Party on a Platter

Holiday Bites

This holiday season, impress your guests with a flavourful, eye-popping spread that's easy to shop for and a snap to prepare.

Photos by Erik Putz Food styling by MICHAEL ELLIOTT Prop styling by RAYNA SCHWARTZ

The Elegant Special-Occasion Cheese Board

Italian for “buttered,” burrata (boo-RA-ta) is a luxuriously creamy fresh mozzarella. Dress it up with roasted hazelnuts, basil, good olive oil and sea salt.

Cheese Board Strategy

  • Buy three or four types of cheese. When in doubt, try something soft, something hard and something blue.
  • Estimate 30 to 45 g cheese per person, and serve whole on a piece of wood, marble, slate or tile.
  • Dress up your board with name tags and some beautiful cheese knives.
  • Provide lots of bread, crackers or sliced baguette. Add handfuls of dried fruit, nuts and fresh fruit to cleanse the palate.
  • Bring cheeses to room temperature one hour before serving to release their flavours.

French Onion Cheese Ball

Serves 10 Prep 10 min total 1 hour 15 min

  • 250-g pkg cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup shredded gruyère cheese
  • 4 tsp dehydrated onion flakes
  • 1 tbsp prepared caramelized onion
  • 2 tsp flaxseeds
  • 2 tsp black sesame seeds
  • ¼ tsp minced garlic


  • ½ cup toasted pecans, finely chopped

  • Beat cream cheese in a bowl with a wooden spoon, until smooth. Stir in gruyère, onion flakes, caramelized onion, flaxseeds, sesame seeds and garlic. Form into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap, twisting top. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  • Unwrap cheese ball and coat with pecans.

Per serving 173 calories, 5 g protein, 4 g carbs, 16 g fat, 1 g fibre, 118 mg sodium.

The Savoury and Spicy Charcuterie Board

A smoked, cooked or cured meat with salt and spices added to boost flavour and extend shelf life.

Charcuterie Board Strategy

  • Plan to serve 60 to 90 g of charcuterie per person.
  • Slice dried, hard sausages into rounds. Try a spicy chorizo and a mild summer sausage.
  • Add a paper-thin-sliced serrano ham, prosciutto or coppa, and arrange loosely.
  • SERVE WITH: Something pickled to cut the richness, briny olives, nuts for the crunch, sliced baguette, crackers, a selection of mustards, and dried fruit, jam or chutney for a sweet contrast.

Everything Bagel Crispbread

Serves 10 Prep 20 min total 1 hour 20 min

  • ¾ cup unsalted sunflower seeds
  • ¾ cup flaxseeds
  • 1⁄3 cup sesame seeds
  • 3 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1 tbsp dried minced onion
  • 1 tbsp dried minced garlic
  • 1 ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

  • Position racks in top and bottom thirds of oven. Preheat to 325F. Take out 2 large baking sheets. Toast sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, sesame seeds and poppy seeds on a baking sheet until sesame seeds are light golden, about 8 min. Let cool in a large bowl.
  • Stir in flour, oats, onion, garlic and salt. Gradually stir in water and olive oil. Roll out half of dough mixture between 2 large pieces of parchment to a 12 x10-in. rectangle. Remove top sheet and slide dough and parchment onto a baking sheet. Repeat. Bake, rotating and switching halfway through, until browned and crisp, about 55 min.

Per serving 361 calories, 12 g protein, 28 g carbs, 25 g fat, 10 g fibre, 253 mg sodium. Excellent source of zinc.

Lebanese-Style Pickles

Makes 4 cups Prep 20 min total 30 min Plus 1 day pickling time

  • 3 cups water, divided
  • 1⁄3 cup kosher salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 kg turnips, peeled, cut into french-fry sticks
  • 1 small beet, peeled, cut into french-fry sticks
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 red-hot chili pepper, halved and seeds discarded

  • Combine ⅓ cup water with salt and bay leaves in a medium saucepan. Boil until salt is dissolved, 5 min. Cool. Add remaining 2 ⅔ cups water and vinegar.
  • Pack turnips, beet, garlic and chili pepper into 2 clean large glass jars. Pour brine over vegetables, leaving ½-in. headspace in jars. Cover with lids and refrigerate. Serve after 1 day.

Per ¼ cup 18 calories, 1 g protein, 4 g carbs, 1 g fibre, 771 mg sodium.

