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Originally published Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 5:02 AM

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Easy-to-assemble party foods for holiday entertaining

Dozens of easy-to-execute party bites from cookbook authors and chefs, including Seattle restaurateur Tom Douglas.

Associated Press

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The holidays conjure romantic visions of cozy fires, perfectly-wrapped gifts, your house decorated like a magazine spread and all your friends gathered to celebrate, marveling at your culinary prowess.

But let’s be honest, parties take work. But if you do it right, the cooking can be the least of your worries. In fact, you can sometimes get away with no cooking at all. With just a few simple ingredients and minimal effort, you really can throw an elegant affair that meets the culinary mark.

We’ve assembled dozens of easy-to-execute party bites from cookbook authors and chefs — including Seattle chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas — to get you off to a good start. But as for doing the dishes after the party? You’re on your own.

TOM DOUGLAS (Seattle chef and restaurateur)

Salty-sweet spread

Purée equal amounts of dried figs and pitted Kalamata olives for a delicious smear for pita.

Wide-awake shrimp cocktail

Turn your shrimp cocktail into a “red eye” by spiking 1 cup of cocktail sauce with five finely ground espresso beans.

Lox and cukes

Top cucumber slices with lox (smoked salmon) for a healthy, crunchy appetizer or finger snack.

JOSE GARCES (Philadelphia chef and author of “The Latin Road Home”)

Smoky almonds

Dust roasted marcona almonds with smoked paprika and Maldon sea salt.

Spoon snack

Combine good-quality canned Spanish tuna, quartered cherry tomatoes, sliced green Spanish olives like arbequina or manzanilla, chopped chives, a splash of sherry vinegar and a bit of olive oil. Serve on miso spoons for an impressive and pretty one-bite snack.

JAMIE BISSONNETTE (chef and owner of Boston’s Coppa and Toro restaurants)

Cheese and apples

Serve Epoisse cheese at room temperature on a decorative spoon topped with a slice of apple and some toasted walnuts.

Mortadella rolls

Buy sliced mortadella and roll it up stuffed with olives and oozy robiola due latte cheese.

Asian dip

Spike your sour cream with a ramen noodle flavoring packet and spicy kimchi. Add a little cream cheese for texture. Serve with rice crackers.

MICHAEL ROMANO (James Beard award winning chef with New York’s Union Square Hospitality Group)

Mediterranean dip

Drain a jar of prepared baby artichokes and toss with good quality canned tuna (packed in olive oil). Add a squeeze of lemon, chopped black olives, Aleppo pepper and chopped parsley. Serve with crackers.

Crunchy caviar

Slice celery into very thin strips, then lightly salt them. Top with grated bottarga caviar and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

Peppers and toast

Toast focaccia or garlic bread slices and top with good-quality, prepared roasted peppers.

KEVIN GILLESPIE (executive chef of Atlanta’s Woodfire Grill and author of “Fire in my Belly”)

Smoky sweet apples

Wrap thick apple wedges in smoked bacon and sprinkle with brown sugar. Broil until the bacon is crisp.

Baked Brie, 2012

Spread store-bought puff pastry or croissant dough into an “X.” Put a wheel of Brie or Camembert in the center and cover in truffle honey. Tuck a few toasted walnuts inside for crunch, if you like. Pull up the sides of the dough like you’re wrapping a present. Bake until golden brown.

Smoked fish dip

Buy hot-smoked salmon or trout. Blend in a food processor with room temperature cream cheese, onion powder, garlic powder and fresh chives. Use as a dip for crackers or spread onto slices of toasted baguette.

Fruit and cheese bites

Buy brioche and punch out bite-sized rounds or cut into squares. Top with sliced pears, cooked smoked bacon and sharp cheddar cheese. Put on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until the cheese melts.

SEAMUS MULLEN (chef and owner of New York’s Tertulia and author of “Hero Food”)

White Beans and sardines

Purée canned cannellini beans with roasted garlic, canned artichokes, olive oil and lemon juice for a white bean spread to serve with smoked sardines on toast.

