Knowing how to make the best appetizers, like all foods, they must have lots of flavor. Although I am not one for “eating out” frequently, I have come upon some of the best appetizers by trying in the restaurants. After tasting I will go home and try to recreate them. Many of my favorite recipes have a history to other parts of the world utilizing their spices and herbs. I was able to try all of these great recipes in Florida restaurants and one really misses out by never experiencing these flavors!
From the Lebanese and other Middle Eastern cuisines, the tabouli salad has gained great recognition around the world. Although it is considered a “salad”, it is wonderful to know how to make this best appetizer and serve it with pita bread. It probably is one of the healthiest salads to make and the flavor is astounding. Some of my favorite flavors like mint, garlic, onion and lemon are blended with bulgur and cucumber (also ingredients that I love) to make this dish; I can eat a large bowl of this for a lunch meal.
Another Middle Eastern recipe which I learned how to make and consider it among my best appetizers is hummus; the word meaning chickpeas. I have used chickpeas for many years in soups and adding on tops of salads but I never tried hummus until about 15 years ago. Making a puree with the chickpeas was all new to me; making tahini sauce was also new but the combination is worth trying. Of course the garlic and cumin seasoning is what really makes this spread. Chickpeas are a good source of protein and fiber; combining these with the tahini and seasonings makes a good lunch when served with pita bread. This is also a good dish for the vegetarian diet.
My eggplant dip recipe has the influence of the Mediterranean cuisine where all eggplant is so popular. This night shade vegetable is very popular in many vegetarian dishes as well as recipes like my best appetizers. As with all these recipes the flavor comes from the wonderful blend of ingredients. Many Greek restaurants are famous for their eggplant dip; this is where I first tried it served with fresh pita bread.
Potato garlic spread (or skorthalia recipe) is also generally served in many Greek restaurants. When I tried garlic spread I never realized it was made with whipped potatoes. As I said, I usually go home and try to duplicate the recipe but I could not figure what made it so creamy. Finally the restaurant owner told me it was “simply potatoes”; I could not believe it. The amount of fresh minced garlic is what gives this the great flavor.
None of my best appetizer recipes are too difficult to make or time consuming. They can be made ahead and actually are better after refrigeration. I like to make all of them at the same time and serve together; they actually complement each other and for “garlic lovers” they are fantastic. They all should be served with fresh pita bread. If you do not know how to make pita bread I have included my recipe. It is easy to make and very good.
All the spread recipes below are great served with pita bread.
Peel potatoes and cut into chunks; cover with lightly salted water and cook until tender.
Drain potatoes well reserving liquid; place potatoes in mixing bowl.
Mash potatoes with hand masher; add oil and start beating.
Add garlic; gradually add wine beating until smooth and creamy spreading consistency.
If needed for consistency add reserved liquid (a little at a time)
Season with salt and pepper to taste; serve with pita bread.
Poke small holes in eggplant and bake at 350F degrees until tender about 1 hour.
Peel eggplant, cut open and remove as many seeds as possible; cut eggplant into very small pieces.
Add all ingredients and blend well seasoning to taste; serve with pita bread.
Wash bulgur in a strainer under cold water; drain thoroughly.
Place in bowl and cover with boiling water; cover and let stand about 90 minutes.
Drain wheat and squeeze out excess water; combine all ingredients with the bulgur and toss to coat.
Season with salt and pepper to taste; refrigerate a couple hours to blend flavors.
Serve with pitas.
Combine all ingredients (EXCEPT for water and extra lemon juice) and process in blender until smooth.
Add extra lemon juice and water if needed for spreading consistency.
Cover and refrigerates a couple hours before serving to blend flavors.
HOW TO MAKE TAHINI (SESAME SEED PASTE)
Grind 4 tablespoons sesame seeds in grain mill or coffee grinder.
Add about 6 tablespoons warm water, 1 teaspoon sesame oil and ½ teaspoon salt; stir to blend.
Place all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor; add 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Process mixture until smooth; add enough olive oil to make a spreadable paste.
Serve with hot pita bread.