When I first started hosting dinner parties for friends, I thought it was crucial to make as much of the menu as possible from scratch. As the menus grew more elaborate, however, I found that the preparation started stretching into a full-day event…and then even into the preceding day. Eventually I realized that it’s not about having a 100% from-scratch meal, but rather, it’s about knowing where to maximize your efforts and where to take a few shortcuts.
The appetizer round is typically where I like to call in a little help, relying on things like crackers, bread, or chips from the store. These whipped feta crostini are a great example of how you can start with some premade items but still end up with something fresh, unique, and delicious! Just slice a baguette, zing up some feta (mixed with a little cream cheese) in a food processor, and top the slices with whatever strikes your fancy! In this case, I went with two options: a lentil/cucumber/bruschetta mix and a corn/zucchini mix. To me, ingredients like cucumbers and corn epitomize the summertime spirit, so I like to feature them whenever I can during the warmer months.
These whipped feta crostini can even pass as a light meal if you’re in the mood for something simple. The lentil medley in particular is surprisingly filling—not to mention ridiculously easy, thanks to Trader Joe’s precooked lentils and bruschetta sauce!
If you’re looking for other appetizers that are light on effort but total crowd pleasers, here are some of my favorites:
How do you save time on preparation when you’re hosting a meal?
- 8 ounces crumbled feta
- 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 baguette (about 1 pound), sliced and toasted
- 1/2 cup cooked lentils
- 1 Persian cucumber, diced
- 1/4 cup bruschetta sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- 1 medium zucchini, diced
- 1 cup corn (see note)
- 1/8 teaspoon cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- Using a food processor, pulse the feta until it has uniformly small pieces. Add the cream cheese and olive oil and process until it has a smooth appearance. This may take 2-3 minutes.
- Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the diced zucchini and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the corn and sauté until tender, about 1 minute.
- In a medium bowl, combine the lentils, cucumber, and bruschetta sauce.
- Spread the baguette slices with whipped feta. Top with small spoonfuls of the lentil medley or the corn and zucchini medley.
- Any type of corn (fresh, frozen, or canned) will work. If you are using fresh corn, I recommend that you sauté it separately from the zucchini (about 8-10 minutes, or until tender). If you are using frozen corn, defrost it in the microwave before adding it to the zucchini in the skillet.
- Toasting the baguette slices is optional; if you prefer the softer texture of fresh bread, feel free to skip it.
- The amounts listed for the two medleys will together yield enough for about 24-28 crostini (I didn’t do an exact count of how many slices I got from the baguette, but that’s my best guess). If you only want to do one of the medleys, double the amounts listed for that one.
- Whipped feta recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is. The lentil medley was inspired by a sample I had at Trader Joe’s a few months ago (which is where I buy bruschetta sauce).