I almost hate to admit it, but this kind of appetizer is what I fall back on when I want a festive look, not much work, and want to use up some of the “bits and pieces” in the refrigerator. I usually stick to one or two types, depending on what is on hand, but the variations are endless depending on what is in your fridge and pantry.
One loaf French baguette
Olive oil cooking spray
First Layer to prevent moisture from seeping through:
Soft cheeses such as goat cheese, Ricotta cheese, cream cheese (or butter)
Lemon, zested and juiced
Fig preserves or Chutney
Pesto; homemade or store-bought
Smoked salmon, deli-sliced turkey, beef or ham
Sweet and sour red cabbage, well-drained
Chopped nuts, preferably toasted
Fresh thyme, chives, dill, sage or other herbs
Bell peppers, cored and cut into thin slices
Tomatoes (grape or small Romas)
Sea salt or other large grain finishing salt
Slice the baguette into ¼ to ½ inch-thick rounds; the thinner the slice, the crispier the base. Do not slice on the diagonal since the purpose is to have small bites rather than sandwich size servings. Place each round on a baking sheet after brushing with olive oil. Brush on both sides, if you want crispy bites, or on only the top side, if you want a little “give” with the bite. Bake at 350 degrees until crisp throughout and lightly golden around the edges, about 10-15 minutes. Cool. Spread the cheese or butter on each round, then top with your choice of toppings and accent layers. (Lay out the toast and work assembly style in order to make these quickly.)
Samples that I have used that work well are:
• Goat cheese and fig preserves; sprinkled with chopped fresh thyme and chopped walnuts.
• About 1/3 cup ricotta mixed with ½ teaspoon lemon zest. Top with pesto and a strip of colorful bell pepper and/or thin slice of fresh parmesan.
• Cream cheese mixed with horseradish. Drape roast beef over top. Garnish with sliced tomato and/or sliced olives. Sprinkle finishing salt over top.
• Spread pesto on rounds, top with shaved Parmesan, chopped tomatoes, coarse salt.
• Spread any of the creamy cheeses on toasted rounds. Dollop red cabbage on top and drape roasted turkey over all. Add chopped fresh sage or chives. Cover with foil and refrigerate up to 2 hours if not serving right away.
Other combinations: hummus with chopped fresh tomatoes, black olives and parsley; cream cheese with garlic and topped with sautéed mushrooms or caramelized onions; chopped chipotles in adobo sauce mixed into cream cheese and topped with leftover pork or chicken; sliced fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and basil for Caprese Salad on toast; layered butter, cranberry sauce and sliced turkey; or make mini BLT’s.
You can even lay out the toast and other items and let people assemble their own—children especially love that!