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I have a friend who has a passionate love of cured meat and pickled vegetables.  Since she keeps a well stocked bar, her running joke is “I’m a cocktail party waiting to happen.”  Sounds like a fun mantra to me, any time of the year!

Even if you aren’t throwing a cocktail party before the end of the year, you’ll probably want to take a night off here or there from heavy holiday meals and winter stews.  You may not attempt some of the recipes below, but a little fresh fruit along with your favorite cheese and crackers can do the trick. Take a lesson from Europeans – choose the best ingredients you can afford, and then take time to savor them.

Hopefully the ideas below will get you going, but don’t feel compelled to follow them to the letter.  And take Ina Garten’s advice and serve a pitcher of the cocktail of the night, along with beer and wine.  You’re the host, not the bartender!

De salud!

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