My Favorite Holiday Appetizer Is So Good, My Friends Say They Haven't Stopped Thinking About It
I've been celebrating Friendsmas—a nonsense holiday even more made-up than Friendsgiving—with the same set of pals since we were still in high school. The shape of the evening is loose and shaggy, but the menu has rules. Mac and cheese is a must—so are green beans, a roasted bird and lots of desserts. My friend Emma presides over the affair with a golden touch in the kitchen and little patience for lousy recipes.
At her request, a new item will be making its Friendsmas debut this year, a mere seven months after I made it for our Memorial Day dinner: my whipped feta crostini.
Over the course of those seven months, Emma has asked me about the crostini—when can I make it next, where is the recipe, how could something so delicious be so easy—no less than five times. (It's currently listed on the shared menu as "those crostini Leah made when we went over to her place … I haven't stopped thinking about them.") The recipe was a massive hit at our summer get-together, with the crisp crunch of the toast, the tangy-smooth cheese topping and the flavorful accoutrement making it the first dish to disappear from the kitchen counter.
The recipe is literally as easy as one-two-three: toast your bread, whip your feta, top your toasties. Since you can even toast the bread a little in advance—in the morning or even the night before, if you store them on the counter in a sealed container once they've cooled—it's a recipe you can largely make ahead. You may end up with some extra whipped feta, but trust me, that's a blessing and not a curse. Just keep some veggies or pita chips on hand to polish off the leftovers the next day.
Related: Easy 3-Ingredient Appetizers
For the crostini, simply buy a baguette at the grocery store or your local bakery and slice it at an angle into small, half-inch-thick slices. Drizzle or brush both sides of each slice with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, then lay them out on a cookie sheet and bake at 450°F for about 8 minutes. They're ready to top once they're crisp and lightly browned. For an added punch of flavor, rub a raw garlic clove against one of the rough, toasted sides of each slice—it's an annoying task if you end up with tiny cloves of garlic, but it adds a little heat and a lot of delicious garlic flavor to every bite.
I use our recipe for Whipped Feta Dip with Roasted Red Peppers as a base recipe, with just a few tweaks. Use the suggested amounts of feta, Greek yogurt, extra-virgin olive oil, lemon zest and black pepper, but forgo the red peppers and parsley and round the honey up to a full tablespoon. The recipe calls for a food processor, but since I don't keep one handy, I just beat together the crumbled feta and a spoonful of yogurt with a hand mixer on a high speed until the feta pieces are broken up almost entirely and the mixture is smooth. I then add the remaining yogurt, oil, zest and honey and beat until combined. (If your mixture feels a little dense, you can always swap in a whisk attachment and add a little air to the mixture.) Your fresh bowl of dip will definitely keep in the fridge for at least three days, though you'll be lucky if it lasts that long.
Then all that remains is prepping your toppings—my friends are fans of pomegranate arils and chopped mint, a refreshing combination that also looks divine. But you could take inspiration from the original recipe and use chopped roasted red peppers, which may look especially festive for the holiday season. You could also go for caramelized onion or pretty sautéed slices of mushroom. A spicy roasted slice of winter squash, like the slices in this recipe for Chile-Spiced Delicata Squash Crostini, would definitely add a special kick to the evening.
If you've got a picky crowd, try choosing three toppings—say, chopped basil, diced tomato and chopped olives, or maybe diced cucumber, raw sweet corn kernels and torn fresh mint—then set them out in bowls and let folks top their cheesy toasts with whatever their heart desires. I definitely had more than one guest who was down to eat plain toasts with the whipped feta rather than risk a new mix of textures.
No matter how you choose to customize your selection, the combination of crunchy toast, creamy-sweet-tangy whipped feta and good company is bound to make your holiday get-together even more lively than you expected.