December is often packed with get-togethers, and get-togethers call out for food. Whether you're meeting up with friends from work or long-lost relatives, it's fun to share a bite to eat. That's where appetizers come in.
These are the social butterflies of the food world. They consist of finger foods, small bites and noshes. The key to a good appetizer is that it can be eaten while standing, chatting and holding a drink.
Appetizers can be the salvation of the meatless diner. When meat is the main course, a few well-designed meatless appetizers can keep the vegetarians and vegans from subsisting on salad.
If you're vegan, bring a platter of these quesadillas for everyone to enjoy. That way you are covered when your host has put bacon in all the side dishes.
For these tasty quesadillas, you'll be making a creamy filling from edamame, a variety of green soybean that is served in the pod at sushi bars. The slightly crunchy, slightly sweet beans can be added to all sorts of salads and stir-fries for a protein boost. In this dish, they stand in for the usual cheese quesadilla filling, making it appropriate for vegans as well as vegetarians.
The edamame dip/spread is good enough to stand alone, so if you run out of time, you can just put it out in a bowl with some chips alongside. That's true for the citrus salsa, too.
Whole-wheat tortillas encase the savory filling, but you can also find gluten-free flour tortillas, made from rice flour or teff flour. Subbing corn tortillas also works, although you'll need to use some oil in the pan. With whole-wheat tortillas, you can toast them in a dry pan with no oil at all, so they get crisp and, importantly, don't make your fingers greasy while you are eating.
In keeping with the season, the salsa features colorful citrus. Right now, you can find seedless navels, tangerines and varieties like Cara Cara oranges. It takes a little knife work to separate the fruit and membranes, but the glittering jewels of orange and pink are worth the trouble. A touch of mint and chile turns oranges into a memorable salsa.
In a sea of cheese cubes and crudités, your quesadillas will steal the show.
Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of "Big Vegan," "The Whole Grain Promise" and "Great Bowls of Food." Find her at robinasbell.com.