Appetizers are a first course, often served at an informal time before a meal. They are usually finger foods served before a dinner, or they may be the main fare served along with various drinks for a cocktail party or an informal gathering. These bite-sized foods can be both delicious and attractive, and they come in a vast array of possibilities.
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Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Perhaps the simplest appetizer is an arrangement of fresh fruits or vegetables. Health-conscious guests will be grateful for a tasty selection of fresh fare at your party. With fresh veggie or fruit appetizers, presentation is key. Choose a variety of items that are complementary in color, and then cut them in attractive shapes. For example, you could serve a platter of thinly sliced cucumbers, chunks of red bell pepper and baby carrots. For a fruit tray, consider serving red and green grapes, as well as chunks of mango with toothpicks inserted in them. Since appetizers should always be easy to pick up with the fingers, and should never be drippy or messy, you may need to avoid certain fruits or veggies (for example, chunks of avocado or watermelon are probably not the best appetizer choices).
A canapé, a small, prepared hors d'oeuvres, is easy to pick up with the fingers and can usually be eaten in one bite. Canapés consist of a bread or cracker base, usually topped with a thin spread (like flavored cream cheese), a main ingredient (like a thin slice of meat or cheese) and a garnish (like caviar or truffle oil). There are endless possibilities when preparing these tasty, tiny open-faced sandwiches. One easy way to prepare canapés is to start with tea crackers; spread each cracker with a thin layer of chive-flavored cream cheese; top the cream cheese with a thin slice of summer sausage, followed by a garnish of fresh herbs.
Small puff pastries filled with a morsel of flavorful food, vol-au-vents are a great addition to any appetizer spread. The puff pastry used for vol-au-vent usually looks like a small pot with a lid and is filled with a cream-sauce based filling of vegetables, chicken, fish or other meat.
Bite-sized foods that combine sweet and savory flavors are another great choice for appetizers. This type of appetizer often combines a sweet, dry fruit with a savory meat or a sharply-flavored cheese. To make a simple, yet delicious sweet and savory appetizer, stuff pitted dates with an almond. Wrap each stuffed date with half a piece of bacon and bake all the dates in the oven until the bacon is hot and crisp. These delectable bite-sized foods are served warm and are a tasty complement for other categories of appetizer.
With variety in appetizers, the sky is the limit. The only requirement is that you keep everything small enough to be picked up with the fingers and eaten with little mess. If you want to serve your favorite homemade sausages, cut them into small pieces, wrap them with a small piece of pastry shell and bake. Or, serve your favorite baked sweet potato fries with a mayonnaise-based dipping sauce. Individual quiches filled with ham and cheese are another good option. Even a simple platter of chunks of hard cheese (jack, emmental and cheddar are good choices) makes a tasty appetizer.