterranean, I think they add a whimsical element. I served all the appetizers on a large white platter, garnished with some bunches of thyme. I didn't photograph the rest of our meal as I wanted to be in the moment with my friends, but wanted to share what I served in addition to the mezze platter. I didn't have much time to prepare after work, so I kept the menu simple, serving lemon and oregano roasted chicken, herbed basmati rice, and fresh peaches with vanilla ice cream for dessert. It was a simple yet delicious summer meal, and my friends went back for seconds (always a good sign).
Thanks for reading!