With holiday entertaining season in full swing, it’s nice to have a few easy, go-to appetizers in your back pocket to whip up when out-of-town friends pop by, or to serve at your New Year’s Eve bash.
The recipes below — brie crostini with sundried tomato tapenade; bacon-wrapped dates with almonds; and crudites with lemon-parsley tahini dip — are three of my favorites from my new cookbook "The Yellow Table: A Celebration of Everyday Gatherings." I love the vibrant colors, flavors and textures, but most of all, I love that they are super-easy to make ahead and finish just before serving. Plus they can all be served room temperature — and won’t suffer from sitting out a few hours.
Here are a few practical planning tips to make your party prep go smoothly:
1. Make your sundried tomato tapenade a day or two in advance and keep in the refrigerator. And if you’re really in a pinch, you can substitute a good-quality jarred variety.
2. Make the lemon parsley tahini dip a day ahead and keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
3. You can make the bacon-wrapped dates the day before and reheat before serving. Or – prep them the morning of your gathering and keep on a tray in the refrigerator; just bake them before serving.
4. For the crudités, I like to use a pretty variety of vegetables, like rainbow carrots, radishes, haricots verts or snap peas and Romanesco broccoli. I prep the vegetables earlier in the day and store them in bowls, covered with moist paper towels or dish towels, in the refrigerator until ready to serve. If you’re in a hurry, you can buy pre-prepped vegetables at many grocery stores.
5. Slice the bread for your crostini earlier in the day of your party, and store at room temperature. About 20 minutes before guests arrive, preheat your broiler, top the crostini with slices of Brie, and broil until bubbly. Or skip the broiling altogether and use an extra-creamy triple crème Brie (no melting necessary!). Then just top with tapenade and serve!
Bacon-wrapped dates with almonds
Dietary considerations: gluten free, dairy free
The hardest thing about bacon-wrapped dates is that you can never make enough. Whenever I serve them at parties, they always disappear immediately! Try blue cheese in place of the almonds for an especially decadent treat.
- 18 raw, unsalted almonds
- 18 dates
- 6 slices nitrate-free bacon, cut into thirds
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Cut slits in the dates, remove the seeds, and slip almonds into the center of each one. Wrap each date in 1/3 slice of bacon, tucking the loose ends under the date. Arrange the dates in rows on a baking sheet. Bake until the bacon is golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Place on a paper towel-lined plate to soak up some of the grease and let cool slightly before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Brie with sundried tomato-walnut tapenade
Dietary considerations: vegetarian
In addition to being a superb crostini-topper, this sundried tomato tapenade is the perfect condiment to have on-hand. You can serve it with a cheese platter, on sandwiches, with grilled chicken, or tossed with pasta for a last-minute meal.
- 3 ounces chopped sundried tomatoes (not the oil-packed kind)
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino
- 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus minced parsley for garnish
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped, toasted walnuts
- 1 clove garlic, minced 1 shallot, minced
- 1/4 cup, plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 12 (1/4-inch-thick) baguette slices
- Brie, for serving
Place the sundried tomatoes in a small heatproof bowl and cover with 1 cup of boiling water. Let sit for 10 minutes. Pour through a strainer set over a second small bowl, pressing on the tomatoes to remove any excess liquid; discard the liquid.
Transfer the tomatoes to a food processor, add the Parmesan or Pecorino, parsley, walnuts, garlic, shallot, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, and the vinegar and pulse to combine. With the machine running, add 3 more tablespoons of the olive oil in a slow, steady stream and continue to pulse until the mixture is blended but still chunky. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Store, in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days. The flavors actually improve when you make this tapenade at least 1 day in advance.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Arrange the baguette slices on the foil-lined baking sheet and brush with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake for 3 minutes, flip, and then top each with a slice of Brie and continue baking until the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. (Alternately, place under the broiler for about 30 seconds.) Top each crostini with 1 teaspoon of tapenade and garnish with minced parsley.
Variation: This is also really delicious with goat cheese or fresh ricotta, in lieu of Brie. Bake the crostini 3 minutes per side and spread with cheese afterwards.
Crudités with lemon-parsley tahini dip
Dietary considerations: gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, vegan
This tangy dip is made from tahini, a sesame paste that’s also used to make hummus. I love creating a crudité platter using unexpected vegetables like watermelon radishes, Romanesco broccoli, and heirloom carrots — the more colorful, the better! You’ll notice that there are not specific amounts for the vegetables in the recipe — just use whatever combination you like.
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Rainbow carrots, halved
- Raw snap peas or haricots verts
- Romanesco broccoli or cauliflower, cut into florets
- Breakfast radishes, halved lengthwise
- Watermelon radishes, halved and cut into half-moons
- Fennel slices
For the dip: In a small bowl, stir together the lemon juice and garlic and let sit for 2-3 minutes (this takes a bit of the edge off the raw garlic). Transfer to a food processor, add the parsley and tahini, and pulse until the mixture has the consistency of a thick paste. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Add 2 tablespoons of water and blend until completely smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For the Crudités: Arrange the vegetables on a platter and serve with the tahini dip.
More holiday party tricks and tips:
- Throw a make-ahead cocktail party
- Watch: Turn your veggie platter into a beautiful "garden"
- Make these big-batch cocktails for your party
- Cheat with these instant appetizer ideas