We have also been dying to host a barbecue at our place-- partially because this year's summer weather has been so-so at best, but also because Alex has wanted to grill ribs, which I don't really eat them so we reserve that for when we're entertaining company. With all that in mind, we created a fun barbecue-inspired menu that was small plates-friendly. Ribs were a menu given, but the rest of the dishes were all designed to have a barbecue taste and feel, be friendly for meat eaters or vegetarians, and be packaged in convenient bite-size, handheld, or easily plated servings:
BBQ Small Plates Party Menu
- Crudite, pita chips & crackers with Sabra lemon hummus and garlic & herb mascarpone spread (from Stamper Cheese Company)
- Watermelon & Feta Bites (recipe below)
- Roasted Pepper, Onion, Potato & Sausage Bites (recipe coming soon)
- Mini Corn Muffins (I cheated and used a box mix, but added frozen corn kernels to the batter)
- Orzo Salad with Tomatoes, Corn & Arugula (recipe coming soon)
- Dry Rubbed Rib Hacks (we dry rubbed and grilled baby back ribs as we normally would and then sliced them into individual pieces for easy serving)
- Nashville Hot & Spicy Chicken Tenders with Copycat Chick-Fil-A Sauce (sauce recipe here)
- Raspberry Cake Bars (that recipe was posted yesterday!)
- Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookies (recipe coming soon)
And from the perspective of the cook, there also needed to be a good balance of items that Alex could grill, things that I could make ahead of time, and a few pre-made, convenience, or shortcut dishes too. When I was looking for a second protein to serve as an alternative to the ribs, I decided on white meat chicken since it's lean and different from the heavier pork ribs. But how do you make chicken stand up to low and slow roasted ribs? You bread and fry it, of course.
Now, my chicken wasn't actually fried but it was tender, juicy, and full of spicy flavor. I cut several chicken breasts into small plate-friendly tenders and used the Urban Accents Nashville Hot & Spicy Chick'n Brine & Bake Kit. This fantastic kit includes a mix for brining the chicken (ensuring it is moist and flavored throughout), a spicy Nashville-style rub (for a kick of extra flavor and heat), and a breading mixture which creates a deliciously crispy coating for the chicken. Having never tried this before, I was a little apprehensive about trying it out on my guests for the first time. These chicken tenders turned out to be one of the biggest hits at the party. Several people asked me how they were made and I was a bit embarrassed to admit that it came from a box! However, they were insanely delicious and a real crowd pleaser with great crunch and spicy flavor so I would happily use one of these kits again (they make a Tuscan Herb variety too... yum)-- for guests or just for us.
One of the other big hits at the party was another one of the easiest ones that I made that night. These watermelon & feta bites are vegetarian-friendly, are served cold, and the perfect combination of salty and sweet, and they're made with only 4 ingredients! The most difficult part of the prep work here is all the cutting you'll be doing with the watermelon and feta. Beyond that, it's a matter of skewering them, plating the bites, and drizzling stourebought balsamic glaze over the top. The sweet summery watermelon, salty feta, fresh basil, and tangy glaze make for an irresistible appetizer-- and a foolproof and elegant summer party snack!
Watermelon & Feta Bites Recipe
- 16 oz. chunk feta, cut into 1/2-3/4" cubes
- 30-40 fresh small or medium basil leaves
- 1 baby seedless watermelon, rind removed and cut into 1" cubes
- 2 Tbs. balsamic glaze *I used a store-bought glaze, but you can make your own with this recipe too
- 30-40 party toothpicks or thin skewers
For each toothpick, gently skewer a feta cube, a basil leaf, and then a cube of watermelon. Be sure to insert the skewer directly in the middle of feta cube and also into the center of the watermelon cube. The toothpick or skewer should not go all the way through the watermelon, but just to the edge-- once the three ingredients are skewered, place them on a serving platter watermelon-side down with the skewer standing up vertically. Continue with the rest of the ingredients.
Once all of the ingredients have been skewered and are plated, drizzle with balsamic glaze. Serve immediately.*
*If making these a few hours ahead, make the skewers, plate them, and refrigerate. Drizzle with balsamic glaze when ready to serve.
Editor's Note: Products were provided by Urban Accents at no cost in order to facilitate this post. The opinions expressed herein, as always, are my own.