10 Easy Appetizers
‘Tis the season of eating, drinking, and entertaining until you need another vacation to recover from the holidays. Are you starting to feel like your house has a revolving door and you’re constantly in the kitchen? Or have you suffered the terror of saying, “Of course we’ll be home 15 minutes from now. Come on over and I’ll make us a snack….” before realizing that you had nothing prepared to serve to your impending guests? Well, with a bit of creativity, some pantry staples, and a lot of cheese, you can make some great quick appetizers with more than enough time leftover to shove the garbage under your couch, close every closet door, and reapply a coat of lipgloss in that, “Yes, I always look this good” kind of way.
All You Need Is Cheese
Lets start with a few basic baked Brie. There’s just something about gooey, melty, creamy Brie that guarantees this to be a hit. Maybe it’s because Brie is one of the more “accessible” cheeses, with it’s mild flavor but luxurious texture. Or maybe it’s because melted cheese is just always a party. Hard to say, really.
1. Sweet Baked Brie
Unwrap your wheel of Brie and place it in a casserole dish which is just large enough to fit the cheese snugly. If you have a dedicated Brie Baker? Well, you’re a friend of mine. Mix 1-2 tablespoons of quality strawberry jam with a pinch of cinnamon and spread this on top of the cheese. Sprinkle another 1-2 tablespoons of slivered almonds on top. Bake in the center of a 400ºF oven for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your wheel. Let the cheese cool for 5 minutes before cutting in.
For variations you can try:
- Mango chutney and toasted pecans
- Peach jam with a pinch of nutmeg and walnuts
- Apricot jam with a pinch of cardamom and pine nuts
2. Savory Baked Brie
Unwrap your wheel of Brie and place it in a casserole dish which is just large enough to fit the cheese snugly. Finely chop 1-2 tablespoons each of kalamata olives and sundried tomatoes. Press in 1 clove of garlic and sprinkle in a generous amount of oregano (1 tsp for a small wheel, 2 tsp for a larger wheel). Spread the olive mixture on top of the cheese. Bake in the center of a 400ºF oven for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your wheel. Let the cheese cool for 5 minutes before cutting in.
For variations you can try:
- Marinated artichoke hearts and sundried tomato with capers
- Green olive tapenade with sprinkled pine nuts
- Sauteed mushrooms with garlic and thyme
When time is really tight there’s nothing like putting out an antipasto platter to satisfy your guests’ nibbling needs. Some crackers of sliced baguette, a few different types of olives, crack a jar of marinated artichoke hearts, and your nod to home cooking can be as simple as an incredibly fast marinated bocconcini.
Are small plates your style? With a package or two of salty and chewy halloumi cheese and some fresh sliced tomatoes, this starter is a snap. It’s a riff on traditional caprese salad, but instead of mild bocconcini we have salty halloumi cheese, which is texturally similar, and basil gets kicked to the curb in honor of fresh mint and parsley.
Always a favorite, we put out this spread for impromptu gatherings, late night snacks, or early brunches. It’s light, flavorful and versatile. This goat cheese manna is delicious when slathered heavily on fresh bread, but leftovers add creamy decadence to sandwiches and wraps as well.
All You Need Is Beans
Yes, technically that should have said “all you need ARE beans”, but let’s not get fussy. My pantry is always full of canned beans like chickpeas, white beans, kidney beans, black beans….I do love me some beans. They’re perfect for adding fiber and protein to a quick vegetarian dinner, substance to your soups, and dips or spreads to your appetizer buffet.
Oh, food processor. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways, starting with quick dips. With a can of white beans, a handful of olives and that leftover tub of feta sitting in the back of your fridge, this Mediterranean dip/spread is just as good with soft and pillowy pita as it is with cruddite or crackers.
When a batch of hummus takes only a few minutes to prepare, why not double the fun? Double a basic hummus recipe and then separate it off into 2-3 bowls. Why not try a spicy curried hummus or a briny black olive hummus? If lighter fare is more your fancy, lemon and dill hummus is just divine. The variations are endless, from roasted red peppers to chipotle, and spinach & feta to sundried tomatoes. Experiment and add your own unique twist to this versatile dip.
All You Need Is Meat
Around the holidays it always helps to have some thinly sliced cured meats on hand. My favorites are bresaola, prosciutto, serrano and smoked salmon, which can be piled on a plate beside crusty bread and your choice of condiment, or wrapped around cheese, fruit or vegetables for an engagingly sophisticated snack.
Sweet and salty serrano ham is my top choice to wrap around crisp slices of pear. This is the grown up version of melon wrapped in prosciutto, and the combination is just as divine. Moreover, all that you need are pears and ham to make this easy appy. No white balsamic vinegar for the sauce? That’s okay, you can substitute sweetened white wine vinegar instead.
These taste like sexy romance. I’m not kidding. Rich and creamy mascarpone, earthy and intoxicating truffle oil, fresh bitter greens and salty soft prosciutto all bundled up – can we say, “Yes, please!” I make this appetizer for Mike every time that I want to say “I love you” with food.
All You Need Is Roasted Red Pepper
Choosy Beggars is a site about good food, fine many drinks, and celebrating life with family and friends. Mike tends to focus on the “Alcoheducation” side of things, and I love sharing the recipes for what gets served out of our kitchen. There’s nothing that I like more than when people try one of our recipes and let us know what they think (good or bad…I’m a vampire for feedback). When we posted muhammara bi jibneh, or roasted red pepper and walnut dip with cheese, I didn’t expect it to be very popular. I mean, walnuts in dip? Pomegranate molasses? I know a lot of people for whom dips are a package of onion soup mix with a jar of mayonnaise, and I fully expected some resistance to this one. I did NOT expect it to be so wildly popular at dinner parties and potlucks, and I would hazard a guess that this is probably the recipe that our readers have most frequently made….which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Thanks guys! I’m glad that you liked it as much as we did!!
Just because time is of the essence these days, entertaining can still be fun and fuss free with a few easy recipes and a handful of pantry or fridge staples. And hey, if you also want to open up a bag of chips for the table, that’s okay too. I know my hand will be going in the bowl!