Portable appetizers are a handy must-have for potlucks and picnics everywhere. The best appetizers are finger-food friendly and not too heavy -- they're meant to complement the main course, not replace it, although a thorough selection of ready-to-go appetizers could conceivably be enough to sustain a light lunch.
A cheese plate is both simple and portable. Choose three cheeses -- something soft and spreadable, something firm or semi-firm and a blue cheese or something flavored. For soft cheeses, consider chevre, brie, Camembert or crescenza. For the firm cheese, cheddar is classic but also try Parmesan or its cousin grana padano, Manchego or an aged Gouda. If you don't like blue cheese, try a sage or chipotle cheddar or chevre topped with apricots or cranberries. Offer some dried fruit or a good jarred chutney and some crackers or sliced bread to accompany.
Crudites is the French term for a raw vegetable plate. Cut peeled carrots and celery stalks into sticks. Scrub, top and tail radishes. Slice bell peppers of various colors into long thin pieces. Broccoli florets and whole green beans are better lightly blanched in boiling water, then shocked in cold water; this makes them more tender and easy to eat.
Along with your crudites, you might want to offer a dip. Dips meant to be served cold travel easily in a lidded plastic container and there are hundreds of recipes you can choose from. Many consist simply of a dairy product base plus vegetable and herb add-ins. Other dips worth exploring are peanut sauces, bean dips and Mediterranean specialties such as hummus. And you do not have to serve your dip with crudites; you can also offer crackers, bread sticks or chips.
A spread of jarred olives and pickles -- an updated spin on what your grandmother might have called a relish tray -- makes for one of the simplest and most portable appetizers around. Simply choose a variety of olives and pickled vegetables and arrange them on a platter or divided dish. Your vegetables might include asparagus, green beans, beets, turnips, sweet or hot peppers, mushrooms or carrots.
It's easy and fun to mix up your own snack mix from seasoned nuts, pretzels, popcorn, cereal, dried fruit and any other ingredients that appeal to you. You can keep the mix savory or try up a sweet and salty trail mix type of combination. As an extra bonus, these mixes are quite portable and usually even keep well for a few days.
If you're seeking an elegant appetizer that still travels well, try making a batch of dolmades. Dolmades are grape leaves stuffed with rice, pine nuts and herbs. They are eaten at room temperature. "Dolmades" is the Greek term, but variations on this dish are found in Turkish, Israeli and other nearby cuisines.
- Whole Foods Market: Guide to Summer Food on the Go
- Real SImple: The Perfect Cheese Platter
- "Little Foods of the Mediterranean"; Clifford A. Wright; 2003