The Perfect Appetizer

First off, I want you to know that my instinct was to call this post “The Perfect Pupu”.   After living in Hawaii for eight years, it’s habit for me to call anything eaten before the meal a “pupu”.  But I know that can confuse people and can sound like kindergarten humor sometimes, so for now its “The Perfect Appetizer”.   Feel free to say “pupu” if it makes you feel better…

We were invited to a casual dinner party this weekend with six adults and three kids, and we were asked to bring “something to snack on”.  It was our first time at our friends’ house and I wanted to impress, but also needed something I could throw together very quickly and would satisfy everyone men, women and kids.

I am kind of obsessed with appetizers.  My favorite part of most dinner parties and gatherings is the “pre-meal” – the moments standing around the kitchen island or BBQ, glass of wine in hand, picking at some crackers and cheese while catching up with friends.  There is something so comforting and real about that time.  Because of this, I like to try and bring the “perfect” appetizer when I’m in charge of this part of the meal.  My criteria are:

1) Easy to prepare – there are some AMAZING recipes for complicated and beautiful appetizers and small plates.  I always have visions of creating this baked phyllo dough shrimp cup dish I’ve seen in the past.  Someday I might be that person, but for now, I’m the “make it as easy as possible on yourself while making something good” person.  If I show up on time, in clean clothes, with food that looks pretty and a cold bottle of white wine, it’s a successful night in my book.

2) Consider your audience – are you going to a kids’ birthday party?  A sit down Thanksgiving meal?  How many people will be there?  Vegetarians?  Meat eaters?  Will you be outside all day with the food in the sun, or will it be protected?  Don’t stress if you have no idea what people will eat or who will be there.  I just try to give everyone an option.  For example, mini egg frittatas are super easy to prepare and travel wonderfully.  You can do a batch with bacon and a batch without to satisfy both meat eaters and vegetarians.  Put some fruit on the tray so anyone who doesn’t eat eggs has an option.

3) No plates or utensils needed – I personally try to always bring something that people can grab and eat with their hands and without a big mess.  If there are only 4-6 people, it’s easier to deal with appetizer plates and utensils.  If there is a big group and everyone is standing around or running after kids, don’t bother.

4) What do I wish someone else would bring as an appetizer?  I’ll bring that.  You might be eating a lot of it, and you don’t know what other food will be there, so bring something you personally want to have.

5) What else will be served?  You don’t always know this, so don’t sweat it.  If you know it’s a pizza party, try bringing a veggie or fruit based appetizer to avoid more bread (grilled veggie or fruit kabobs with a dipping sauce or stuffed mushrooms are options).  If it’s a small sit down dinner with courses, you can assume there will already be a meat, veggie and side dish.  This might be a good place for a platter of grapes, cheeses, crackers, hummus and salami.  For this dinner party we attended, I knew we would be having a pasta dish as our main course.  I wanted to avoid more carbs in the appetizer, so I eliminated cracker/bread ideas.

So after all that, here is what I am now deeming the “perfect” appetizer!  Ta-da!  I give you the Stacked Capresse Salad and Prosciutto Wrapped Canteloupe.




I don’t have a recipe because you seriously don’t need one.  All of the items I purchased either at our local farmers market or Trader Joe’s.  I used organic products and even bought pre-sliced cantaloupe because I was in such a hurry (lazy way out, I know).

The method:

Wrap a single piece of prosciutto around each cantaloupe slice (if you can’t find prosciutto, you could use ham in a pinch)

Cut tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices and salt and pepper tomatoes

Slice mozzarella into rounds about the same size (use the good buffalo mozzarella!)

Lay a single piece of fresh basil on each stack

For an extra wow factor, drizzle olive oil over the entire tray right before serving

I planned on putting some extra cantaloupe on the plate without the prosciutto for any vegans, but I ran out.  Otherwise, it hit all marks for my  “appetizer criteria” and it definitely had a wow factor when I brought it into the party.  It would be great for just about any gathering, and there is no stress in putting it together.   I hope you try it out!

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