A tray of lovely, delicious appetizers is one of the nicest things you can welcome your guests with. Those first bites will set the tone and expectations for your entire meal. Each of the items that I have recommended below is chosen specifically for its unique taste (e.g. sopressata as opposed to just ‘sausage’) and will help you put your best culinary foot forward and start your party with a bang (without even cooking yet!).
Appetizer Platter Prep Tips
- You can still wow your guests while only spending a minute or two artfully arranging some pre-made gourmet items. As shown above, I like to use white plates and bowls to show the vibrant colors of these palate awakening treats.
- I typically have five or ten of these items on hand at a time and find that I never have a problem quickly throwing together an appetizer platter before the guests descend.
- Be sure to choose items that go together: sopressata with roasted red peppers or fried halloumi with dates, but not duck pate with smoked trout or smoked gouda with caperberries.
- Try not to overwhelm your guests with too much food or too many choices. I have had dinners where the guests were enjoying the appetizers so much that they completely eclipsed the first course in terms of time spent and focus.
Without further ado, here are…
Fifteen Fantastic Pre-made Items to Keep on Hand for Appetizers
- Green olives (preferably from an olive bar and not jarred)
- Goat cheese (Chavrie is my favorite because it has the most creamy, mild flavor and is so easy to serve as it comes out of the container in perfect pyramids)
- Sun-dried tomatoes (loose, not stored in oil; an excellent companion to goat cheese)
- Dates (Medjool are relatively easy to come by; just make sure to get large more moist ones, not the super dried out variety)
- Swedish rye bread (available in a surprising number of super markets; keeps very well in the fridge)
- Smoked trout (I hate to say it, but smoked salmon is a bit passe after breakfast; give tastier trout a try)
- Roasted red peppers (I sometimes roast a bunch and keep them in the fridge, but you can also get them in jars)
- Gherkin (or cornichon) pickles (with a light, somewhat sweet taste, these pair excellently with other savory sweet items like grilled cheese bites or fig chutney)
- Spiced fig chutney (perfect on smoked gouda or crostini)
- Green olive tapanade (Trader Joe’s makes my favorite version)
- Duck & cognac pate (this is my favorite type of pate because it is elegant and not overly meat-y tasting)
- Halloumi or paneer (these, respectively, middle eastern and Indian cheeses are incredibly addictive when cubed and quickly fried or grilled)
- Sweet sopressata (sliced, from your Italian deli)
- Caperberries (the mature fruit of the caper bush has a far less potent taste than the more famous caper; since I don’t come across them in stores that often, I make sure to buy several jars when I do)
- Crostini (although I like to have a fresh baguette on hand for dinners, crostini are an essential back-up for nights when you haven’t had anytime to stop at the store)