It’s been a full year and three months since we truly entertained. Thanks Covid. Where I live (Alberta, Canada), they just announced that we should be without restrictions come early July. Perfect timing for summer entertaining. I am so excited!!
So here is my collection of favourite appetizers, not the first course at a sit down dinner, but the hors d’oeuvres to serve on arrival with drinks. These are the kind of appetizers you could serve to a well-travelled friend, a foodie, or anyone who appreciates something unique.
We eat with our eyes and our stomachs. For me, that means colour and variety. Strong colours like bright red bell peppers, dark green onions, jewel like pomegranate seeds, toasty brown pine nuts, creamy white Brie, dark blueberries, and leafy green parsley all make a dish appealing and fresh looking.
I decided to do a single post on my go-to appetizers, I’ll keep adding and editing this post as a living document. Please let me know if you make any of the dishes and feel free to tag me on Instagram @wherelizis.
Ladyfingers with goat cheese and apple
This is essentially an assembly job. Spread Ladyfingers with goat cheese, top with thinly sliced apple, sprinkle on candied pecans, and drizzle honey with a fresh thyme garnish. These are the same cookie used for Tiramisu. It’s a no-cook bite, perfectly balanced with the sour, creamy goat cheese, crunchy sweet apple, and round taste of honey. The honey also gives it a nice sheen. Spreadable goat cheese works best here and don’t skip the fresh thyme, it adds colour and an herby flavour too. I really like using the sweet, crunchy Ladyfinger.
Caviar makes everything better
So my secret here is to use the grocery store Caviar which is not expensive at all compared to the Russian product. It comes in jars and usually it’s sold in black or red. I think it’s a great product for the price. Most people won’t even know the difference. Don’t use the red, the black is much better and a smaller egg. I like to use the square mini toasts, top with crème fraîche and sprinkle with freshly chopped green chives. Don’t use sour cream, it’s much too wet. I also used potato chips as a vessel once, but found it fiddly to find ones that were whole and flat enough. Smoked salmon or gravlax compliments the caviar toasts as well. Don’t forget the chopped chives.
I’m still working on my dip game, but this one is a simple straight forward shareable dish that even satisfies vegans. This is a hummus bowl I drizzled with a little olive oil, topped with fresh vegetables, contrasted with pickled shallots, pomegranate seeds, fresh parsley, and toasted pistachios. I sprinkled Za’atar as a seasoning on top, but salt, pepper, oregano, and sesame seeds would work too. You can whip up your own hummus or use store-bought. No one will notice its store-bought, this is so colourful and tasty. I like serving with crusty baguette or homemade pita chips.
I’m not going to lie, these were time consuming to make, mainly because I couldn’t find pre-cut fresh bred and had to cut it all myself. I used a rye and ideally I would use pre-cut rye for a mini sided loaf. This is another no-cook appetizer other than boiling eggs and cooking chicken if that’s a chosen topping. You can get around even that by using supermarket rotisserie chicken and pre-cooked eggs. I didn’t use any mayo in any of the toppings, as it never sits out well after time.
Here are my topping combinations:
Cucumber and hummus; pesto, fresh mozzarella, and cherry tomatoes; cream cheese and blackberries, hummus and boiled egg; peanut butter and sliced apple; dijon and chicken; and cream cheese and pomegranate seeds.
Season them well, and make more than you think you need. They are super popular, fun to eat and nice to look at. They’re also vegetarian/vegan adaptable.
Not really an appetizer, but for summer entertaining, I like to include a fresh fruit option whenever I’m entertaining. This is a fancy way to present cut fruit, and while not pictured, I like to drizzle it with a simple honey lime dressing. Just melt some honey and squeeze in lime juice. It gives the whole platter a nice sheen. Julienne cut mint on top. You could be extra fancy and cut the fruit in perfectly uniform shapes, I’m sure it would look stunning. I just took to arranging it in a way to vary the colours and fruits.
Crab topped guacamole
I was dreaming of Mama’s Fish House in Maui when I recreated this appetizer. You can make it shareable by serving in a bowl. It’s insanely simple, yet very satisfying and elegant. It’s basically fresh guacamole topped with crab meat. I never use guacamole seasoning packets, they’re always too salty. I basically mash ripe avocados with fresh lime juice, salt, pepper, chilis, and cumin. For the crab, you could steam and pick your own meat. Um no. I use the Philips claw crab meat that comes in the plastic see through container sold in fish sections of the grocery store. For crab to smashed avocado ratio, I like 1:1. It looks good, and it just works. Garnish with a little sprinkle of Old Bay, chopped parsley, and cherry tomatoes. like to have thin tortilla chips on the side.
More appetizers coming...to be continued!