I have to admit that one of the things I love about going out to dinner is all the courses you can order. Generally, I’ll have an ordering strategy before we even make it to the table at a restaurant — one that enables me to try a lot of the dishes on the menu. (Luckily, KC is generally very amenable to letting me choose what we order. He’s a keeper, that one.) Obviously, when you’re having a date night at home, having to prepare all those courses would take up a lot of your precious time that you’d much rather spend gazing at your sweetie. Or downing another cocktail.
One of the ways to get around the time in the kitchen/I want to eat more than one thing dilemma, is to create an appetizer spread for your date night. Appetizers are fabulous, because they’re not too big (allowing you to eat a lot of different things without ending up feeling like you’ve swallowed some kind of large sea mammal), and generally don’t require too much prep time.
Here’s a spread I put together for KC’s birthday last year:
It may look impressive and time-consuming, but it’s really just three main things.
1. Cheese Board
I always start off with a cheese board, because a. I love cheese, and b. it requires zero cooking. My general rules for a cheese board are to display 3-4 cheeses + toppings + pickled item(s) + bread/crackers.
Cheese: I like to have at least one soft/creamy cheese (goat or brie, generally), one hard cheese (like an aged gouda or cheddar), one semi-hard cheese (like a comte or emmentaler), and/or one semi-soft cheese (like havarti or jarlsberg).
Toppings: I’ll generally do at least one type of meat (turkey, salami, and prosciutto are my go-to’s), tomatoes, and condiments (I love honey with goat cheese, grainy mustard adds a nice kick to semi-hard cheeses, jam is wonderful with certain types of brie, and TJ’s just started selling quince paste — I couldn’t pass that up!). Other things like sliced fruit, nuts, and roasted peppers are also nice additions.
Pickled Items: There’s something about pickled things that I automatically associate with a cheese spread. Also, things that are pickled last forever in the fridge, making them easy to keep on hand. I almost always have cornichons (I’m obsessed) and green olives laying around; but you can always include other types of olives and/or pickled veggies as well (carrots, mushrooms, peppers, etc.)
2. Veggies and Dip
I like to include a vegetable-centered appetizer, to provide a little relief (and peace of mind) from the cheese + carb happenings which generally dominate my table. My favorite one to serve is crudite with green goddess dressing.
Green Goddess Dressing
- 1/2 cup greek yogurt (I like Fage 2%)
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise (I use full-fat mayo)
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1 anchovy filet or 1/2 tsp anchovy paste
- 1/2 tsp minced garlic
- 3 scallions, tops and bottoms removed, then cut into thirds
- 1 cup packed basil leaves (basically a few handfuls)
- 1 tsp salt
- Using a regular or hand blender, combine all ingredients together, then blend until fully combined and pureed.
- Serve with any combination of sliced: carrots, bell pepper, cucumber, snap peas, zucchini, cherry or grape tomatoes, radishes… whatever you can think of. It’s not great with celery though, just take my word for it.
3. Something Hot
Obviously none of the above requires any real cooking, so I like to include something warm to balance out the room-temp cheese plate and cold veggies + dip. To make things easy on yourself, you could prepare a hot dip which could be served with the same bread you’re using for the cheese plate (artichoke dip yummmm). Here I made ricotta crostini with prosciutto.
Ricotta Crostini with Prosciutto
- 1 baguette, sliced
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 tub whole milk ricotta (I think it’s generally 12 or 16 oz)
- 1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp lemon juice or lemon zest (use zest if you like it more lemony)
- 1 small bunch mint, finely minced
- 3/4 cup peas (fresh or frozen, defrosted)
- prosciutto (thin slices cut into thirds)
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Lay out sliced baguette in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, turning to coat. Bake 8-12 minutes, until browned and crispy, turning once halfway through.
- While the bread is baking, stir together ricotta, parmesan, lemon juice or zest, mint, and peas, adding salt and pepper to taste.
- When bread is done baking, top slices with ricotta mixture, then top with prosciutto.