Looking for Simple, Easy Cold Appetizers?

Cold Appetizers

If you're hosing a dinner party or a big get-together and want to keep your life a little simple, easy cold appetizers are the way to go. You don't have to spend hours in the kitchen putting them together, and you don't have to worry about to keep them hot during your party. They're the perfect thing to impress your guests with a minimum of effort. 

Especially the oh-so simple, easy cold appetizers I've got here. These appetizers are ulta-quick to put together (all three can be made in advance and tossed in the fridge until party time), but look beautiful, special and elegant. Almost gourmet.
No, really!
Don't believe me? Read of for some of my favorite recipes to keep life simple: easy cold appetizers that I make again and again.

Elegant Cold Appetizer Idea: Mini Salads in Cups

Sometimes elegance is more about presentation than ingredients or elaboration. This recipe/idea proves it! What do you do? You take your favorite salad recipe, and you put it in individual serving glasses like the ones in the photo up above. You can get these little serving cups at craft stores and dollar stores for really, really cheap-- like three cups for a buck or something. And you can use them again and again! (Or you can just go with pretty --and easily disposable-- plastic cups.) You can also use your favorite salad recipe to put these simple, easy cold appetizers together. But here are some of my favorites:
  • Layered taco salad (very pretty!)
  • Greek salad with feta
  • Chinese chicken salad
  • Cobb salad
  • Waldof salad
  • Caesar salads
  • Spinach salad
  • Lobster or shrimp salad
  • Ceviche
But I'll also give you one of my very favorite recipes to serve this way: Spanish Seafood Salpicon. It elegant, special, delicious, and it can be made hours ahead of time, giving you time to hang out with your guests at the party.

REAL Spanish Salpicon Recipe:
Marinated Seafood Salad in Olive Oil

Spanish seafood salpicon recipe with shrimp and musselsYou'll notice this recipe doesn't have a lot of what you would consider "flavoring" ingredients, such as spices. Heck, it doesn't even have garlic. And while it's almost unheard of for me to make food without garlic in it, I do it with this Spanish salpicon. Because the flavor of this dish is all about freshness-- the freshness of the vegetables, the tang of the vinegar, the sweetness of the seafood. The original recipe called for sliced, cooked octopus tentacle, but I took it out when I translated the recipe from Spanish. Why? Because though it tastes great in there, most Anglos are a touch antsy about eating things like octopus. But if you can get it, it's delicious in this simple easy cold appetizer!
What makes this cold seafood appetizer recipe really easy is that you can assemble it the morning of your party and let it sit-- unlike most salad recipes it won't get soggy, because there's no lettuce. For prettiest presentation in salad cups, line each cup with a lettuce leaf before adding the salpicon. Makes about 20 salad cups. 

32 peeled, de-veined shrimp, cooked and coarsely chopped
16 canned or freshly steamed mussels, meat only
1/2 lb. good-quality imitation crab, coarsely chopped
2 cucumbers, peeled and chopped
1 sm. green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 sm. red pepper, seeded and chopped
2 sm. tomato, chopped
2 sm. white onion, finely chopped
1/2-3/4 C. spanish olives, left whole (optional)
1/4 C. minced fresh parsley
Salt, to taste
1/4 C. red wine vinegar (or to taste)
3/4 C. good-quality extra virgin olive oil (or to taste)
20 bright green lettuce leaves (not iceburg!) (for garnish)

Instructions: 1. Place your seafood, veggies, olives, and parsley in a large bowl. Stir to mix. Add salt to taste.
2. Stir in vinegar. Start with just a bit and add the amount that fits your tastes (sorry, it's hard to be specific-- most Spanish recipes are just "taste as taste can".
3. Stir in oil. Cover and refrigerate at least an hour two, or up to 12 hours, before serving.
4. Line each salad cup with a lettuce leaves and divide your prepared salpicon recipe evenly among them.

Easy Cold Dip Appetizer: 7-Layer Hummus Dip Recipe

Greek 7-Layer Dip Recipe with HummusAs far as simple, easy cold appetizers go, 7-layer dip is a classic. And I don't know that there's anybody on the planet who doesn't like it! But it's also something that most people have had... oh, I dunno... about a million and a half times. Sound familiar? Well, try this version! This easy hummus recipe creates a twist on the traditional by substituting Mediterranean flavors for Mexican ones. It really can't be beat! Makes about 2 cups of dip. Serve with pita chips, tortilla chips, toasted bits of pita, or crudites. 

1 1/2 C. prepared hummus
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 C. marinated sundried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cucumber
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
2 tsp. minced fresh oregano
1/2 C. crumbled feta cheese
1/4 C. chopped kalamata olives
1/4 C. chopped green onions

Instructions: 1. Stir cumin and garlic into your prepared hummus. If your hummus is already strongly flavored, this step may not be necessary. Spread your prepared hummus in the bottom of a pie plate.
2. Top your hummus with your chopped sundried tomatoes. Top those with cucumber and season cucumber with freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle the parsley and oregano over.
3. Sprinkle the feta over. Sprinkle the olives over. Finish off with the green onions.
4. Cover and chill until ready to serve. Serve cold.

Citrus, Ginger, and Basil Infused Goat Cheese

Goat Cheese Recipe Infused with Citrus and BasilAs far as simple, easy cold appetizers go, this recipe tops them all. Why? Because it's totally gourmet, it looks gorgeous on a plate, it tastes absolutely divine, and it can be made 3-4 days in advance so you can concentrate on the rest of your prep. Need any more reasons to love it? Don't be afraid of biting into hard allspice berries and peppercorns when you eat this recipe. Because they cook in the oil for awhile, they simply infuse the oil with flavor, and then get soft and mild. Alltogether, this is a perfect recipe, and one of the first I'm apt to make when I want to impress my guests, but without muhc time or effort.
Oh, one more thing! Be sure to use a firm soft goat cheese to make this simple, easy cold appetizer. Too-soft goat's cheese won't slice cleanly and makes for a messy presentation. Serves about 10. 

12 oz. soft fresh goat cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
1/3 C. minced fresh basil
1 tsp. orange zest
3/4 C. good-quality extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. tricolor peppercorns
1 tsp. whole allspice berries

Instructions: 1. Start off with very cold goat cheese. The colder it is, the easier it will be to slice it in neat rounds, which is what you want.
2. In a small bowl, stir together the garlic, ginger, basil, and orange zest.
2. With a very sharp knife, slice the goat cheese into slices about 1/2" thick. Place the cheese in the bottom of a round baking dish.
3. In a small pan, cook the olive oil, peppercorns, and allspice over medium heat. When the peppercorns start popping, remove the pan from the heat. Quickly add your bowl of basil-zest mixture. Stir to mix.
4. While oil is still quite hot, pout over your prepared goat cheese slices.
5. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 4 days and at least 4 hours.
6. To serve, place goat cheese slices neatly on a serving dish. Pour marinade over. Let come to room temperature to make cheese easier to serve and spread. Serve with crusty French bread and crackers.

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