Today’s Canapés

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Assorted canapés
Assorted canapés (Andrew1Norton / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

The word canapé has buzzed in my ear for decades. It implied fancy food, but I didn’t know what that meant.

A quick visit to Merriam-Webster conveyed that a canapé is a piece of bread, toast, pastry or even cracker topped with savories, often in layers. Quite simply, it’s an hors d’oeuvre traditionally served with drinks at receptions or formal parties. A canapé is meant to be bite-sized.

I began experimenting with canapés, both making them and eating them, an occupation I highly recommend. While nibbling on sensational culinary combinations, I learned some things along the way.

It’s easier to pile up and eat ingredients if the layer above the bread is thick and creamy, such as hummus or a soft, spreadable cheese. Topping canapés with fresh herbs makes them pop, giving them eye appeal and huge flavor.

Ingredients can be anything from fish or meat to edible flowers. Because so many people are on special diets, I invented dairy-free and gluten- free canapés.

While canapés are an elegant snack, there’s no reason to wait for grand occasions to serve them. They perk up pool parties and barbecues, and are a delicious surprise when you invite people for drinks. The sight of carefully crafted hors d’oeuvres makes guests feel pampered. Serve these beauties on cake stands of two or three levels or pass them on porcelain platters.

Warning: You need a lot of canapés because they are consumed quickly.

Canapés with smoked salmon
Canapés with smoked salmon (juhajarvinen / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Smoked Salmon Canapés | Dairy

Yield: approximately 24 canapés

  • ½ lemon
  • 4-5 pieces of pumpernickel bread
  • 8 ounces plain cream cheese
  • ¼ pound smoked salmon, cut into 24 squares
  • 1 heaping tablespoon capers, drained on paper towels
  • 3 tablespoons dill sprigs

With a sharp knife, cut the lemon into 3 thin slices. Cut each slice into 8 triangles. Reserve. Use the remainder of the lemon for another purpose.

Cut the bread into 24 bite-sized pieces. Spread cream cheese on top of each piece. Place smoked salmon pieces on top of the cream cheese. Dot the smoked salmon with 2 or 3 capers, followed by the lemon triangles. Place a dill sprig on top.

Serve within a couple of hours, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Ricotta and Olive Canapés | Dairy

Yield: approximately 24 canapés

  • 12 pieces of Italian bread
  • 15-ounce container of ricotta cheese (Polly-O brand is kosher)
  • 1 cup of Kalamata olives, pitted, drained and cut in half
  • 10-12 basil leaves, chopped

Cut the bread in half or into bite-sized pieces. Spread the ricotta on top of each piece. Dot with a couple olive halves and, with the back of a teaspoon, gently press them into the ricotta. Sprinkle chopped basil on top.

Serve within a couple of hours, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Hummus Canapés | Pareve

Yield: approximately 24 canapés

  • 4-5 pieces of multigrain bread
  • 1 pound container of plain, unflavored hummus
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced fine
  • ½ cup pine nuts or chopped walnuts
  • 4 tablespoons chives, chopped

Cut the bread into 24 bite-sized pieces. Spread hummus on top of each piece. Dot diced cucumber over the hummus. Sprinkle nuts on top, followed by chives. Lightly press down with the back of a teaspoon so the ingredients stay in place.

Serve within a couple of hours, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Mushroom Canapés | Pareve

Yield: approximately 24 canapés

  • 1/2 lb. mushrooms, shitake, cremini or white
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, or more if needed
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 4-5 pieces of sourdough bread, cut into approximately 24 bite-sized pieces

Clean the mushrooms well and drain on paper towels. Dice them and then chop them fine. Reserve.

In a large frying pan, briefly heat the oil on a medium-low flame. Add the mushrooms and garlic. Sprinkle on salt. Sauté, stirring frequently, for 5-8 minutes, or until the mushrooms turn golden brown. Remove them from the flame for a minute or two. Meanwhile, briefly toast the bite-sized pieces of bread.

Use an additional plate to assemble the mushroom canapés before moving them to a serving platter, as assembling them is messy. Place a spoonful of mushroom mixture on each square of toast. Use the back of another spoon to flatten the mushroom mixture into the toast pieces. Serve on a platter while still warm.

Gluten-Free Zucchini Canapés | Dairy

Yield: approximately 20 canapés

  • 1 zucchini
  • 12 ounces fontina cheese (Les Petites Fermieres fontina slices are kosher)
  • Paprika to taste
  • 4 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped

Rinse the zucchini under cold water and scrub it with a vegetable brush. Pat it dry with paper towels. With a sharp knife, cut the zucchini into ¼-inch thick slices, about 20 slices.

Cut the fontina cheese into squares about the same size as the zucchini circles. Starting with the zucchini circles, layer 2 slices of fontina on top, followed by a sprinkling of paprika and topped with parsley leaves.

Serve within a couple of hours, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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