Save money, time with petite menu items

LOS ANGELES Chef Stefan Richter of Stefan's at L.A. Farm in Santa Monica says putting a party together on a budget is easy. If it's a tapas party, offer four or five choices, each with something special so your guests won't go home hungry or dissatisfied, like Richter's popular turkey sliders.

"80 percent breast meat, 20 percent thigh meat, because it gives you a little more texture and a little more flavor," Richter said.

But beyond the poultry, add some goodies.

"Add some sauteed onion, add some fresh thyme, add some parsley, add some herbs, salt, pepper, and some good flavors," Richter said.

Top with arugula, low-fat dressing and a bit of cheese. Make your own mini buns from cut-out whole wheat toasts if you can't find the baby buns.

An elegant yet inexpensive offering is oysters on the half shell.

"It's a dollar an oyster. The salt is nothing, a pound of salt is 32 cents," Richter said.

Oysters should be purchased fresh, but he suggests mixing salt with a little water in cup molds, then freeze up to a week in advance. Top the oyster on party night with a bit of shallot vinaigrette.

Try what Richter calls "crudo," small slices of fresh fish, laced with lime juice, vegetable oil, a pinch of salt and pepper, and topped with an herb, like micro-cilantro -- quick to assemble. Again, serve on ice for freshness.

One of the best ideas yet, Richter's party perfect way to serve his Thai lobster bisque is in small candle votives.

He also puts the finished soup in coffee pump pots with it so guests can help themselves.

"You puree it in a mixer, you strain it, you put into the coffee thermal can, very hot, close the lid. You can do it an hour before, it still will be hot," Richter said.

Another benefit of small bites is they're easy to serve, easy to eat and because you're not buying much food, they're easy on the wallet.

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