Cultural differences can be both greater and more subtle than we imagine. I love wandering through British cookbooks which can be quite, quite distinct from their American counterparts. The language, the ingredients, the techniques — all those can differ from what we are “familiar” with her in US.
Take this lively book Appetizers, created by the editors at Ryland Peters & Small. Here the appetizers range far and wide. There are no nachos here. No guacamole. These are European recipes and quite often I find them to be more “side dish” or “main course” than appetizer. Actually, who cares about the labels? It’s the flavors and the satisfaction that matter and in Appetizer they appear in abundance. Let’s tour the book’s chapters.
In Party Bites and Dips, you find what I would call classic appetizers:
Plum Tomato Tartlets
Black Lentil Pancakes with Mint Raita
Chorizo and Scallop Skewers
The chapter Soups and Salads provides some of those recipes of substance I hinted were here. The soups are fantastic assemblies of flavors:
Green Tomato and Sorrel Soup
Chilled Cucumber Yogurt Soup with Red Chile and Mint Salsa
Chilled Smoked Salmon, Avocado and Chive Soup
Prosciutto, Artichoke, Fig and Roquefort Salad with Balsamic Dressing
The Meat and Poultry chapter offers protein tidbits that would brighten any cocktail party:
Pate de Campagne, complete with embedded hardboiled egg
Beef Empanadas with Texan Hot Sauce
Hot Prosciutto Parcels Stuffed with Goat’s Cheese and Fresh Basil
There are fish and seafood ideas here, too, plus a very interesting chapter for Vegetarian Dishes offering:
Tomato Basil Granita
Lemon and Wild Rice Stuffed Fennel with Fresh Tomato Sauce
There are no “simple” 1-2-3 recipes in Appetizers. Nothing is super hard or complicated, either, but there are always several ingredients and little time consumed in their creation. That investment is worthwhile. The recipes have great visual appeal — most recipes are accompanied by a full-page photo — and offer a generous spectrum of flavors.
If you are tired of the same “cheese and cracker” or “chips and dips” start to your dinner party, then Appetizers is filled with ideas to turn your guests’ heads. And yours, too.