While I’m relatively accomplished cook, I’m a failure when it comes to appetizers. Often as not, I end up offering my guests chips and dip or crackers and cheese. If you’ve struggled like me with appetizers and small plates, 750 Best Appetizers: From Dips & Salads to Spreads & Shooters, is the right cookbook for you.
Judith Finlayson and Jordan Wagman have produced an exhaustive exploration of appetizers/small plates. For instance, in they offer 68 recipes for dip, everything from cheesy spinach and roasted potato dip to mushroom tomato spread and green olive tapenade. They even offer sweet dips like blueberry and yogurt, fig yogurt, and champagne and raspberry dip.
They produce equally interesting salsas, including more commonplace ones like fresh tomato and green tomato to more exotic ones like warm banana, mint mango, and shrimp salsa. They offer a section on shooters, little drinkable soup-style appetizers uch as potato and smoked bacon puree, Thai coconut shooter, and shrimp bisque. Serving mini-soups as appetizers isn’t something I’d considered, but it’s a terrific idea.
Then the authors get into the “serious” appetizers, wraps and rolls and savory tarts, dumplings, and crepes. Both of these chapters borrow plenty of flavors from other cultures – mini braised pork tacos, baby bok choy and tofu bundles with peanut sauce, tuna sushi, empanitas, samosas, and more. Many of these appetizers and small plates take a bit more time and effort, but your guests will be impresssed.
And on it goes: crackers, crostini, toasts and pizza; fish and seafood; sticks and picks, knives and forks, cheese please, veggies, poultry and meat, and slow cooker. Some of the recipes, such as zester cheddar crisps, are easy to make and produce brightly flavored, crispy nibbles. There’s even a chapter on making mini desserts. I especially love the idea of making tiny desserts and offering guests a variety of small, sweet tastes.
Easy Read Formatting
The recipes, one or two per page, are laid out in a one-third, two-thirds format. The first column offers a small introduction from the authors describing the appetizer or small plate and giving tips about how to succeed with the recipe. The other two-thirds contain the recipe with an ingredients list and quantities in both English and me.
The final chapter, Basics and Condiments, offers recipes for making some wonderful things like aioli, mayonnaise, vinaigrette, coulis, mignonette, various sauces, and even pickles, that’ll enhance your appetizers and small plates.
I do wish the publisher had budgeted more for photos. Like with many of the “best” cookbooks from Robert Rose, I want more of these wonderful photos and I want them placed next to the recipe that created them. 750 Best Appetizers contains 24 luscious photos in the center of the book with page numbers for the recipes. I know it’s a less expensive way to produce cookbooks. However, photos make me want to create the dishes and fewer photos, especially when they’re centrally placed, make the cookbook less effective and less appealing.
Despite this limitation, readers will find 750 Best Appetizers inspiring for cooks looking for new and creative ways to delight guests with appetizers and small plates. — BH