On a balmy summer evening last August, acclaimed food editor and author Elettra Wiedemann was gearing up to throw an idyllic farm-to-table dinner in the Hamptons with an intimate gathering of guests to celebrate her newly launched cookbook, Impatient Foodie. Every detail was in place to ensure the evening would unfold flawlessly. A slight ocean breeze, a breathtaking sunset, and the breathtakingly beautiful backyard of a picturesque Luxury Retreats property set the backdrop for this memorable soirée.
But here's the thing: Wiedemann has never been the type to slave for hours in the kitchen, no matter how extravagant the dinner party. After all, she built her name on the promise of fast and appetizing food in a time-starved world. So how did she approach her dinner party menu? We asked the food editor to share quick dinner party recipes from the evening—and a few other favorites from her cookbook—to prove that it is, in fact, possible to throw a dinner party when you don't actually have time to cook. Don't believe us? See for yourself—from simple crudités to Cool Whip hacks, Wiedemann shares invaluable advice for serving up a feast in a pinch.
Radish Dip With Crudités
"If you're not a huge fan of ranch dressing–type crudité dips, this radish dip is a great substitute," says Wiedemann. "It is bold and brings in flavor while retaining the satiating thickness of store bought dips."
Servings: 4 to 6
1/2 cup skinned or unskinned raw hazelnuts
1 bunch of radishes, green tops removed, chopped
8 oz. cream cheese
Zest of 1 lemon plus juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 tbsp. fresh parsley leaves, minced (optional)
Raw vegetables, for dipping
In a small pan, toast the hazelnuts over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, chop coarsely, and set aside.
In a food processor, combine the radishes, cream cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, and 2 generous pinches of salt and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and add the hazelnuts and blue cheese. Stir to combine and garnish with parsley, if desired. Serve with crudités.
Beet and Ricotta Spaghetti
"When cooking any pasta, salt the boiling water enough so that it takes like the sea," explains Wiedemann. "It'll make the spaghetti more flavorful and decrease the need for salting once the dish is served. It's also important to always cook your pasta al dente, which translates as 'to the tooth.' It means that well-cooked pasta should have a little 'bite' to it, not to be boiled to a state of mushy oblivion (unless, of course, that's how you like it, I guess?). Package directions usually indicated the cooking time for the pasta to be perfectly al dente, so no guesswork for you."
Servings: 4 to 6
2 medium beets
2 tbsp. plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
1 lb. spaghetti
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
Zest of 1 lemon (optional)
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
Peel beets, and grate on the large teardrops of a box grater. If you don't want to stain your hands, hold the beets in a piece of paper towel as you grate them.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the grated beets and a generous pinch of salt, and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring frequently until the beets have softened. Add 1/2 cup boiling water from the pot and continue to cook until the beets are very tender and the water has evaporated, about 5 minutes.
Transfer the cooked beets to a food processor with the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, and purée until smooth. Add the ricotta and 1 heaping teaspoon of salt. Pulse to combine. Set aside.
Add the spaghetti to the pot of boiling water and cook according to package directions.
Reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, drain the spaghetti and return to the pot. Quickly add the beet-ricotta mixture, and stir to combine. If the sauce is too thick, add some of the reserved hot pasta water.
Top with the basil, Parmigiano, and a pinch of lemon zest and serve immediately.
Farro Arugula Watermelon Salad
"Watermelon is not often served in savory dishes, but this salad really works and is perfect on a hot summer's day," says Wiedemann.
Servings: 4 to 6
8 4/5 oz. (1 package) farro
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lime, juiced
Salt and pepper, freshly ground
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 English (seedless) cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced into half-moons
5 oz. pre-washed arugula
3 cups watermelon, cut into bite-size pieces, rind and seeds removed
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 tsp. balsamic glaze
Cook the farro according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large salad bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste to make.
When the farro is done cooking and slightly cooled, add it to the salad bowl and gently toss with the vinaigrette. Add the red onion, cucumber, and arugula and toss gently to combine with the farro. Top with the watermelon and feta. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and serve.
Brownie Ice Cream Cake
"If you've always thought of ice cream cakes as the territory of professionals with lots of patience, this brownie ice cream cake will change your mind," says Wiedemann.
Servings: 6 to 8
Butter, for greasing the pan
18 2/5 oz. (1 box) brownie mix
Ingredients listed on the brownie mix box
1 pint strawberry ice cream
12 oz. raspberry jam
1 pint vanilla ice cream
16 oz. Cool Whip, thawed
2 cups raspberries or blueberries (or both!)
Preheat the oven according to the brownie package directions. Line the bottom of a 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper and the sides of the pan.
Make the brownie batter according to the package directions. Spread the batter onto the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the ice cream from the freezer and place in the fridge to soften.
Cool the brownies to room temperature. Cut the brownies into three 9-by-5-inch rectangles (use the bottom of the loaf pan as a guide).
Line all sides of a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, ensuring that there is excess wrap hanging over the sides. This will be used to layer the cake.
Layer the cake in the prepared pan in the following order: a layer of brownie, a layer of strawberry ice cream using half the ice cream, a thin layer of strawberry jam, a layer of vanilla ice cream using all the ice cream, a layer of strawberry jam, the last brownie, and a layer of the remaining strawberry ice cream. Wrap the ends of the plastic wrap over the top of the plastic wrap over the top of the loaf pan and gently push down on the cake to pack the layers tightly. Freeze for a minimum of 3 hours, or overnight.
To serve, place a plate upside down on top of the loaf pan and flip over to remove the cake, gently pulling on the plastic wrap to help.
Coat the entire cake in a thick layer of Cool Whip, spreading evenly with a spatula. Decorate with fresh raspberries and blueberries and enjoy!
Looking for more recipes for a time-starved world? Flip through Elettra Wiedemann's cookbook, Impatient Foodie.
And now, this is what it looks like when fashion girls throw a backyard dinner party.