Okay, the cynical among you are thinking, “Yeah, like cheese and crackers.” Big deal. Well, there’s nothing wrong with cheese and crackers, chips and salsa, chips and dips, or any of the other “put one thing on or in the other” thing type of appetizer.
But I’m after something a little bit different here. With a month or more of holidays approaching, and the likelihood that many of us will have to put out a spread at one time or another, I would like to suggest that not every appetizer needs to be a show stopper. Some of them just need to be solid and good.
Or, Plan B, if you have people dropping by kind of last minute, either at your urging or their initiative, it’s nice to be able to put out a number of things with relatively little effort.
Here are 10 appetizers that work for maximum flavor and minimal effort.
1. A bag of baby carrots and either a jar of high-quality blue cheese or Ranch dressing. The easiest of all but hard to beat.
2. A block of cream cheese topped with chutney or salsa or fig jam with crackers or sliced French bread. Or a block of cheddar cheese topped with Trader Joe’s quince paste.
3. A carton of eggs. Boil and peel them and halve them and mix the yolks with mayo and a little mustard (salt and pepper) to taste for a quick plate of deviled eggs. Or, peel six of them after boiled and mix a pound of breakfast sausage with some breadcrumbs and wrap each egg in 1/6th of the sausage mixture and bake them in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes until browned. Quarter them and serve with a hot or sweet (or both) mustard.
4. Buy the softest hot dog buns you can find. Cut them into thirds. Pan grill small, flattened balls of ground beef (maybe 1/2 oz.) (that you season with salt and pepper), adding quartered slices of American cheese when you flip them, to make tiny cheeseburgers. Of course, other condiments could be added, but show up in a group of people with a plate of these and you will be the hero who will have them grabbing for more.
5. Mix a 1lb. bag of sourdough pretzels with a package of Ranch dressing mix and a cup of vegetable oil. Let this sit for a couple of hours, then bake for 20 minutes at 250 degrees.
6. Wrap high-quality smoked or other cooked sausage in puff pastry and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Slice and serve with mustard for dipping.
7. Roast halved red peppers either under broiler or on gas burner and let sit in plastic bag for 20 minutes. Peel off skin and slice. Toss in olive oil with a little lemon juice or red wine vinegar (season with salt and pepper). Serve with French bread slices.
8. Marinate chicken cubes in Newman’s or another high-quality Italian, Oil and Vinegar, or Balsamic dressing for several hours, if you have time, or for several minutes, if you don’t. Grill or broil until done and serve on long toothpicks.
9. Sauté a mixture of onions and green and red peppers (seasoned with salt and pepper) in olive oil until softened, then add a wedge or mini-wheel of Brie and let it melt. Serve with slice French bread.
10. Pan fry a batch of pierogies, whether you use the widely-available frozen version or some made in your city or town. People love the ability to grab these and eat them as a counter to alcohol or richer food. If you have Asian dumplings, you can pan fry and serve with soy or a dipping sauce to accomplish the same thing. Put lettuce leaves under them on the serving plate for a nicer appearance.
I stop here at ten simple appetizers. The wealth of easy appetizers that one could create means that even those of us not inclined to cook could put on a varied spread quite easily. What would you add to it?
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