Wednesday, June 02, 2004


My Mother the Dreadful Cook (tm) used to get fancy around holidays and have the obligatory crudite offering alongside the tinned green and black olives. Radishes cut into flowers and crisped in cold water, celery sticks, matchstick carrots, the occasional dill pickle. That was the extent of appetisers growing up and frankly, they weren't all that appetising. What's more, she rationed the olives. Supposedly they were fattening. While I don't care for raw carrots and the like, they can be nice in addition to other offerings and only if nice vegetables are used. Baby snow peas still in the pod are attractive as are baby corn from a tin. I really loathe the idea of a watery bowl of ranch dip. Surely with a bit of experimentation you can come up with a small variety of jams, chutneys, and light dressings that will work in place of the buttermilk-dill glop.

I've always felt that cheese selections did better to conclude a meal than to begin it however that is a personal preference. If you don't mind the obvious stereotypes associated with it, havarti with lingonberry jam and rye bread makes a rather nice start, particularly if you intend to serve a main course of fish (or, ahem-lutefisk).

The following are a few favourites that can be prepared without too much fuss and don't involve cutting up tiny vegetables to be coated in aspic.

White Bean Dip

1 can white beans

1-2 tablespoons olive oil depending on taste

1 teaspoon garlic salt

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Mash the beans, add the rest, and set in icebox for an hour before serving with nice bread or crackers.

Fresh Mozzarella and Basil serves 4

5-6 large basil leaves

1 large ripe tomato

2-3 hunks of fresh mozzarella (sliced)

2 tablespoons olive oil

7-8 oil cured olives

Loaf of crusty bread

Slice bread generously. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Layer slices of tomato, and mozzarella with olives and basil. Top with more oil. Set slices out on a platter and serve chilled.

Dulse Salad Serves 4

Handful of dried dulse,chopped, rinsed and drained.

4 Belgian endives halves, rinsed, dried.

1 Very thinly sliced red onion

16 small capers

vinegar and oil for dressing

Sprinkle the dulse and onion over the endive. Use four capers on each salad and top lightly with dressing. Serve very cold.

The World's Most Overlooked Appetiser:

A glass of tomato juice with a wedge of fresh squeezed lemon. This was very common in restaurants when I was a child but seems to have disappeared from menus in recent years.

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