Non-Cook Appetizers are those which can be ready for serving with minimal preparation and no baking, roasting, sauteeing, warming, broiling, microwaving, fricasseeing… Because it just takes too much time to fricassee an appetizer when you’re getting ready for a party.
1. The Stand-by Tray: Cheese, Crackers, Olives, Nuts
It’s a stand-by because it’s tasty, it’s classy, it offers variety, and it’s easy to eat with your fingers while standing, chatting, and balancing your plate and drink. Have at least one hard cheese and one soft cheese, a variety of crackers or breads (2 – 3 kinds), olives on toothpicks (you could stack Greek and Stuffed olives, two to a toothpick), and a dish or two of nuts.
2. Cold Dips and Crackers or Crudites
Puree 2 cans of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), 1 tablespoon of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of Tahini. Ta da! You have hummus. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with crackers, pita wedges, and sliced raw vegetables.
Other options: Make the hummus with black beans instead of the traditional garbanzos, for a switch; sprinkle the top with minced parsley or cilantro. People still love a traditional ranch dip or zesty vinaigrette for the crudites.
3. Marinated Vegetables
You can purchase these at a deli or salad bar, but they are easy to make at home. No cooking required. Use your favorite non-creamy salad dressing or make your own marinade: combine red wine vinegar, minced garlic, a bit of sugar, salt, and a pinch of dry mustard. Taste and adjust seasonings, then pour marinade over fresh, bite-size vegetables such as mushrooms, red and orange peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and cherry or grape tomatoes. For a stronger visual impact (and to accomodate pickier eaters), marinate each type of vegetable separately and arrange on a tray or in separate bowls.
4. Purchased Meats, Spreads, and Rolls
Your only job is in the assembly. On a large tray (or several smaller ones), arrange a variety of rolls (pre slice them), your assortment of meats (two kinds is fine), and small bowls of spreads such as mayo, mustards (honey, spicy brown), and horseradish (if you are serving deli beef). Expand the offering by adding sliced cheese and a variety of crunchy pickles.
5. Prosciutto and Pears
Apples and melons work for this, too. Prepare whichever fruit you’ll be using: peel and slice into 2 inch long pieces. Wrap each piece of fruit in one piece of prosciutto, spear with a toothpick, and arrange on a tray.
6. Fresh Fruit
Always simple, always welcome. Make it more exciting by focusing on the freshest, in-season fruits, and add in a couple of more exotic options such as starfruit or pomegranates as well. The power is in the presentation, so slice and dice carefully and arrange for visual impact. You can always offer sweeter, cold dips along with the fruit, if you like, but that’s entirely optional.
7. Topped Cucumbers and Carrots
You’ll want the smaller cucumbers and the larger carrots for this appetizer. (Larger cucumbers have too many messy seeds.) Peel and slice the vegetables into 1/4″ thick rounds, then top with whatever seems suitable to you. Garlicky cream cheese spread and bacon bits, soft brie and capers, ranch sour cream and half a cherry tomato.
8. Crab or Shrimp Spread on Lettuce
Combine canned crab or shrimp with softened cream cheese, sour cream, grated onion, and a splash of lemon juice and worcestershire. Season with salt and pepper or Old Bay seasoning, then serve on small pieces of sturdy lettuce or daikon.
Buy it at a reliable source, tray it, and serve it. Be sure you have wasabi and soy sauce on hand as well.
10. Stacked Crackers and Bread Rounds
Start with sturdy crackers or small bread rounds. Top with a variety of goodies as suits your taste and party. Try rye bread with a cream cheese smear, a piece of smoked salmon, and a tiny pile of capers. Or top crackers with a cheese and fruit combination, or mozzarella, basil, and a grape tomato, or olive tapenade and fresh parsley, or roasted red peppers and a piece of bacon, or brie and a smidge of apricot jam.