Foolproof food platters for easy hosting of drop-in guests

August 11 | Guest post by Ange
Um, yeah. That looks pretty darn nom-able.
I admit it. I'm one of those annoying friends that you can drop in on anytime and I can "throw together" a meal or snack that looks like I have a chef hiding in the pantry. I don't (sigh), but I do have a few sneaky tips up my sleeve for faking the elegant grazing that is platters. Platters are handy for allowing guests with varying food requirements to pick and chose what they'd like and they're way easier than trying to think of an actual meal to cook. You can serve "leftovers in disguise" by raiding whatever's in the fridge.

Platter food ideas

  • Veg-iterranean: Sun dried tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, capers, hummus, Turkish bread, toasted pita pockets, stuffed pepper dews, dolmades, falafel, tzatziki (yoghurt dip), grilled courgette and aubergine slices, pesto, fresh tomatoes and grapes
  • Ploughman's Lunch: Aged cheddar, smoked and cream cheese, chutneys, hearty wholemeal bread chunks, pickles, tomato wedges, carrot and celery sticks.
  • Hot 'n Spicy Platter: Potato wedges, mini savouries, quiche slices, pizza pieces, falafel, meatballs, spicy chicken wings, and dipping sauces such as tomato, Thai chili and yogurt sauces.
  • Piece of Provence: Brie, Camembert and blue cheeses, grapes, baguette slices, asparagus spears and hollondaise sauce, dried or fresh figs and dates, quince or fruit paste and pate.
  • Sea-food and Eat it: Marinated mussels, shrimp cocktail, thai chilli fried whole shrimp, baked or fried fish bites, squid rings, fish cakes, tartare and chilli sauces and lemon wedges. (You could really cheat and order most of this from the fish and chip shop and serve it on a pile of rocket leaves you grabbed from the supermarket next door!)

Starting out

  1. Source large flat platters or wooden chopping boards and some teeny soy sauce dishes — I got most of mine from the rubbish dump recycling centre (most of the council landfills in NZ have recycling centres) and the soy sauce dishes from Asian food warehouses
  2. Wash the dishes before use and dry well, then place in the fridge to chill (or in a 50 degree oven or warming drawer for a hot platter)
  3. Cut the food to bite-size pieces. For cheeses, have one small knife per item that needs cutting
  4. Put sauces or semi-liquid foods into little soy sauce dishes
  5. Stack food around the platter and mix up the colours as much as possible
  6. Use smaller foods like nuts, olives, and rocket leaves to fill in the gaps and create a full-looking plate of food
  7. Chop or artistically tear up a basket or bowl of bread to serve alongside the platter
  8. Stack tea plates on the table or floor along with a pile of napkins
  9. Grab a glass of wine and take the rest of the evening off!

Feeling ready? You should be one step closer to legend-host status.

If you have a list of tasties to put together a platter, pop them in the comments!

  1. A Mediterranean platter is my go-to for last minute potlucks, etc. Just hit the olive bar at the specialty grocery store and get dolmas, 2 types of olives, pita, hummus. Cut pita triangles and arrange artistically on a sweet platter. Sometimes I also add grapes for a little freshness. Yum!

    0 agree
  2. The trick, of course, is actually having some of these items on hand.
    Rummage around my fridge and receive the following platter: shredded cheddar cheese, wilty lettuce, slightly-past-its-prime hummus… uh… frozen raspberries?… Ketchup!?!

    31 agree
    • If you were to do this with my fridge you would get seven types of tomato-based sauce, three types of jam and half a very old onion.

      9 agree
    • I know, right lol? My platter would have banana baby food, pepperoni, American cheese slices, fruit snacks, croutons, Cars cereal, and three kinds of salad dressing. Yum?

      4 agree
      • There are lots of times when my fridge is empty as too – but a trip to the supermarket for a couple marked-down loaves of bread and whatever's on special in the deli beats the hell out of wandering ten laps around the supermakret trying to work out what would make a great low carb, low fat vegan caserole to keep everyone happy!

        3 agree
    • Ahaha, I was thinking the exact same thing. Right now my fridge has…cheese, bread, and tofu. And my pantry has like…fourteen pounds of potatoes. And that's about it. Maybe some fish in a can.

      Best platter ever, I tell you. EVAR.

