No wonder tapas spread like wildfire from Spanish restaurants to nearly every establishment opening doors today (where the list might be called “small plates”). Little nibbles with bold flavors are exciting, and given a tempting menu, you just want to keep tasting more. For a party, small plates are ideal. Most are made in advance, put into dishes, and will sit happily waiting for guests. Others that are cooked at the last minute don’t require anything tricky to succeed.
Here we offer a feast of piquant, spicy, succulent, creamy, or sweet tastes for your holiday table. Pickled shrimp, marinated Southern-style, become beautiful curved pink crustaceans. Feta is baked with slices of tomato and oregano until the cheese is saturated with flavor. A retro cream cheese and olive log, served with bagel chips, is prepared as it might appear in a “Mad Men” scene (sometimes shaped into a ball). Smoked salmon, whirred with ricotta, makes a delectable spread with crudites. Miniature Vietnamese banh mi, layered with pork and a crunchy Asian slaw on thin ficelle bread spread with sriracha mayo, is a messy, delightful nibble. Think of sauteed squid with harissa aioli as a mini main course, or broil lamb rib chops and sprinkle them with the Egyptian nut and seed blend, dukkah. To end, stuff dates with salty Marcona almonds, dust with confectioners’ sugar, and you have one-bite wonders.