Appetizer Basics

Hot-from-the-oven morsels . . . cool and creamy dips . . . sweet or savory snack mixes. The world of appetizers includes a mouthwatering assortment of tastes and textures. Appetizers can be elegant hors d’ouevres suitable for a cocktail party, finger foods for a casual gathering or a snack to tide the family over until dinnertime. No matter the occasion, they’re an enticing way to awaken people’s taste buds.

There are many names given to appetizers, depending on where you live and the specific type of food involved. The appealing array of these tasty treasures includes the following:

Canapés: Small pieces of toast, bread, crackers or baked pastry topped with various cheeses, an anchovy or some type of spread. They can be hot or cold, simple or elaborate.

Charcuterie: French for “cooker of meat.” Served as an appetizer platter, this includes thinly sliced meats (often cured), pâtés and rilettes (a paste of meat, poultry or fish cooked in seasoned fat). Often served with pickled vegetables, breads, crostini and mustard.

Crudités: Raw veggies cut into slices, sticks or pieces, usually served with a dip or flavored oil.

Dips and Dunks: Not too thin or too thick, these tasty mixtures are perfect for dipping chips, vegetables and fruit.

Finger Foods: No forks, spoons or knives required. Try Bruschetta or Basil- Cheese Triangles.

First Course: Appetizer served at a sit-down meal. Instead of a traditional appetizer, the first course could be a small serving of a main dish, salad or soup.

Hors d’Oeuvres: French for “outside the work.” These are bite-size foods eaten apart from the regular meal, often with cocktails.

Meze (Mezze): Greek name for appetizers or hors d’oeuvres and usually served as a selection of small dishes. These often include hummus, yogurt, cheeses, roasted and pickled vegetables, olives, breads, meats and seafood. These foods can vary widely based on the country of origin.

Salumi: Italian-style cured or preserved meats, including coppa, pancetta and prosciutto. Salumi platters are often served as “antipasto” in contemporary Italian restaurants. Platters may include cheeses and pickled vegetables similar to charcuterie.

Spreads: Unlike dips, spreads are thick, so a knife is needed to spread them on bread or hearty crackers.

Tapas: A popular appetizer style in Spain that consists of small plates of food, often one or two bites each. They can be simple or complex. A collection of these tasty bites can create an entire meal.

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