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The Cookstr 10: Ten Perfect Pre-Dinner Nibbles

August 5, 2010

In the middle of summer there is nothing like that magical time between, say, 5:00 and 7:00, when the afternoon softens into the evening. The air cools; perhaps you’re lucky enough to be situated outdoors, watching the light change; perhaps you know what you’re having for dinner…perhaps you’re in no rush to decide. But a cool drink is certainly in order, and you’re feeling a bit munchy….

Nigella Lawson's Gravlax Sashimi

Some of these are finger foods, one or two warrant a knife and fork, but all of them would be more than welcome rendezvous-ing with a glass of something chilled, and possibly bubbly, at the end of a summer day.

Lauren Groveman's Garlic-Scented Crinkle Potato Chips

Feel free to mix and match these, but really any one of these items on a warm summer’s night would take the edge off and then some. Shall we get dinner started? In a minute…pass us another homemade potato chip first.

1. Art Smith’s Seeded Cheddar Cheese Straws. Flaky and savory, perfect for freezing and whipping out in batches as needed. You can have fun topping them with different seeds–sesame, poppy, or nigella seeds–so that they look even more interesting and appealing when displayed in a wide serving glass.

2. Frank Stitt’s Figs and Prosciutto. Ripe figs should never see the inside of a refrigerator; that way they retain their lush texture, taste, and aroma. Figs and prosciutto are a match made in…Italy (did you think we were going to say heaven?). This version is embellished with some fresh mint leaves and a bit of your best olive oil. Pass the bread, thank you very much.

3. Marcus Samuelsson’s Oysters with Lime Vinaigrette. Oysters are the quintessential hors d’oeuvre: small, not too filling, appetite-whetting, and they come in their own little container. While you can certainly get creative with this bivalve mollusc, most oyster lovers vote for letting the oysters speak for themselves. Here their brininess is complemented by a lime vinaigrette with a slightly Asian bent.

4. Jim Botsacos and Judith Choate’s Tzatziki. This dip/spread/sauce/dressing is the epitome of summertime coolness. Now that rich, creamy Greek yogurt is so widely available, you can achieve the tzatziki Plantonic ideal. After all, Plato was Greek, so he should know from tzatziki. Serve it chilled, with warm pita triangles.

5. Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins’ Hot and Spicy Nuts. Nothing is better suited to an end-of-the-day beverage than a bowl of well seasoned, crunchy, warm nuts. Make a big batch, store them in a tightly sealed container, and you’ll be ready to host an impromptu cocktail hour any night of the week.

6. Lauren Groveman’s Garlic-Scented Crinkle Potato Chips with Homemade Spicy Ketchup. If you can think of a better way to ruin your appetite, do let us know. These are a little labor-intensive, but even if you’re serving dinner to follow, it’s this impressive snack that your guests will be dreaming about the next day.

7. Janet Fletcher’s Sheep’s Milk Cheese with Warm Green Olives. Sure you can put out a naked hunk of cheese and some crackers and call it a day. But with just a bit of mincing and sautéing you can create a warm, herbal olive partner to that dusky, sweet sheep’s milk cheese, and you’ll have turned something store-bought into something homemade.

8. Nigella Lawson’s Gravlax Sashimi. Layers upon layers of gently draped gravlax are as indulgent and attractive an hors d’oeuvre as one could envision. Here Scandinavia meets Japan in this wasabi- and sake-infused cured salmon. You’ll need to think ahead, as this needs a minimum of two days to cure, but your foresight will be abundantly rewarded.

9. Peggy Knickerbocker’s Fried Squash Blossoms. If you’ve got a garden or a farmers’ market near you, you’re probably impressed with the number of zucchini and other squash blossoms that proliferate at this time of year. They’re not just pretty; they’re delicious, especially delicately fried up to a crisp puff. Like all seasonal treats, you’ll want to get them while the getting’s good.

10. Dave DeWitt and Nancy Gerlach’s Olive and Artichoke Tapenade. What is it about salt and cocktails? Add summertime to the mix, and you have a perfect happy hour storm. The garlicky Provençal spread of olives and anchovies easily gives you your salt fix, and accompanied by a basket of lightly toasted crostini, and perhaps some crudités, it’s as easy and well-met a pre-dinner nibble as you will find.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jan permalink
    August 30, 2010 8:46 pm

    The links on this page don’t appear to work:

  2. January 21, 2011 4:19 am

    The website definately does not work. The previous user looked at it in August .
    Check out the other sites on google. GOOD LUCK

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