Easy holiday apps — Start off your festivities with special appetizers

Enjoy this festive and easy bruschetta with homemade garlic crostini.
Enjoy this festive and easy bruschetta with homemade garlic crostini. Photo by Emily Ryan


With the holidays fast approaching, choose some new apps — no smart phone required! Impress guests with six simple starters like fig crostini, featuring fig jam, Granny Smith apples and pecorino.

“You’ve got the sweetness of the jam, the tartness of the apple and the saltiness of the cheese. All the different tastes come together,” described John Serock, president of John Serock Catering in West Chester.

He also recommends onion soup bites, phyllo cups filled with caramelized onions and Gruyère.

“The nice thing with the caramelized onions is you can make them up, and they’ll hold in the fridge for two weeks,” Serock said. “At the holidays, you always get these last-minute people who just show up.”

Unexpected guests once gave Olga Sorzano a mere 45-minutes notice.

“I just looked in my fridge and wondered what I had,” recalled the former private chef, now of Baba’s Brew in West Chester.

She too turned to caramelized onions. The wow-worthy result: puff pastry tart with caramelized onions, mushrooms and goat cheese.

“Puff pastry saved my butt so many times!” she said with a laugh. “I think we all should have a frozen puff pastry just in case.”

A second Sorzano suggestion: dressed-up deviled eggs with any number of toppings. Bacon and blue cheese, anyone?

“It’s almost like an ice cream sundae,” she said. “You put on different things, and all of a sudden it becomes a new dish.”

Love mushrooms? Try a straightforward stuffed mushroom recipe from Basciani Foods in Avondale.

“Mushrooms to some people are still considered a delicacy rather than a staple food, and they like to treat themselves around the holidays,” said general manager Fred Recchiuti, who ships about 1.2 million pounds of mushrooms a week. “Big crowd-pleaser. Absolutely.”

Another crowd pleaser: bruschetta with homemade garlic crostini from Montesano Bros. Italian Market & Catering in Eagle and Bucktown.

“It’s a good combination of tastes; and the crunchiness of the crostini — it’s just a nice balance,” explained Michael Montesano. “It has to be fresh. It can’t be sitting around, otherwise it gets soggy.”

So when old neighbors or distant relatives drop by, whip up one of these easy-yet-enticing appetizers.

And remember, “It’s kind of nice to know the basics, but you don’t have to stick to the recipe,” Sorzano said.

Fig Crostini

Yield: 12 Pieces (6 Servings)


1½ cups fig jam (store-bought or recipe below)
1 large Granny Smith apple
3 ounces shaved pecorino cheese
12 slices toasted baguette

Fig jam:

1 (16-ounce) package dry fig
¼ cup sugar
½ cup water
1 ounce brandy


If bread is not toasted, place on a cookie sheet and toast in a 375-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes until crisp. Slice apples into long thin slices. If not serving immediately, place in a cup of cold water with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent oxidation. Spread 1 tablespoon of jam on each slice of bread, top with a thin slice of apple and sprinkle with shaved pecorino pieces. (The pecorino is best if you buy a small wedge and use a vegetable peeler to shave long slices.)

For fig jam: Place all ingredients in a small sauce pot and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes until figs soften. Remove from heat and add all of the contents to a food processor; process until smooth. Mixture will hold in the refrigerator for up to four weeks.

Recipe courtesy of John Serock Catering