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Five favorite spreads for easy party or picnic appetizers

Roasted red pepper and garlic hummus crostini

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.

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.

Herbed cheese spread

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.

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.

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They all sound good. I love Muhamarra, it's been on my list to make forever!

Spreads always catch my 'bookmark on Delicious' -ing. They make great veg fallback/failsafe food. I've made your muhammara several times. Now I'll have to try the eggplant next.

Kalyn, you'll love muhammara -- it has those great Middle Eastern flavors we both like so much. The pomegranate makes it lemony.

Susan, you will love the eggplant! I just know it.

Right as usual, Lydia. I made the roasted eggplant spread. Wow, not only is it really tasty, it's a piece of cake (dare I use that phrase here?) to make. Pretty as a picture too!

Susan, thanks for coming back to let us know that you tried the eggplant spread. It's a new favorite in our house, and I was sure you'd like it.

I love that these aren't your run-of-the-mill spreads! We're having a cookout on Labor Day and one of these is definitely bound to make the table =)

Peggy, I love serving dishes like this for holiday entertaining, and I think you'll like all of these spreads. It's so hard to choose favorites!

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