Sweet-tart Cranberry Curd pairs perfectly with smooth, salty herbed ricotta. Slathered on a toasted crostini and topped with winter herbs, these sweet and savory bites are perfect for any occasion.
We’re an appetizer family. Always have been and always will be. Aside from my sister’s husband, Josh, all of us are perfectly satisfied with a dinner of appetizers for just about any occasion, or no occasion at all. FYI, Josh’s solution to our apps-for-dinner habit is usually a baked ziti with killer homemade sauce and spicy Italian sausage. It always wins over the crowd and serves well at a party, if you want the recipe I’ll do my best to convince him to share his secret.
Thanksgiving Eve (aka Drinksgiving) is always a heavy spread of appetizers. Christmas night? Appetizers. Monday night? Appetizers. The key to creating a satisfying appetizer spread for any cocktail party is variety, protein, and a mix of lighter fare among savory comfort foods. Like our cocktail party at the lake this year.
Zestful Kitchen’s Rules for a Foolproof Cocktail Party
Variety is Key
No, you can’t have 5 different cheese boards and expect to tide people over. I’ve found I can’t assume everyone is as obsessed with cheese as I am. I like to have a mixture of types of foods. One or two cheese and meat boards with fruit, honey, and nuts, a soup simmering on the stove, mini sandwiches or lettuce wraps, crackers and chips, a few dips, meatballs or wings, and one or two different sweet treats (woof—I’m out of breath). As a rule of thumb, thanks to Ina, don’t make it all yourself. There are some delicious dips on the market these days in addition to great bakeries. Find a local bakery and order some cookies or sweet treats to relieve your “to-make” list a bit.
Always Offer Protein
Protein is essential for keeping people satisfied and somewhat sober—after all, it’s not call Drinksgiving for nothing. And protein doesn’t have to mean manning the grill to make sure the sliders don’t overcook (although sliders are a great idea). It can be smaller, easier dishes like mini sandwiches (turkey, gouda, aioli), chicken wings (per Greg’s request), meatballs, and hummus or mixed nuts.
Mix It Up
Having a mix of healthier options among heavier appetizers keeps everyone happy and feeling good throughout the night. I like to offer a light soup, mixed nuts, and a veggie tray with both hummus and a creamy, ranch-like dip to appeal to all preferences.
- 1 (15 ounce) container ricotta (1¾ cup)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, plus more for serving
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage, plus more for serving
- ½ teaspoon minced lemon zest
- Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 French baguette, cut into ¾-inch slices
- 1–2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 recipe Naturally Sweetened Cranberry Curd
- Process ricotta and salt in a food processor until smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add thyme, sage, zest, and pepper and process to combine. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with additional thyme and sage.
- Heat broiler to high with rack set 6 inches from element. Brush both sides of baguette slices with olive oil, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper and broil crostini until toasted, 1–2 minutes each side.
- Arrange crostini on a serving platter with whipped ricotta and cranberry curd.
Zestful Kitchen’s Cocktail Party Menu
Mini or Open-Faced Sandwiches