Appetizers are a host's best friend

Surprise your guests by serving something different and unexpected and still be able to keep the classic flavors that they know and love.

Imitation Crab Guacamole  (photo credit: courtesy)
Imitation Crab Guacamole
(photo credit: courtesy)
Fall is football season, back to school, and time to watch the foliage. And each of these screams good times with friends and of course some great comfort food to go with it.
When we have friends over we like to hang around the kitchen and the den, munching on crackers and dips, catching up and often, watch a game.
Here are a few dips and appetizers that I’ve been serving. I like each of these because they are a bit different from what people expect but still include so many of the flavors that they know and love.
Edamame Dip Serves 10
4 large cloves garlic, un-peeled 16 ounces shelled edamame beans (about 2 cups) 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin Pinch salt and pepper4 tablespoons olive oil 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes) Zest of ½ lemon 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro Pita chips, for dipping
Directions In a medium skillet over medium heat, roast the garlic, turning frequently, until light brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, cool, and then slip off the skins. Set aside.
Bring about eight cups of water to a boil in a saucepan and drop in the beans. Bring back to a boil and cook for five minutes. Reserve 3/4 cup of the cooking water before draining. Drain the beans and cool.
Transfer the garlic into a food processor and chop coarsely. Add the beans, cayenne pepper, cumin, salt, pepper and process in the food processor. Add the olive oil, lime juice, lemon zest and cilantro and pulse to combine. Add the reserved water a little at a time while processing until smooth (you may not need to add all of the water). Use pita chips for dipping.
Italian Mini Meatballs 30 mini meatballs
2 pounds lean ground beef 8 ounces ground turkey 2 cups Italian flavored breadcrumbs 1 cup soymilk 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped 4 medium eggs, lightly beaten 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 medium onion, minced Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl or mixer, thoroughly mix the beef, turkey, breadcrumbs, soymilk, parsley, eggs, garlic, onion and some salt and pepper. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Shape into meatballs and place on a foil-lined shallow baking pan. Bake 30 minutes for medium or 25 minutes for bite-size. Stick toothpicks in the finished meatballs to serve as an appetizer.
Sticky Salami Serves 6 -8, double it though because you won’t have a bit left
1 Salami 1/2 cup Marmalade or Apricot Jam 2 tablespoons brown sugar 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Score the salami, cutting into narrow slices but not completely through to the bottom.
Salami will stay intact, just cut almost to the bottom. In a small bowl, mix the marmalade, brown sugar, and Dijon mustard and pour on salami (making sure to get inside the cuts).
Place on a greased baking sheet and cook for about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours. Serve on a plate with sliced pumpernickel or rye bread. Alternatively, cut it up and add toothpicks for easy serving.
Imitation Crab Guacamole
Serves 8
3 Haas avocados, halved, seeded and peeled 1 lime, juiced 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon cayenne 1/2 medium onion, diced 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro 1 clove garlic, minced 1 cup chopped imitation crab
In a large bowl place the scooped avocado pulp and lime juice, toss to coat. Add the salt, cumin, and cayenne and mash. Then, fold in the onions, jalapeno, tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, and imitation crab. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour and then serve. Serve with tortilla chips or vegetable crudite.
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