Appetizer spreads to smear on crackers or toast or slices of cucumber are a party host's best friend. No matter the ingredients, most spreads taste better when made at least a few hours ahead, so the flavors can meld. The food processor or blender makes spreads quick and easy, and the guests do their own smearing a la minute. Here are five of my favorite spreads for easy party or picnic appetizers. Serve with toast, crackers or crudités -- or with all three.
Some of my favorite spreads originate in the Mediterranean region. Roasted red pepper and garlic hummus (top photo), based on a traditional chickpea recipe, makes a wonderful topping for crostini or filling for pitas. Muhammara brings the lemony flavor of pomegranate together with roasted red peppers, walnuts and cashews.
Roasted eggplant spread with garlic, pepper and onions, another spread inspired by Italian caponata, gets its smoky flavor from Spanish smoked paprika. Serve it with toasted pita chips, crackers or celery stalks.
Everyone loves boursin, the little boxes of herbed cheese you can buy in the supermarket. This homemade herbed cheese spread, made with lots of garlic and thyme from the garden, is positively addictive. Spread it on toast and top with a fresh tomato, or layer it with sliced beef and arugula in grilled panini. You can make this a few days in advance.
Smoked bluefish paté, adapted from the popular appetizer at Boston's Legal Sea Foods restaurants, is the kind of treat you serve to guests you know will love it. The assertive fish and caramelized onion flavor won't appeal to everyone, but anyone who loves smoked fish will adore it.
Five of my favorite spreads -- something for every taste. To find more recipes, type the word "spread" or "dip" into the search box at the top of the right-hand column.
Make these ahead to serve for your holiday weekend parties.
Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.