If ever there was a need for quick and easy appetizer ideas, it’s over the holidays. At our house, holiday entertaining means lots of people celebrating with lots of cocktails, always with a little something to nibble along the side. Since I’ve written books about appetizers and catered holiday parties for years, I guess I’m kind of an expert on this subject and the good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot of time making appetizers to serve your guests. The trick to stress less holiday entertaining is to have a few basic ingredients on hand in your pantry and refrigerator so that you can whip up something quick at the last minute. So, call up friends and family and invite them over now. You’ve got this.
The most basic appetizer is nuts, so I always have either marcona almonds, smoked almonds or salted peanuts in the cupboard. That way I have something to put out even if I only have time to twist the lid off a jar. Make it look pretty by putting them in a pretty or unusual bowl or cup and you’re done.
Cheese is a classic nibble of choice and over the holidays I usually have goat cheese, a wedge of Parmesan and a block of cheddar in my fridge at all times for bare bones entertaining. It only takes a few moments to arrange cheese, nuts and easy fruit like grapes or sliced apples on a platter or cutting board. But if you want to go to just a bit more effort, I have a few recipes that are guaranteed to make your holiday entertaining sparkle. Most are vegetarian and a few are gluten or dairy free so there’s something here for everyone.
So, when last minute guests knock on the door, whip up one my five favorite appetizers including:
- Manchego Cheese and Quince Paste with Marcona Almonds,
- White Bean Salsa,
- Fig and Walnut Tapenade with Goat Cheese,
- Pizza with Fig, Brie and Arugula
- Shrimp Salsa
Before you get started, review the list below for pantry and refrigerated items you’ll need to make these recipes because the cure to holiday madness lies in having a couple of standby appetizers waiting in the wings. Let’s celebrate the season with a toast and a nibble to peace on earth and good will to all. Happy Holidays!
Holiday Pantry Must-Haves
- Canned white beans- A great add-in to soups or whizzed up in the food processor with lemon, garlic and herbs to make white bean hummus.
- Figs– Either Mission and Calimyrna- also great added to a cheese plate or salads.
- Capers- Add to salads and sprinkle over steaks.
- Pickled Jalapeno- Add to salsas, salads, bloody Mary’s!
- Nuts– Marcona almonds, peanuts, smoked almonds, walnuts
- Munchies- Assorted crackers, chips and crostini
- Quince Paste or Membrillo- Top cooked chicken breasts and pork chops with sweet, tart zip.
- Fig Jam- It’s also great on toast or spread over the top of brie or crackers with cheese.
- Garlic, Tomato, Avocado- Toss them all together with lime and cilantro for a pico de gallo salsa.
Holiday Refrigerator Must-Haves
- Cheese– Manchego, goat, cheddar, Brie, Parmesan
- Olives- Pitted Kalamata and green
- Lemons and Limes- Use for drinks, garnishes and zest and juice
- Green onions- Add to salads and salsas.
- Fresh Herbs- Thyme, oregano, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, arugula- Add leftover herbs to soups, salads and stews.
Holiday Freezer Items
- Whole Cooked Shrimp- These keep for months in the freezer
- Pizza Dough- This keeps for weeks in the freezer, just thaw overnight in fridge or in the microwave.