      0 agree
    • Agreed. But… a lot of the items she mentions could be kept outside the fridge for a long time: olives, sundried tomatoes, grilled bell peppers? In a can/glass jar. Dried fruits like apricots, dates, plums or apples make a great addition. Have some crackers (also easily kept a couple of months) and you have a platter ready.
      I only recommend this, though, if you would actually eat the items mentioned; otherwise it's just taking up space in your pantry.

      1 agrees
    • I got broccoli, beets (raw with tops attached) Siracha sauce, ketchup, mustard, eggs, dill slices, and 4 or 5 different types of cheese (American singles, Moz, cheddar, cottage, creme) and some sad looking romaine lettuce.

      0 agree
    • This thread makes me laugh so much…! Now people are giving me funny looks. Better stop.

      0 agree
  3. YES to this… I don't really like to cook, but I can arrange the hell out of a ramdom assortment of snacks. My trick is taking it out of whatever container is comes in and using all those bowls and little dishes to make it feel fancy. For platters, I like using one that's a little smaller than I need and stacking things up… it looks opulent and much more appetizing than sad little cheese slices on a too-big plate. Breaking/tearing up cheeses & breads, using grapes or other fruit to fill in the spaces… it's fun and pretty without much work.

    0 agree
  4. I have guests this weekend, so I totally made some Veggie Platter-inspired purchases. I pulled up Offbeat Home in Hy-Vee and everything.

    1 agrees
  5. That all sounds pretty amazing to me!

    Now, I am hungry for a cheese plate. . . . hmm..

    1 agrees
  6. haha sounds like my fridge right now. I think there might be a jar of miso in there too.

    0 agree
  7. Black olives are great warmed for a few minutes with rosemary and olive oil. Stuffed olives too but skip the rosemary. Those, some cheeses, fruit, and roasted red peppers (jarred) are my secret gourmet snack weapons.

    I also try to always have some frozen noms (either handmade and frozen or Trader Joe's), a loaf of crusty bread, and the makings for an Emergency Pie on hand in the freezer.

    Another quick & impressive dinner? Crepes!! Mix the batter in 5 minutes with Bisquik, oil, egg and water and ta-da, you can serve savory or sweet crepes in minutes, depending on what leftovers you have on hand. (Just microwave the insides and dump them on the crepes). Bisquik also makes Gluten Free pancake mix now too.

    1 agrees
  8. I was a personal chef to a house of wealthy party dudes for a while– I always kept the fridge full of easily munchable stuff. Some of their favorites: Chicken breast chopped/tossed with sesame oil, served on top of a little hummus in endive spoons. Tuna (canned in oil) mixed with chopped apples or salsa in little sweet peppers. Walnuts/mushrooms/olive oil blended together as pate on top of cucumber or crackers. Zucchini slices with a little bit of blue/green cheese melted on top. All of these look WAY more impressive/complicated than they are!. Any 2 of these with some leftovers/fruits or chips will wow people ;)

    6 agree
  9. This is so useful! I'll be keeping these tips in mind when we're finally moved into the new house and people come over for housewarming parties.

    Random side note: we visited Nelson on our honeymoon in April, and loved it. Even though it rained the whole time…

    0 agree
  10. If you're the kind of person who always has fruit in your house (ie a sweet-a-saurus without the calories), try to keep a package of cream cheese and a jar of marshmallow fluff in your kitchen at all times. The cream cheese can be used in other recipes before it goes bad, but if you have someone stop by all you have to do is whip together equal parts marshmallow fluff and cream cheese, cut the fruit into bite-sized bits and serve deliciousness. Super delicious and stupidly easy.

    If you're more of a veggie person, use the cream cheese with a package of dried Italian dressing mix, spread it on a bit of na'an or other flat bread and toss on torn up bits of veggies (peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, radishes). I could eat this every day.

    3 agree
    • You should so put a chocolate fountain on your Christmas list and you'll have the making of the awesomest parties in the world!

      1 agrees
  11. I love platters, I think they look awesome, but being one with food allergies (and having friends with different allergies and intollerances), instead of doing platters I do mini plates – so every food is piled up on its own mini plate with nothing touching, it doesn't look as cool, but it still looks pretty good!

    0 agree
    • I think the word you're looking for is 'tapas'. Very trendy… And healthy too. People eat less and better (higher proportion of veg, etc) when there's a bunch of bits to nibble than if they get a whole plate.

      1 agrees

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