Friday, August 20, 2010

Classic Appetizers


Appetizers, gotta love ‘em! Today I’m looking back at some recipes I consider ‘classics’, things all of us have probably enjoyed at least once!

1) Curry Dip

I’ve made a lot of food in my day and consider myself a pretty good cook, but I am nothing, NOTHING compared to my mom. It’s a bit scary, actually. I still remember last year offering to make dinner for her and my step-dad, and she said “why don’t you let me do it, I’ll make something simple.” Next thing I know, there’s brandied cheese for an appetizer, this honey mustard chicken awesomeness for the main, and CHOCOLATE GOOP for dessert! (‘chocolate goop’ being the household name for this warm chocolate-walnut pudding that is simply he best dessert ever). That’s my mom’s idea of ‘simple’. Not sure what that anecdote is for other than to praise my mom I guess…

One of the first recipes I ever actually put together was my mom’s classic Curry Dip for veggies. Easy and SO TASTY. As a kid I used to eat so much of this I’d get a belly-ache, FROM VEGGIES! What kid does that?!?!?

Here it is:

Curry Dip (for veggies)

Mix the following in a normal-sized soup/cereal bowl:

- 1 cup mayo/Miracle Whip
- 1 tbsp minced/grated/pressed onion
- 1 tbsp prepared horseradish
- 1 tbsp tarragon vinegar
- 1 tbsp curry powder (more or less depending on desired zing)

Serve with cut-up veggies: celery, carrots, peppers, radishes, white mushrooms (my favourite with this dip), cucumber, etc…

2) Chicken Wings

When I was young, my dad wouldn’t have much time to cook (he was a head partner in a law firm, ‘nuff said!). But when he did, look out! His BBQ steak is still one of my favourite all-time feasts (basically a giant slab of meat marinated in Kraft Catalina dressing of all things!). He also made wicked spaghetti and meatballs. One of the things he did that was a little ‘before-its-time’ were his chicken wings. They were served chilled and coated in a kind of subtle teriyaki/soya sauce and not spicy at all. But BOY THEY WERE GOOD!!!

Now, I finally took the plunge and tried my own hand at making chicken wings for a family Xmas dinner a couple of years back. They were a hit! Now, I like my wings spicy, but not stupid ‘suicide’ level spicy (although when I was in university, me and a buddy would often get high as monkeys and see how many suicide wings we could stand eating. Good times…). These are tasty and not too hot, say medium? Feel free to play around!

Nick’s Wings

- 24-36 chicken wings/drums (plain, thawed, skin on)

- ¼ cup chili-garlic sauce
- 1/8 cup BBQ sauce
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 1 tbsp finely grated ginger (or ginger powder
- 2 tbsp finely grated garlic (or garlic powder)
- juice from 1 lime
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp salt

- Mix all ingredients in a bowl and coat chicken with sauce
- Line a large cookie sheet with foil
- Bake wings at 375 F for approx. 30-35 mins., until skins are crispy (or grill at medium-low heat until cooked)

3) Devilled Eggs

I think it’s pretty fair to say we’ve all been to a relative’s party where Devilled Eggs were on the menu. I looked up Wikipedia for some background on this ubiquitous appetizer and apparently they hearken back to Ancient Rome! NEATO!

I found this some years ago in the newspaper, have fun!

Devilled Eggs (24)

12 hard-boiled eggs
½ cup & 2 tbsp mayo
3 tsp dry mustard powder
salt to taste
½ tsp cayenne
1-2 tsp Worcestershire

- cut eggs in half and remove yolk
- arrange egg halves on tray
- mash yolks until smooth
- mix in mayo and whip
- mix in rest of ingredients
- top egg halves with mix
- garnish with:
- smoked salmon and dill
- radish and green onion
- olive, roasted pepper and basil
- capers, red onion and dill

4) Bruschetta

Bruschetta is one heck of a way to use up stale bread and ripe tomatoes. Or at least that’s what it originally was. Bruschetta was once an obscure Italian snack that has become pretty much standard pub fare across North America. I used to make a ton of it when I worked as a prep cook. I updated it a few years ago to use fresh baguette, because, well, YEAH!


- 1 baguette, sliced & toasted
- 6 ripe Roma tomatoes, chopped fine
- 3 tbsp olive oil (or more, depending on desired consistency)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced (more if desired)
- 3-4 tbsp fresh basil, finely minced
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Parmesean cheese, grated

- mix all ingredients except bread and Parmesean in large bowl
- spoon mixture onto bread slices
- top with Parmesean to taste

5) Sweet Potato Fries (sort of)

Alright, more a side than an appetizer. It seems that a lot of restaurants and pubs have learned something I learned ages ago: potatoes, compared to their sweet/yammy counterpart, are kinda boring…

Now, I LOVE sweet potatoes. I make a pretty tasty curry with them (to be posted later) and I love them as hash browns in the morning.

The following is a recipe I tried for a friend’s Xmas party, and it totally works for the gluten free crowd (check your Cajun spice to make sure it’s gluten free):

Cajun Sweet Potato Fingers With Chili Mayo

4 small sweet potatoes, unpeeled
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp cajun seasoning


1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp chili-garlic sauce or chili powder
1 tsp grainy or dijon mustard

Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Cut each half lengthwise into 4 fingers. Place in large bowl. Toss with oil and cajun seasoning to coat evenly; transfer to baking sheet. Bake in preheated 400F oven 30 to 45 minutes, turning once, until tender and beginning to brown.

Meanwhile, for chili mayo, in small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, lemon juice, chili-garlic sauce or chili powder and mustard. Serve as dip with potatoes.

Makes 32 fingers.

6) Calamari

You’d think squid wouldn’t be all that delicious, right? WRONG! In Mediterranean cuisine, squid is a cornerstone. My dad once mentioned how, along the Amalfi Coast in Italy, there were little calamari shacks very much in the same vein as chip wagons here. And it was delicious (taking his word for it). Over the years, I’ve seen grilled variations and different cuisines applied (Thai, Indian, etc.). But the standard is basically deep fried in a light flour coating.

Now, as a fry cook in a couple of seafood places for about 4 years, I must have cooked a freaking ton of the stuff! So, using some of my knowhow, I cobbled together this version of deep fried squid rings! You can get them frozen in tube form at the supermarket. Just thaw them out and cut into ½ cm wide rings. You may have to remove the cartilage if there is any.


1 cup squid rings
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
*1 tsp basil (dry)
*1 tsp cayenne
oil for frying

- soak squid in milk for 1 hour
- mix flour and spices
- dredge squid in flour
- deep fry until done (30-40 secs) – you can also float cook in an inch or two of veggie oil, just be careful!
- serve with Tzatziki or cocktail sauce

That’s it for now. More fun to come as I write it!



  1. i think every time you post a new blog entry, you should have your friends over to sample the deliciousness of which you speak of.*ahem*
    except for the octopi. you can keep those and their suction-cupped tentacles all to your self.