Duck Rillettes

Makes 1 ½ cups Prep 15 min total 25 min

  • 2 prepared duck confit legs
  • 1⁄3 cup duck fat, divided
  • 2 shallots, minced (1⁄3 cup)
  • 1 tbsp cognac
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp chopped chives or parsley

  • Discard skin and bones from duck legs. Finely shred meat into a bowl.
  • Melt ¼ cup duck fat in a medium frying pan over medium. Add shallots and cook until soft, 4 to 5 min. Add cognac and salt and cook 1 min. Remove from heat. Stir in meat until combined. Stir in chives. Firmly pack into 3 4-oz ramekins. Cover with remaining 2 tbsp duck fat. Cover ramekins with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before serving .

Per tbsp 47 calories, 3 g protein, 4 g fat, 77 mg sodium.

Beet Hummus

Makes 4 cups Prep 20 min total 1 hour

  • 3 medium beets, peeled and quartered (2 cups)
  • 1⁄3 cup olive oil, divided
  • 6 cups cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 1⁄3 cup tahini
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp coriander
  • extra-virgin olive oil & toasted sesame seeds for garnish

  • Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  • Toss beets with 1 tbsp oil. Spread out on half of prepared sheet. Toss cauliflower with 1 tbsp oil, then spread out on other side of sheet. Roast until tender, about 40 min. Cool.
  • Whirl beets, cauliflower, walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, remaining ¼ cup oil, salt and coriander in a food processor until smooth. Scrape into a bowl, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Per tbsp 34 calories, 1 g protein, 2 g carbs, 3 g fat, 1 g fibre, 33 mg sodium.

Kitchen Tip: Toast walnuts in a single layer in a frying pan over medium-high, stirring occasionally until they start to darken, about 5 min.

The Deluxe, Fresh and Citrusy Seafood Board

Seafood Board Strategy

  • Thaw and pat dry frozen shrimp. Mix sriracha with cocktail sauce for some heat.
  • Pre-shuck oysters and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Crush ice in a resealable bag and scatter onto a platter. Serve oysters on top.
  • Stir salsa verde with chopped cilantro, olive oil and sour cream for a fresh green seafood dip.
  • Serve prepared toasted nori sheets sprinkled with sea salt for making impromptu wraps.

Salmon Poke with Nori Sheets

Makes 2 ½ cups Prep 15 min total 2 hours 15 min

  • 500 g sashimi-grade salmon, diced into ¼-in. cubes
  • ¼ cup finely diced red onion
  • 1⁄3 cup finely diced green onions, divided
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp mix of toasted black and white sesame seeds, divided
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 4 sheets toasted nori, cut into 3 x 2 ½-in. pieces

  • Combine salmon, red onion, ¼ cup green onions, cilantro, soy, sesame oil, 2 tsp sesame seeds and ginger in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Garnish with remaining 2 tbsp green onions and 1 tsp sesame seeds before serving. Serve with nori.

Per tbsp 20 calories, 3 g protein, 1 g fat, 144 mg sodium. Good source of vitamin B12.

Peruvian Vegetable Spread

Makes 1 ¾ cups Prep 15 min total 1 hour 30 min Plus 30 min chilling time

  • 1 medium eggplant, halved lengthwise
  • 1 red onion, quartered
  • 1 red bell pepper, halved and cored
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ⅛ tsp pepper flakes
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp white-wine vinegar

  • Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Brush eggplant, onion and pepper with 2 tsp oil and arrange cut-side down on sheet. Bake until soft, about 40 min. Let cool 15 min. Scoop flesh from eggplant into a fine sieve set over a bowl, pressing to remove liquid. Peel and discard skin from pepper. Transfer eggplant, pepper and onion to a food processor.
  • Heat remaining 4 tsp oil in a small frying pan over medium. Add garlic and cook 1 min. Add mustard seeds and stir, 1 min. Add paprika, turmeric and pepper flakes, stirring 30 sec.
  • Add spice mixture and salt to food processor. Whirl until almost smooth. Season with fresh pepper.
  • Refrigerate 30 min. Stir in vinegar and scoop into a serving bowl. Serve with crispbread.

Per tbsp 19 calories, 3 g carbs, 1 g fat, 1 g fibre, 62 mg sodium.

Smoked Trout Dip

Makes 2 cups Prep 15 min total 15 min

  • 2 cups flaked smoked trout
  • ½ cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 5 tsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp salt

  • Stir trout, sour cream, green onion, lemon zest, juice and salt in a bowl. Season with fresh pepper. Scrape into a serving dish and top with more green onions.

Per tbsp 21 calories, 2 g protein, 1 g fat, 93 mg sodium.