Canapes may sound stuffy, but they actually are the ultimate in ease when it comes to party food. Plus, they look great and can be combined in endless ways to suit any taste.
So we created a simple formula for making canapes, dividing them into four components — bases, spreads, toppings and garnishes. For each canape, all you do is select one item from each category, then assemble. And the easiest way to assemble enough for a party is to set out all of your ingredients (clustered by category), then just start selecting and building.
If you're planning a party, you might even consider turning the making of the canapes into a pre-party. Set out everything on the counter, pour some wine and invite a few guests to come early and help assemble (and sample, of course).
And obviously don't feel locked into the ingredients we've included in these categories. Head to the grocer and see what inspires you. For example, we include recipes for mixing your own spreads, but to simplify you could grab prepared tzatziki, hummus, flavored cream cheese or cheese spreads.
Each spread recipe makes enough to top 24 canapes. If you opt to use 24 of each canape base (for a total of 96 canapes), supplement the three spreads below with a purchased choice, such as hummus, tzatziki or flavored cream cheese.
Start to finish: 30 minutes
24 multigrain crackers
24 thin slices of seedless cucumber
24 toasted baguette slices
24 purchased phyllo cups (found in the grocer's freezer section)
Garlic-herb cream cheese
4 ounces softened cream cheese
2 tablespoons milk
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
In a medium bowl, beat together the cream cheese and milk until smooth. Stir in the salt, pepper, thyme, oregano and garlic.
Zesty barbecue spread
3 tablespoons barbecue sauce
2 tablespoons spicy red pepper jelly
1/4 cup sour cream
Splash of hot sauce
In a small bowl, stir together the barbecue sauce, red pepper jelly, sour cream and hot sauce.
Orange sweet potato spread
1 medium sweet potato, microwaved until fork-tender
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Peel the sweet potato, then place it in a medium bowl and mash it. Stir in the orange marmalade and vinegar, then season with salt and pepper.
Small cooked and peeled shrimp
Shredded cooked chicken
Halved cherry tomatoes
Small wedges of manchego cheese
Shaved Parmesan cheese
Sliced green and black olives
Sliced hot peppers (such as piri piri or Peppadew)
To assemble the canapes, arrange the bases on a large serving tray. Top each with a small dollop of one of the spreads. Press one of the topping choices into the spread, then finish each with a garnish.