If you’re spending all that time on the dinner, you don’t have time to mess with fancy appetizers. Keep them simple and to the point – and don’t put out so many that they’ll spoil anybody’s meal.
Brie with honey: Always a hit. Christopher Kimball, editor of Cook’s Magazine, told NPR’s Morning Edition show his secret is ultra easy: Brie, with honey and fresh thyme – warmed in the microwave. It’s 5 minutes (3 for prepping: chop off the top white layer of the Brie, drizzle with honey and chop thyme to sprinkle on all) and bake 2 minutes on high power to make it soft in the microwave. Done. Don’t go crazy gourmet, either – use an ordinary round of Brie from the supermarket. Add your favorite crackers for dipping. (We like pretzel crackers.)
Cream cheese and pepper or tomato jam: Set out a block of cream cheese (press an herb leaf in it if you want it pretty). Spoon some pepper jelly, tomato jam, honey with hot sauce, or cranberry jelly on top. Serve with crackers.
Cheese and crackers and apples: Carve up a few blocks of cheese – Muenster, sharp cheddar, pepper jack – into thin squares that fit crackers. Serve with thin sliced apples or red grapes – so autumnal.
Parmesan tuiles: Mound up grated Parmesan – 2 tablespoons worth – on a nonstick baking pan – set them 3 inches apart. Bake at 375 until bubbly, and remove; drape the crisps over a rolling pin to create curved crisps. Serve with an onion dip if you want.
Veggies and dip: Skip the carrots or celery and look for jicama or kohlrabi to cut into sticks, fresh green beans, or asparagus spears – all make great dipping veggies. Make a dip from sour cream, plain yogurt or buttermilk mixed with either. Add onion or garlic powder and a sprinkling of fresh herbs. Or, use a good bottled ranch dressing.
Marinated olives: Drain a jar of large olives, place in bowl with good olive or grapeseed oil; chili pepper flakes, and fennel seeds. Squeeze an orange over all. For adults, marinate in vodka spiked with a hot sauce, or in a bloody Mary mix.