Appetizers, also known as hors d'oeuvres, are small meals or snacks is used all over the world for entertaining and socializing. One reason people serve appetizers is to whet the appetite for the bigger main course. However, finger foods can also accompany drinks during cocktail and social hours. Whether people call them tapas, maze or canapés, small bites of food can be a great accomplice in bringing people together.
One simple appetizer that comes from Italy is bruschetta, which is toast topped with vegetables or meats. There are many different recipes, but one of the simplest is made from Tuscan crusty bread, cut into about eight slices and toasted. Rub the toast with garlic, before topping it with a mixture of 6 cubed plum tomatoes,10 chopped basil leaves and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Pile the tomatoes high on the bread and drizzle with olive oil.
Another bread dish, this time with Mexican roots, is the quesadilla. To make this simple appetizer, build sandwiches using two flour tortillas, filling them with shredded Monterey Jack cheese, chives and salsa. Heat the quesadilla in a dry skillet over medium heat until the cheese melts. Slice the quesadilla into quarters and serve with salsa.
Spicy nuts can be quick and easy. Toss 2 cups of mixed nuts such as pecans, walnuts and almonds and hazelnuts in a skillet with 2 tablespoons of butter. Once the nuts are coated, remove from the heat and mix with 1/4 tablespoon each of cumin, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and salt. Spread the nuts on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and pop it into a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Pour nuts into a bowl and serve cool.
Hot Deviled Eggs
Jalapeño eggs are a contemporary spin to a classic spicy dish. The base of the appetizer is a dozen hard boiled eggs. Peel them, cut length-wise and scoope the yolks into a bowl. Add 3/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeños and a 1/4 teaspoon salt. Carefully spoon the mixture back into the egg whites.
Watermelon and Feta
A Mediterranean appetizer, watermelon and feta is made by cutting the fruit into 1-inch squares and slicing an 8-ounce block of feta cheese into 1 1/4-inch squares. Alternate the two ingredients on 4-inch skewers and finish with a sprinkle of black pepper.
Melon and Prosciutto
A starter that comes from Parma, Italy, this dish is canteloupe or honeydew wedges wrapped with very thin slices of prosciutto ham. About 18 slices of ham are needed per melon, and once the wedges are completely covered, arrange them on a serving dishes.
Fresh vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, celery and red peppers can be served raw in the French crudités dish. Slice all the veggies to manageable bite-sized portions and lay them in an organized fashion on a serving platter. Whisk a quick dip together incorporating 1/4 cup Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup honey, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon chopped green onion and 2 teaspoons grated ginger.
For a hot vegetable dish, clean 28 white button mushrooms, removing the stems and setting them aside. Then, combine 1/2 cup bread crumbs with 1/2 cup grated Italian pecorino cheese, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 2 tablespoons fresh chopped Italian parsley and 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste, fill the mushrooms' cavities with the stuffing and arrange them on a baking sheet. Bake the mushrooms for 25 minutes at 400 degrees.
For a warm and rich appetizer, cut a wheel of camembert cheese into six to eight wedges. Toss the cheese wedges in 1 cup flour, before dredging them in an egg mixture that combines two beaten eggs with 1 tablespoon milk. Afterwards, coat the cheese in 1 1/2 cups of bread crumbs and deep fry for 5 to 7 minutes until golden brown. Serve with Granny Smith apple slices.
Popular in the Basque region of Spain, patatas bravas is made by combining 2 pounds of cubed potatoes with 1 pound can of grated plum tomatoes and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Place the tossed mixture in baking dish and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon paprika and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Give the dish a quick stir to distribute the seasonings and pop it into a 425 degree. Serve tapas style, in a bowl with plenty of toothpicks.