Keeping last-minute entertaining ingredients on hand lets you breathe easy when a friend drops by, or you find yourself wanting to invite a neighbor over for a chat.
When you’ve got these nine things on hand, you’re always ready to whip up a few quick appetizers at a moment’s notice, so you can enjoy your company without feeling like a bad host.
Last-Minute Entertaining Ingredients
1. A frozen baguette
Keeping a well-wrapped baguette in the freezer gives you the basis for many easy, quick appetizers. You don’t even need to defrost it — just slice, brush the top with olive oil and broil the slices on a baking sheet for a couple of minutes until they’re toasted. Serve with the other ideas listed below.
2. Canned white beans
Cannellini or navy beans make a quick, delicious dip when drained and mashed with a little olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Spread it on the toasted baguette slices or serve with celery or carrot sticks for dipping.
3. A few good cheeses
Keep your fridge stocked with a soft cheese (goat cheese or Brie), a firmer and flavorful cheese (smoked Gouda or Gruyere), and a hard cheese (Parmesan-Reggiano or Manchego). Arrange them on a platter with slices of toasted baguette or crackers and, voila, you’ve got an elegant cheese board.
Along with your cheese board, serve a small bowl of high-quality olives like kalamata or large Italian green olives — but not those bitter, green Manzanilla olives that come crammed in a jar. Or quickly marinate olives by draining and tossing them with olive oil, a pinch of red pepper flakes, minced garlic, rosemary, and salt.
When putting together a last-minute appetizer spread, go for a variety of flavors and textures. Nuts will add crunch plus a little protein. You can fancy them up by microwaving them for 30 seconds or so — just until they begin to release a little oil — and tossing them with paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper. Prefer a sweet touch? After microwaving, dust them with equal parts cinnamon powder and sugar. Yum!
Keep a tub of store-bought hummus in the fridge for an easy dip, or spread it on those toasted baguette slices. If you plan ahead, you can make homemade hummus and stash it in the freezer — it defrosts in minutes! Add an elegant touch by dolloping the hummus into martini glasses, so no one has to worry about double-dipping.
Use tortillas and some of those cheeses you’re keeping on hand to make quick quesadillas. Make them more hearty by adding beans and, if you’ve got them, jalapeno slices. Not into quesadillas? Spread them with goat cheese, sprinkle with chopped olives, then roll and slice them into a colorful, quick nosh.
8. Roasted Red Peppers
Top toasted baguette slices with grated Parmesan-Reggiano and minced roasted red pepper for a vibrant crostini. Add chopped herbs or scallions if you’ve got them. Or, if you happen to have cheddar and cream cheese in stock, use them to make a fantastic homemade pimento cheese in minutes!
9. Frozen, Cooked Shrimp
Cooked shrimp is ready in minutes when rinsed in a colander under running water and patted dry. Serve as Shrimp Cocktail by making a quick dipping sauce from ketchup and horseradish. Or top toasted baguette slices with shrimp that’s been tossed with melted butter and a pinch of paprika and garlic powder. You can even slide them into those quesadillas for an appetizer that’s practically a mini-meal.
And, of course, you can’t go wrong by keeping a bottle or two of good wine — or even some high-quality herbal teas — as part of your last-minute entertaining stash!