Whether you're pressed for time or simply don't like to spend too much of it preparing for holiday parties, quick and easy appetizers can make entertaining a breeze. Here are eight ideas, as easy to customize as they are to prepare.
Tomato bread: Toast slices of your favorite bread. Rub one face of each slice with the cut side of a clove of garlic that's been halved lengthwise, then rub with the cut side of a halved tomato. Top with drizzled olive oil, pesto, rinsed anchovies or other toppings.
Endive and snow peas: Cook the peas in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then plunge into ice water. Drain them and cut them lengthwise into thin strips, then coat them lightly with your favorite dressing. Arrange the slivers atop individual endive leaves. If you'd like, sprinkle with grated Parmesan.
Stuffed dates: Squeeze pitted dates to open up the cavity where the pit was. Pipe in mascarpone cheese, peanut butter, Nutella or another slightly sweet, creamy filling. Top with crushed nuts.
Oven-fried potato chips: Peel potatoes and cut into paper-thin slices. (If you have one, use a mandoline or V-slicer.) Arrange in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet; sprinkle with salt to taste. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven. Check after 5 minutes and every minute thereafter for signs of browning, then flip each chip and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes or until golden brown in spots.
Shrimp-stuffed Peppadew peppers: Piquant red Peppadews are sold in jars and from supermarket olive bars. To make the stuffing, chop cooked shrimp medium fine, then mix with small amounts of finely chopped green onions and minced parsley. Stir in some of the liquid from the peppers or a light, sweet salad dressing.
Tzatziki-filled cucumber boats: Slice a cucumber in half lengthwise, seed and cut into 2-inch pieces. Use a spoon or a sharp knife to cut indentations on the top of each piece, then chop the removed cucumber finely. Combine a cup of thick yogurt with the chopped cucumber, two minced garlic cloves, a teaspoon of chopped fresh mint, a teaspoon of chopped fresh dill, a splash of olive oil and a splash of lemon juice. Spoon the mixture into the indentations.
Meatballs: Place cooked small meatballs (homemade or frozen) in a slow cooker or in a Dutch oven over low heat. Cover with an equal mixture of chili sauce and grape jelly; or four parts sour cream to one part prepared horseradish; or your favorite store-bought pasta sauce, barbecue sauce or salsa. Cook over low heat until heated through.
Zucchini roll-ups: Slice zucchini very thinly lengthwise (a mandoline or V-slicer helps with this step). Cut trimmed fennel into matchstick-size sticks, then drizzle with olive oil and grated cheese. Roll the zucchini around the fennel, securing with toothpicks.