When it comes to entertaining, I often find that the casual gatherings and impromptu parties outshine more elaborate affairs. I think it's the combination of a relaxed atmosphere and last minute inspiration.
This summer, for example, I was visiting friends when one of the hosts spontaneously began making homemade crackers from corn and flour tortillas. It wasn't planned, but it was delicious. They were positively addictive and I've since started making them myself.
The best thing about these crackers is that they require almost zero prep, and can be seasoned however you like - a simple sprinkle of coarse sea salt, or a more complex blend of seeds and spices. My favorite is pink Himalayan sea salt and dehydrated minced garlic. It's like the best part of an everything bagel.
These crackers also cook so quickly, you even could make them fresh just before - or even during - the party.
And if you really want to put people over the edge, consider pairing the crackers with homemade ricotta cheese dip. I recently took a cheese making class in California and fell in love with the process. It was an artisanal cheese class and we used "just milked" raw cow's milk and various starters.
You'll need no special ingredients or equipment to make this treat, which relies on slightly acidic buttermilk to form cheese out of a blend of heavy cream and whole milk. Add a touch of salt and that's all you need.
Once the cheese is strained and cooled, I put it in a pretty bowl, add a sprinkle of good salt, best quality extra-virgin olive oil, fresh herbs and citrus zest. You can customize it and add your favorite herbs, or take a sweet approach and add a little jam and country ham or prosciutto. Delicious.
Once you make these crackers and the cheese a few times, you won't even need the recipes. They really are that easy. And they may well become your go-to entertaining recipes for 2013.
BUTTERMILK RICOTTA CHEESE DIP
Start to finish: 2 hours
3 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt