Green pea hummus
Frozen green peas lend pureed canned chickpeas their bright green color. Adjust the heat, if you like, adding more jalapeno to make a spicier spread.
Recipe: Green pea hummus
Goat cheese and caramelized onion empanadas
You can make the empanadas ahead and freeze them (unbaked) on a rimmed baking sheet. When they are frozen, pile them into a plastic bag. Give frozen empanadas a few extra minutes in the oven.
Shrimp with Romesco sauce
Romesco is made like mayonnaise, but instead of beginning with an egg, the base is bread, almonds, and roasted tomato and garlic.
Recipe: Shrimp with Romesco sauce
Tomato and blue cheese tart
This savory tart begins with commercial puff pastry and relies on ripe good tomatoes. Use all red tomatoes or a variety of colored heirloom fruits.
Recipe: Tomato and blue cheese tart
Poor man’s caviar
In my kitchen, lots of eggplant means poor man’s caviar, an eggplant-based spread named for the tiny dots in the vegetable.
Recipe: Poor man’s caviar
Individual baked hot chocolates
This is on the menu at Moxie, the Restaurant, located in Beachwood, Ohio, which has featured American cuisine for 14 years. It was developed by Heidi Friedlander, the restaurant’s original pastry chef.
Recipe: Individual baked hot chocolates
Bay scallop ceviche
Bistro du Midi chef and partner Robert Sisca serves this ceviche in scallop shells. Or serve on bibb lettuce leaves or in small glass or porcelain cups.
Recipe: Bay scallop ceviche
Roasted potato planks
Forlorn potatoes need a good scrub. Slice them lengthwise into thick planks, and roast them in a hot oven into long, crisp chips. You’ll hardly believe you made them yourself.
Recipe: Roasted potato planks
Eggs with caviar
Take half a dozen, cook them in barely simmering water until the yolks are bright yellow, peel, and garnish. Red caviar (no need for the real stuff here) is a smashing adornment, but so is a sprinkle of parsley and salt. The world’s most perfect food turns into party fare.
Recipe: Eggs with caviar
The idea behind a verrine is to arrange different layers of food inside a small glass. In this recipe, start with a layer of store-bought ladyfingers cut into small pieces. Add a layer of fresh strawberries lightly tossed in sugar with chopped green pistachios – for color and texture. Pour in vanilla-flavored custard and finish with a layer of strawberries and pistachios. The result is pretty and rewarding.
Recipe: Strawberry verrines
Pork meatballs with sweet-and-sour cider glaze
Chiara Bistro owner Steve LaCount likes the versatility of these pork meatballs. “You can change the herbs and spices and have a totally different version,’’ says the Westwood chef.
Egg salad mini clubs
Turn hard-boiled eggs and a little mayo into salad, slice cucumber, and assemble mini clubs for nibbling.
Recipe: Egg salad mini clubs
Crab and avocado verrine
Most Americans know what a parfait is, but take that same idea and make the layers avocado salad, crabmeat, and pink grapefruit, and you get an entirely new dish called a verrine (pronounced vair-EEN) from the French word for glass (verre).
Recipe: Crab and avocado verrine
Potted shrimp is a British dish once used for preservation. Butter was ladled over cooked shrimp, sealing the crock, and protecting the seafood in much the same way as a French confit protects cooked duck. This version uses less butter and a little cream cheese and can be made a day in advance.
Recipe: Potted shrimp
Herb and peppercorn goat cheese
Slices of soft goat cheese coated with fresh herbs make a wonderful nibble to keep in your repertoire when unexpected guests call to say they’re in town. Serve them as an hors d’oeuvre with wine, or set a round of the cheese beside a salad of lightly dressed greens as an appetizer.
Recipe: Herb and peppercorn goat cheese
Mussels in white wine with saffron
A steaming serving of aromatic mussels is the sort of dish you can make at the last minute and have a splendid meal.
Spinach and feta dip
Similar to retro spinach dips, this version is made with chopped frozen spinach, Greek yogurt, and crumbled feta.
Recipe: Spinach and feta dip
The secret to the sweet onion flavor is taking the time to caramelize the onions — about 1 hour — but it’s worth the effort.
Recipe: Onion tart