When it comes to appetizers, you can never have too many recipes in your arsenal. Whether you’re looking for a new dish to bring to the neighborhood potluck or hosting a family soirée, the following options are sure to entice and impress your fellow celebrants.
These irresistible mini-soufflés are crisp on the outside, custardy on the inside, and packed with savory herbs and cheese. They can be a bit time-consuming to prepare, but the results will be well worth it! Note that they’re best served hot.
Variation: Gruyére is traditional for this dish, but you can substitute Cheddar, Colby, or any similar semi-hard cheese that’s suitable for shredding. You can also experiment with different seasonings to match the flavor.
Start by browning fresh chorizo alongside sliced onions in a cast-iron skillet. Add minced garlic and Serrano peppers, then sprinkle a blend of cheddar and pepper jack cheese over the top and let it melt. Garnish the fundido with chopped cilantro and serve with tortilla chips.
Variation: For a vegetarian version, omit the chorizo and Serrano peppers. Use olive oil to brown the onions. Next, toss in a handful of diced fresh tomato and pickled jalapenos just before you add the cheese.
This unusually delicious appetizer is sure to have your guests begging for the recipe. Fortunately, it’s as simple as it is delightful. Simply wrap a small amount of bulk sausage (available in the meat case at most supermarkets) around a pimento-stuffed green olive (remember to drain the olives well beforehand). Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until the sausage is cooked through (about 25 minutes). Serve warm.
Variation: Country-style breakfast sausage is a good bet, but feel free to experiment with different types, especially if you regularly make your own sausage at home. Try an herbed sun dried tomato and chicken sausage with Kalamata olives. You can also try a sweet Italian sausage with the slightly nutty Picholine variety.
These cocktail-party standbys are traditionally served in a creamy sauce, but that can be messy for a passed hors d’oeuvre. Instead, try deglazing the roasting pan with a little sherry or marsala, and drizzle the juice over the meatballs. Pierce each meatball with a toothpick before adding them to the serving platter—this will make them easier for guests to eat.
Variation: If you just don’t have the heart to omit the sauce, consider serving these as a first course as part of a sit-down meal.
When it comes to crostini, the sky is the limit. Start with rounds of a toasted baguette, or any other bread that can hold up to the ingredients without flying apart at the first bite. (To eliminate this problem, make sure the rounds are bite-sized before adding the toppings.) Toast the rounds lightly and rub on both sides with a clove of garlic. You can adjust the toppings according to the season—try ripe tomatoes with fresh basil and mozzarella in the summer, or sautéed wild mushrooms and diced butternut squash when autumn rolls around.
Variation: To make the crostini gluten-free (or Paleo-friendly, depending on what toppings you’re using), substitute roasted zucchini rounds for the bread.
These savory pockets, packed with a zippy blend of mashed potatoes and peas, are traditionally made with pie dough and fried in hot oil. To make them crispier, use phyllo pastry sheets brushed with plenty of melted butter and bake them in a 425-degree oven for about 15 minutes.
Variation: For a heartier bite, replace the potato and pea mixture with ground beef sautéed with onion, garlic, cumin, turmeric, and salt.
Cranberry Brie Bites
Since they’re as easy to make as they are delightful to eat, these bite-sized treats are destined to become an annual holiday tradition. Fill prepared phyllo cups with a 1-ounce square of Brie, top with a dollop of cranberry sauce (preferably homemade, but the canned variety will work in a pinch), then bake in a 375-degree oven for about 15 minutes. Just before serving, sprinkle each cup with about 1/2 teaspoon of crushed pistachios.
Variation: Replace the cranberry sauce with any jam or preserves that you have on hand. Raspberry is a particularly good choice, but just about any fruit will complement the musky umami notes in the Brie. You can also eliminate the pistachios for guests with nut allergies.
This is a light and sophisticated option that will be at home during any season. Begin by blending goat cheese with softened cream cheese and whatever seasonings you prefer. You can keep it simple with lemon zest, garlic, and chives, or dress it up with minced olives, sun dried tomatoes, or roasted red pepper. Wash and thoroughly dry as many endive leaves as you’re planning to serve, and scoop a hearty portion of the filling into each one.
Variation: Use a combination of red and green endive leaves to boost the eye appeal of your finished appetizer tray.
Pesto Mushroom Caps
Stuffed mushrooms are one of the most versatile appetizers you’ll encounter. Simple enough for a backyard barbecue yet elegant enough for a formal dinner, they’re sure to tickle the palate of everyone at your gathering. For a twist on the familiar favorite, season your fresh bread crumb mixture with minced fresh basic, garlic, and pine nuts. Drizzle the tops with plenty of extra-virgin olive oil before putting the mushrooms in the oven—and again just before serving, if necessary.
Variation: For a sit-down first course, use whole Portobello mushroom caps in lieu of button mushrooms.
The bottom line when it comes to appetizers? Always plan on making more than you think you’ll need. These eye-catching, mouthwatering selections will probably be the first to disappear—and even if they don’t, you’ll have a better idea of how many you should prepare for the next go-round. Bon appetit!