Raise your hand if you've been there: You're at work all day, but you're going to a party or picnic after work (perhaps something like the Symphony in the Park tonight in NYC) and you need to bring something small to munch on. You can't run home to cook, but you don't want to be the eighth person to show up with a block of cheese and a box of Carr's. Here are our seven best options for quick, throw-it-together things that you can make in the morning or even assemble on site—including what we made to take to the symphony tonight.
Our requirements for these appetizers is that they be easy to pack (in case you need to bring them to the office and store them in the communal fridge), require no oven or stovetop, and look nicer than the hummus and pita you would inevitably pick up at Whole Foods on your way. All of them involve cheese, but none have you showing up with a plastic-wrapped block of manchego.
1. Ham, Cheese, and Chutney sandwiches. These follow our basic Jam-Pork-Cheese appetizer template, but they don't have to be heated under the broiler. Most people like ham and cheese, and a little dab of store-bought chutney or apricot jam makes it just a little more special. We like ours with a thick slice of cheddar (in fact, just cheddar and chutney is good, if you want to leave off the ham) and have made them on mini brioche rolls or baguettes. This is what we're taking to the symphony tonight. We layered the cheese, ham, and chutney on the baguette, sliced it into 2-inch pieces, and wrapped it up.
2. Tomato and Mozzarella Skewers. Buy the cherry tomatoes and the mozzarella balls. Take the basil oil with you or skip it, if you don't have time. You could also put a basil leaf on the skewer and then drizzle with plain olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
3. Stuffed peppers. We love these sweet piquante peppers stuffed with salami and parmesan (above, right). Stuff them in advance and pack them tightly in a to-go container so they don't roll around. So easy!
4. Bread + spreadable cheese + vegetable. The simplest template around and always a crowd pleaser. You could follow Faith's recipe for Radish, Boursin, and Chive Tartines (above, left) or buy some pre-pickled beets (like our favorite, Rick's Picks) and do a Beets on Crostini with Goat Cheese. The possibilities are endless here: Cream cheese with thinly sliced cucumbers (sprinkled with dill), goat cheese with a slice of ripe tomato and a sprinkle of basil, ricotta with a slice of apple and a drizzle of honey...
Now, if you're thinking, "Those would be impossible to transport," hear this: You could package each thing separately (slice the bread, pack the cheese, slice the vegetables) and then have people smear and assemble themselves. Or, make them ahead of time and pack them in a large, shallow container with pieces of parchment paper in between each layer.
5. A cheese ball. Sounds bad, we know. But we love this Goat Cheese with Parsley and Lemon, shaped into a ball and served with crackers. It takes five minutes to pull together and looks completely homemade.
6. Anything you've made in your food processor. We know not everyone has one, but if you do... There's nothing easier than a puréed something from the food processor. Try one of these easy dips—or, if you want to bring something sweet, blend together some cream cheese, brown sugar, cinnamon, maybe a dab of yogurt or lemon juice and serve it as a dip for strawberries or cherries you grab at the market on your way to the picnic.
7. Cheese on crackers with honey. Maybe you want a sweet touch. Buy crackers, a block of blue cheese, and a honey bear. Have guests put a chunk of cheese on a cracker and drizzle some honey. If you want to get fancier, try something like this Ricotta, Fig, and Honey Tartine. Grapes would be good and don't even require slicing.
What other go-to, packable, easy-to-assemble appetizers do you love?
Related: Fast! Easy! Quick! Recipes for Weeknight Cooking
(Images: Faith Durand; Elizabeth Passarella)