Whether you plan to serve appetizers before a large, four-course meal or just want to keep guests satiated at a cocktail party or gathering, appetizers are an essential part of entertaining. However, putting together appetizers for guests can be stressful, particularly if you are throwing a last-minute party with little time to prepare. Luckily, there are some appetizers that you can put together easily and quickly that will still impress your guests.
Cheese, Bread and Crackers
Almost ubiquitous at cocktail parties, a plate of cheese and bread or crackers is a crowd-pleaser that almost everyone expects. Pick interesting cheeses and artisan breads made at your local bakery for a more refined cheese plate. Try English Stilton, an aged blue cheese, cave-aged cheddar, beer-braised Muenster and aged Brie cheese. Serve the cheese with both crackers and bread and a few garnishes like olives, roasted red peppers and cherry tomatoes to add a little variety and color to the plate.
The Caprese salad is a classic Italian appetizer, but it can be served before a wide variety of foods. To make the classic Caprese, combine an even amount of quartered vine-ripened tomatoes and quartered fresh buffalo mozzarella balls on a platter. Top the salad with freshly sliced basil leaves to taste and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Finish the salad with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar to taste. Serve immediately or chill for up to four hours, allowing the salad to return to room temperature before serving.
Citrus Marinated Olives and Peppers
Marinated olives and peppers can be used as a first course before a meal or served at a party where no meal is provided and only appetizers are served. To make citrus marinated peppers and olives, combine 1 lb. whole, oil-cured mixed olives and 1 lb. roasted red peppers with 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup tangerine juice and 1/8 cup olive oil in a large, clean jar with a tight-fitting top. Place the jar in the refrigerator for seven days before an event or simply make the marinated olives and peppers in advance and keep them in your refrigerator for a last-minute appetizer. To serve, transfer the olives and peppers to a large serving platter with a slotted spoon or toothpicks.
Smoked Salmon Slices with Crème Fraiche on Cucumber Rounds
A simple, fast appetizer that is both fresh and delicious, smoked salmon slices with crème fraiche and cucumber rounds are elegant and sophisticated without being difficult. To make them, slice a cucumber into even, 1/4-inch rounds and put them on a serving platter. Top each cucumber slice with a dollop of crème fraiche and top that with a thin piece of smoked salmon. Sprinkle freshly ground black pepper over the top and serve or refrigerate for up to six hours.