It’s a rare day that you’ll find me rolling out my own puff pastry dough to mold into fussy canapés. Frankly, I don’t have much of a repertoire of appetizers at all. When I throw a dinner party, I want guests to come to the table good and hungry, so usually go minimal on the pre-meal eats: a dish of olives, a pretty glass filled with slender breadsticks, warm, spiced nuts.

This time of year, though, when things are feeling especially festive, I like to bring it up a notch with the hors d’oeuvres. These three here are my tried and true favorites. All have four or fewer ingredients and can be pulled together in no time. They are so simple, in fact, that I’m not even going to burden you with a full recipe; just a photo and quickie description for each.
Smoked Salmon with Creme Fraiche

The key here is good quality ingredients. I like this one with thin slices of hearty, European-style rye bread, which I pick up at Tartine Bakery here in San Francisco (Anna’s Daughter’s Rye Bread). A more delicate approach is to serve it on buttered and lightly toasted pan de mie. Sliced baguette will work in a pinch. Blinis are the best if you want to get fancier.

You will need:

Thinly sliced smoked salmon
Good-quality, thinly sliced German-style bread
Creme fraiche or sour cream
Dill for garnish

Method: Cut the bread into squares that are about 2 inches by 2 inches. Fold smoked salmon on each slice of bread. Dab on a teaspoon or so of creme fraiche. Finish with dill garnish.

Pancetta-Wrapped Dates

I call this little number “pork crack,” it’s that addictive. Pancetta is wrapped around medjool dates and baked until crispy. You can take it a step further and slip an almond or a piece of cheese in the cavity that the pit leaves behind before wrapping the date in the pancetta.

You will need:

Thinly sliced pancetta
Pitted medjool dates


Preheat oven to 350 F. Wrap a piece of pancetta that is not quite as wide as the date and long enough to wrap about 1 1/2 times around it. The pancetta should adhere to itself. Set the dates seam-side down on a baking sheet. Bake until the pancetta is crispy and begins to caramelize. The time will vary somewhat depending on the thickness of the pancetta, 20 to 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Honeyed Walnuts with Cheese

On a trip to Spain a number of years ago we happened upon a roadside stand peddling glass jars of walnuts steeped in local honey. Sold. It’s heavenly served in a small crock or on a plate along with an assertive cheese. I’m partial to a creamy blue or Parmegiano Reggiano, or even Spain’s own Manchego.

You will need:

Cheese, such as creamy blue, Parmesan, or Manchego
A crusty loaf of bread

Toast the walnuts according to your preferred method. I like to do it in a 300 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Put the walnuts in a ramekin, crock or on your serving plate and cover with a generous amount of honey. The walnuts should be immersed in honey. Set cheese out with honeyed walnuts and thin slices of lightly toasted crusty bread.

What are your “go to” appetizers?

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  1. Kim
    12.06.2011 at 9:50 PM #

    Any cheese suggestions for the date appetizer?

    • katiemorford
      12.07.2011 at 6:51 AM #

      You could use a cheese with a fairly distinct flavor that can stand up to the sweetness of the dates and the saltiness of the pancetta. I’d say a goat cheese or blue cheese. Be sure the seal up the date well so the cheese doesn’t ooze out too much as it cooks.

  2. 12.07.2011 at 11:13 AM #

    I like baked brie in puff pastry. You can serve sweet(apples & pears with cinnamon) or savory(mushrooms & thyme). You can also wrap the brie in biscuit dough then bake.

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