The French word for couch, canapes typically mean small appetizers that have a base of bread, crackers or pastry, topped with a small amount of another ingredient. You might also call canapes hors d'oeuvres, meaning "outside the work," or meal. Hors d'oeuvres may be canapes if they fit the definition, or they might be simply a bowl of olives or nuts. Serve this type of food on a canape plate at a party.
Less is More
Toasted baguettes with a smear of flavored cream cheese make a delicious canape, as does a simple cracker with a slice of good Monterrey Jack cheese. A nontraditional base outside the normal range of bread or pastry could be a slice of cucumber topped with a sliver of smoked salmon, a slice of apple or pear topped with a dab of peanut butter for a kid-friendly canape or a piece of endive lettuce topped with a piece of Parmesan cheese.
More is More
Elaborate canapes pile ingredient upon ingredient or use extravagant ingredients, such as the iconic small blini pancakes topped with caviar and creme fraiche. With commercial puff pastry or phyllo shells, gourmet canapes are within reach of everyone. Fill the shells with sauteed mushrooms topped with a dab of sour cream and a sprig of parsley. Or use the shells as a vehicle for fresh crab topped with a dab of cocktail sauce and a tiny piece of lemon zest.
Some Like it Hot
Hot canapes go straight from the oven to a canape plate, so they take more effort and coordination than cold or room-temperature hors d''oeuvres. Serve a Tex-Mex canape with a slice of roasted potato as the base for refried beans, salsa and a sprig of cilantro. Or use puff pastry or phyllo shells for caramelized onion canapes with shredded Asiago cheese that bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.
Some Like it Cold
Most foods taste best when they are served at room temperature rather than icy-cold from the refrigerator. Store cold canapes in the refrigerator, but take them out 30 minutes to one hour before you put them on the canape plate so they can warm up. Your possibilities for cold canapes include crackers or baguette slices topped with pesto sauce and Parmesan cheese or crackers topped with Southern pimento cheese and a square of high-quality, country-cured ham.
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