I don't know about you, but I love to cook and entertain.  The problem is that on my schedule, the entertaining offer is often extended without me planning time to whip up something great and homemade to share with my guests.

When that happens, my go-to foods are probably similar to yours -
hummus with crudite (I prefer sliced carrots, celery and jicama, black olives and cherry tomatoes ~ sometimes broccoli and cauliflower too), and some salsa, guacamole and tortilla chips (baked, whole grain, flax seed, blue or red...just not Tostitos Lime - they're great but not vegan!) oh, and wine!

When I do have time, I have two favorites that my guests always love: a fig and olive tapenade (tapenade is a spread made from olives, capers and/or anchovies mixed with oil) and a tuscan white bean dip.   I may actually make them tomorrow! A little tip I've learned?  If you can make them a day ahead, it allows the flavors to really come together nicely.  The recipes are below ~ enjoy!

Fig and Olive Tapenade (Courtesy of epicurious.com):
‪Makes about 2 cups

1 french baguette (or whole wheat crackers if you prefer)
6 oz dried figs, stemmed and coarsely chopped
½ cup water (room temperature is fine)
½ cup finely chopped pitted Kalamata olives
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp capers, drained and chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Scant 1/2 cup lightly toasted pine nuts

(**To toast pine nuts, or any other kind, toss them in a dry frying pan on low heat and stir occasionally until their color turns golden - if you walk away, they can burn quickly.)

Combine the figs and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and cook until the liquid evaporates and the figs are soft. Cool slightly, then transfer the mixture to the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times until the
figs are finely chopped. Don’t puree. Transfer to a bowl. Add the olives, oil, vinegar, capers, and thyme. Season the tapenade with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate, but serve at room temperature. Right before serving, stir a scant ½ cup of toasted pine nuts into the tapenade (or else they lose their crunch and a bit of their nutty flavor.)  Transfer the tapenade into a serving bowl and serve with pieces of the baguette (slightly warmed is best) or whole wheat crackers.

**For non-vegans, this dish goes beautifully with goat cheese, spread somewhat thinly on the bread or cracker, with a  generous amount of tapenade on top and it makes a really pretty presentation.

Tuscan White Bean Dip (Recipe by Giada De Laurentiis)
1 15 ounce can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil plus 4 tablespoons
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 pitas (I prefer whole wheat)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (I prefer rosemary) 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Place the beans, garlic, lemon juice, 1/3 cup olive oil, and parsley in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is coarsely chopped. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Transfer the bean puree to a small bowl.  Cut each pita into 8 wedges. Arrange the pita wedges on a large baking sheet. Pour the remaining oil over the pitas. Toss and spread out the wedges evenly. Sprinkle with the oregano, salt, and pepper. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until toasted and golden in color.  Serve the pita toasts warm or at room temperature alongside the bean puree.
 
 

Veg and the City