101 Simple Appetizers in 20 Minutes or Less By MARK BITTMAN YOU want good food at a holiday cocktail party and you want to impress people? You dont want a caterer, you refuse to heat up frozen food, and you want to show that your expertise extends beyond buying perfectly ripe hunks of cheese and juicy olives? Then think about doing some cooking. Here is a collection of party foods that are as easy to eat as they are to make. Each can be produced in 20 minutes or less. Many can be served at room temperature. And none require a plate. (Few people can juggle plate, wineglass and fork successfully, let alone gracefully.) Most of these recipes are beyond minimalist: they never do in two steps what can be done in one, and they need no embellishment. As you scan these recipes for ideas, mostly think this: The ones you find most appealing are the ones your guests will like. Choose a few, spend an hour or two in the kitchen, and youll be in great shape. On Bread or Crackers 1 Red peppers and anchovies: Drizzle piquillos or other roasted red peppers with olive oil, and top with a good anchovy fillet. A caper or two on each is not amiss. 2 Top rye flatbread with thin slices of crisp apple and pickled plain or schmaltz herring (not herring in cream sauce). 3 Sear skirt steak to medium-rare, not more than 8 minutes. Cut into chunks 1/2-inch to 1 inch, first with the grain, then against it. Spread bread with coarse mustard and/or butter. Top with steak and coarse salt. 4 Toss high-quality crab meat with minced shallots, a little tarragon or a lot of parsley and/or basil, and enough mayonnaise to bind. Also good on lettuce leaves. 5 Mash together best-quality tuna, minced anchovies, minced garlic, chopped oil-cured olives and olive oil as necessary. 6 New York comfort food: Spread cream cheese or crème fraîche on small bagels or bagel chips; black bread is also terrific. Top with sturgeon, sable or lox. 7 Slice soft goat cheese and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and chopped herbs, then with bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees until soft, about 10 minutes, and serve hot. 8 Might not be the new ketchup, but great stuff: purée skinned roasted peppers or piquillos with some of their liquid, salt and olive oil. Serve alone or with other foods a piece of cheese, even. 9 Top buttered bread with shaved country ham, prosciutto or regular deli ham and bread-and-butter pickles. 10 Chop shrimp fine, then sauté in a minimum of oil, or poach quickly and drain. Mix premade pesto with mayonnaise so that it is gluey. Combine cooled shrimp with sufficient pesto to bind; chill. 11 Tapenade: Combine about 1 pound pitted black olives in food processor with 1/4 cup drained capers, at least 5 anchovies, 2 garlic cloves, black pepper and olive oil as necessary to make a coarse paste. Can also be a dip. Use sparingly; its strong. 12 A kind of Moroccan tapenade: As above, but use good green olives with capers; olive-oil-canned tuna (instead of anchovies); garlic, if desired; and cumin. 13 Chop fresh mushrooms. Cook slowly in olive oil with salt and pepper until very soft. Stir in minced garlic and parsley. Cook a few more minutes until garlic mellows. (Especially good if you add reconstituted dried porcini.) 14 Mix together a bit of flour and good paprika. Cut Manchego or similar sheeps milk cheese into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Dip in flour, then beaten egg, then bread crumbs, and fry quickly to brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and serve hot. 15 Beef tartare: Carefully pulse good beef in food processor. For each pound, add an egg, a teaspoon dry mustard, a tablespoon Dijon mustard, a tablespoon Worcestershire, Tabasco to taste, 1/2 cup chopped scallions and a touch of minced garlic. Salt and pepper, if necessary. Amazing stuff. 16 Put a thick film of olive oil in a skillet over low heat with lots of thin-sliced garlic. When it sizzles, add shrimp along with pimentón. Raise the heat just enough to get the shrimp going, and cook until its pink. Stir in parsley. Spoon a little of the oil onto pieces of bread and top with shrimp. 17 Season cornmeal with lots of chili powder, salt and black pepper. Heat a thick film of neutral oil (or oil mixed with butter) in a skillet. Dredge shucked clams, oysters or chicken breast pieces in the cornmeal and cook about 2 minutes a side, or until crisp. Serve on bread with mayonnaise, or sprinkle with lemon or lime juice and serve on toothpicks. Its almost convenience food when prepared with shucked mollusks. Bruschetta 18 Bruschetta is the basis for so many good things. Dont make it too crisp, and start with good country bread. Brush thick slices with olive oil. Broil until toasted on both sides. While its still hot, rub with cut clove of garlic on one side (optional). Drizzle with a bit more olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and serve, or top with prosciutto or tapenade. 19 More than party food, and an amazing snack: Top bruschetta with white beans cooked soft (or use canned) and finished with minced garlic, sage, olive oil and salt. 20 One more level: Make white beans as above. Toss with good quality canned tuna and mash. Spoon over bruschetta. 21 Top bruschetta with chopped, well-cooked broccoli rabe or other greens tossed with minced garlic and olive oil while still warm. Health food, practically. Also good with a layer of Tuscan beans (above). On Toothpicks 22 Cut pork tenderloin into 1-inch slices; broil or sauté until done. Cut each piece across into 3 or 4 thin slices, then pile onto round bread slices, toasted or not. Top with slice of Manchego and bit of piquillo pepper. 23 Cut chorizo into chunks. Cook in a lightly oiled skillet until nicely browned. Kielbasa is equally good (or better), if not as hip. 24 Portable Caprese: Skewer a small ball of mozzarella, a grape tomato and a bit of basil leaf. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with oil. 25 A no-brainer: Cut slab of bacon into 1/2-inch chunks. Cook in a skillet, a broiler or a high-heat oven until nice and crisp. Skewer with a grape tomato. 26 Even jazzier: Cut just-ripe pears in 1/2-inch cubes; sprinkle with a little salt, sugar and cayenne. Spear with bacon. 27 Pair crispy bacon chunks with one cube of beet and one of goat cheese. 28 Angels on horseback: Wrap oysters or not-too-large sea scallops in bacon; skewer with toothpicks. Broil, turning once, until bacon is done. 29 You can call them devils on horseback: Wrap pitted dates (replacing the pit with an almond if you like) in bacon. Skewer with toothpicks and broil, turning once, until bacon is done. The rest of the recipes can be found here.