When a holiday weekend approaches and guests will be stopping in, remember that folks like finger food.You’re likely thinking entrees, sides, salads, desserts, and drinks. Or, whether to eat in or to eat out. (Make your reservation now.) It’s actually those pesky in-between times that sneak up on you. Be prepared to put something out during the card game, the happy hour, before heading out for dinner, and so on.
Here’s 10 ideas that are on my E-A-S-Y list.
- Dips and spreads. This can be interesting, fun, and interactive. Make your own by purchasing plain, inexpensive whipped cream cheese and mixing in the flavors you desire: sea salt and rosemary; olives, olive oil, salt, and pepper; cranberries and walnuts; chipotle peppers; cinnamon, sugar, and raisin. Any hearty cracker will do on the side. This is a perfect appetizer to hand over to that guest always wanting to help you out.
- Antipasto platter (I’ve still got Italy on the mind). A group of small plates with marinated olives, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes, red peppers. If your guests are minding meats, decide whether pepperoni, salami, or ham would be appropriate. Crusty bread guests can break themselves is just fine as your grain.
- Cheese plate. This can get costly relatively soon but it sure is whip quick. Include the regulars like sharp cheddar and gouda with softs like goat and brie as well as pungents like stilton or gorgonzola. Sides of nuts, dried fruits, and some local honey are great to have alongside.
- Hummus. Another easy one, but sometimes guests are looking for something a little hearty so add avocado and red pepper slices on the side and serve with french bread slices rather than the typical pita chips. Also, there’s lots of varieties to be included. The addition of marinated olives can be a nice touch. Carrot sticks and celery optional.
- Baked feta. Borrowed from Zoe’s kitchen and fantastic. Place 6-8 oz slab of feta cheese (not crumbled) in a small baking dish with handful of pitted black olives, halved cherry tomatoes, drizzled olive oil, and fresh ground sea salt, pepper, and a pinch of sliced fresh basil. Baked at 375 degrees until cheese has softened and tomatoes are pruning (nearly 20 minutes). Serve with crispy chips, like pita chips or toasted bread rounds.
- Prosciutto wrapped figs (ooh la la). Wrap a slice of prosciutto around a fig half and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary atop and baked at 400 degrees for 5 minutes or until prosciutto is crisped.
- Shrimp cocktail. Get cocktail shrimp from fresh fish counter, arrange on serving plate around a center bowl of sauce made from ketchup, horseradish, and Texas pete (amounts to your liking). Place a few lemon wedges about for use and as garnish.
- Fruit. A mix of berries, slices of plums, pears, and apples — all taste great with champagne, prosecco, or white wine.
- Smoked salmon. Trader Joe’s has a wonderful pastrami style smoke salmon that tastes amazing with their entertainer crackers, sliced red onion, capers, and cream cheese.
- Lettuce wraps. This is most labor intensive preparation. Use bib lettuce and break off separate slices, wash, pat dry, and set in pile on rectangular platter. For fillers you may use sauteed chicken (in soy sauce and butter, which is simple yet rich), along with shredded carrot, snow peas, edamame, green pepper, celery, and sliced almond with side sauces such as soy, teriyaki, or peanut (store bought because we’re in a hurry here).
Remember: the more you put out, the longer guests will linger, the more they will eat, the more they might expect. And, aim for a 2-drink maximum, whatever it is you’re serving, during finger food hours.