Best holiday appetizers

For many folks, appetizers are the best part of any get-together, especially during the holidays. So give the people what they want, and offer up a variety of appetizers on your holiday catering menu.

Cold appetizers are usually in great demand because no prep is involved. Particularly popular are shot glass-sized appetizers, such as these Assorted Savory Shots. They feature Pepper Tapenade, Salmon Tartare and Tomato Tartare, so there’s enough variety to please your customers.

Warm appetizers also are a big hit during the cold weather in many parts of the country at this time of year. Breaded goat cheese and spinach-and-ricotta pastries are sure to be holiday hits.

You can’t go wrong with goat cheese, as the following recipes illustrate. Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese tarts are easy to make when you start with prepared puff pastry dough. For something with a little more flavor, combine creamy goat cheese, tart balsamic vinegar, sweet honey, and roasted figs to create a perfect sweet-savory appetizer.

Once thought of as exotic, hummus is now mainstream. But you can’t offer your catering customers the store-bought variety. For something truly original, add some roasted bell peppers, goat cheese, and mint, to your hummus mixture. The peppers give the hummus a reddish tint; top with a sprig of mint in keeping with the holiday color scheme.

Make your own pita chips for dipping. If your establishment has a checkout counter, keep bagged pita chips (relatively inexpensive to make) at the register for impulse buys. Have a refrigerated case at the front? Keep containers of hummus on display, along with your deli items and desserts. Have your hostess offer free hummus and pita chips to those waiting for tables, then watch as sales soar for these items on your catering menu. Or offer as a free appetizer, and make sure your wait-staff mentions that these items are available for holiday catering.

If you’re looking for more upscale items to round out your catering menu, look no further than escargot. Delight your customers with Escargots à la Bourguignonne, a classic escargot dish featuring an irresistible garlic sauce. Consider whipping up a batch or two and offer a tasting to convince anyone who might be scared of trying snails. One taste and they’ll be believers!