How to Prepare for a Party in Under an Hour -- and Clean Out Your Fridge at the Same Time

"Sure, come over. See you in 90 minutes." That's how it begins. Then you make the bed, and since it's nearly dinnertime, you look for something (anything) to serve the friends you just invited to stop by.

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When I looked in the refrigerator the last time this occurred, I found an odd assortment of vegetables, none of them in a quantity that would serve six, even as an appetizer. I did have a garlic and herb pizza crust from Fresh and Easy that I wanted to taste-test, four slices of pumpernickel bread, some bits of cheese, and a little lox.

One hour and a little adrenalin later, I had a party.

The menu for a bruschetta board coalesced and I preheated the oven to 425 degrees. I started with the vegetables.

  • I peeled and diced the one golden beet on hand.
  • I cut my single broccoli crown into bite-size pieces.
  • I cut the handful of wide Dutch green beans into silvers.
  • I cut the yellow squash and mini red bell pepper into thin slices.
  • I diced the pasilla pepper

Then I tossed them individually in a little olive oil and seasoned them with salt and pepper. I put them into the oven that had almost reached its 425-degree setting. The vegetables were roasting and I moved on.

I decided that the smoked salmon would be nice on pumpernickel if I combined it with some feta cheese and dill. The mixture needed a little something, so I added a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice. Done.

I put my eight slices of pepperoni onto cookie sheet (on a piece of paper towel) and into the oven just long enough to crisp. Half went into the food processor with some garbanzo beans, olive oil, and garlic. Now I had pepperoni hummus.

I rolled the pizza dough into a rectangle and put it on a sheet pan. I brushed it with olive oil and sprinkled the top with a little Parmesan. Twelve minutes later, it came out of the oven and I cut it into squares.

Now all I had to do was put on a clean shirt, arrange the ingredients on a big cutting board, and practice saying, "It was no fuss, really."

Andy Broder is the chef/owner of AndyFood, A Culinary Studio.

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