Tuna and avocado toasts

Fork mash avocado with olive oil and lemon juice. Grill some flatbread, spread with the avocado mash, and top with grapefruit segments, good canned tuna and coarse sea salt.

Shrimp and squash skewers

Skewer some small shrimp with lightly blanched winter squash and grill. Serve with a simple salsa verde of minced herbs, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice.

DAVID BURKE (chef of several New York restaurants, including David Burke Townhouse)

Parmesan pops

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Place wooden skewers about 4 inches apart on the paper. Sprinkle shredded Parmesan cheese in a circle on top of one end of the skewer, creating a cheese lollipop. Bake at 350 degrees for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool, spray lightly with oil and sprinkle with fine herbs.

Goat cheese lollies

Roll goat cheese into balls the size of a golf ball. Purée pistachios and roll the goat cheese balls through the nuts to encrust the cheese. Put a lollipop stick in the balls.

Black olive toasts

Purée black olives. Toast baguette slices and spread with ricotta cheese. Top with a dollop of olive purée.

WALTER ABRAMS (chef at Philadelphia’s Le Bec Fin)

Cucumber and Boursin tea sandwiches

Cut the crusts off good quality white sandwich bread. Make a sandwich using Boursin garlic and herb cheese and thinly sliced cucumber. Cut into attractive diamonds. Finish with a sprig of fresh chervil.

Caviar and quick chive cakes

Grab a box of pancake mix, add chopped chives and prepare according to the box instructions (omitting sugar, if called for). Griddle the cakes and top with a dollop of sour cream and your favorite caviar.

Bacony popcorn

Pop a bag of your favorite popcorn. While it’s popping, saute chopped bacon and sprinkle the top with brown sugar. And a dash of red wine vinegar. Add toasted cashews and the popcorn and serve hot.

BART PICKENS (chef at The Loveless Cafe in Nashville, Tenn.)

Easy smoked fish dip

Blend 2 parts smoked white fish, smoked oysters or smoked mussels with 1 part mayonnaise and 1 part cream cheese. Season with salt and pepper and use as a spread on French bread toast points, fresh vegetables or gourmet crackers.

Balsamic raisins

An excellent accompaniment for a cheese platter. Plump jumbo raisins in balsamic vinegar by simmering over low heat for 10 minutes.

Cream cheese and pepper jelly

A true Southern favorite, just two simple ingredients make for one delicious combination. Unwrap the cream cheese and place in the center of a platter before topping with a jar of hot pepper jelly.

CHRIS PAINTER (chef at Philadelphia’s Il Pittore)

Fancy Italian subs

Brush slices of hearty country bread with extra-virgin olive oil, then grill. When toasted, top with thinly sliced prosciutto, serrano chili peppers and grated Parmesan. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

Stuffed figs

Take a whole toasted almond and wrap it in a basil leaf. Using the pointed end, push the nut through the fat end of a fresh fig, tucking it inside. Top with a little pat of butter or drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 5 to 8 minutes at 425 degrees.

J.M. HIRSCH (AP food editor)

Brie with bourbon-balsamic glaze

Gently simmer 1 cup of bourbon and 1 cup of balsamic vinegar until syrupy and reduced to ¼ cup, about 20 minutes. Season with black pepper. Drizzle while warm over a round of Brie that has come to room temperature. Serve with slices of baguette.

Spring pea guacamole

In a food processor, combine the flesh of 2 avocados, a 15-ounce can of peas (drained), ¼ cup packed fresh cilantro, juice of 1 lime and a splash of hot sauce. Process until smooth, then season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature with crackers.

Feta cheese and honey

Arrange slices of feta cheese on a platter. Sprinkle toasted pine nuts and fresh oregano over it, then season with black pepper and smoked paprika. Drizzle honey over everything, then serve with baguette slices.

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