August 3, 2018

Appetizers are one of the many pleasures for customers eating at a restaurant. A smaller dish, prepared with the same amount of effort and care as the entree, is often not a possibility for many home cooks on a day-to-day basis. The chance to sample an entirely different food before starting the main course or choose two complimentary dishes is an attractive option.

For chefs, a major part of offering appetizers is deciding on dishes that offer something new or unexpected. Austin culinary school students can use this advice to craft forward-thinking foods that go beyond classics like potato skins or bruschetta.

A tray of appetizers in dough cups.Appetizers don’t need to be limited to the old standbys.

New ways to go with avocado

Avocados are an enduringly popular fruit, used in everything from classic guacamole to desserts that draw on the smooth texture they provide. There are plenty of ways to incorporate this fruit into a variety of dishes, including appetizers. Bon Appétit offered a recipe for avocado cups with pomegranate salsa verde (although the deep red hue of the seeds used means the avocado is the greenest part of the dish) that can surprise and delight diners. These cups share a certain visual similarity with potato skins, but the taste is entirely different.

The dish is relatively simple and quick to prepare on the line, which is always a bonus in the fast-paced culinary world. Care should be taken to avoid letting the avocados brown before they’re served, and freshly slicing them before serving will only take a little while. The salsa itself – containing cilantro, mint, olive oil, chopped pomegranate seeds, lemon peel, lemon juice and salt – can be completed by prep staff in advance of lunch or dinner service. Balancing a variety of flavors and simple preparation makes this a powerful addition to any menu.

Dip into something fresh

Dips, from queso fundido to creamy spinach varieties, are a hit as an appetizer at home and in all sorts of restaurants. They’re easily shared and can stimulate the appetite for a main course. There are plenty of less-common dips to consider that can add a novel element to a customer’s experience and encourage them to come back in the future.

This Greek layer dip shared by Martha Stewart takes the familiar layered dip concept – think of the seven (or more) layers you may have made or eaten yourself – and adds a Mediterranean touch. Prep is relatively straightforward: pulsing a base of garlic, cannellini beans, Greek yogurt and lemon juice in a food processor, then layering with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, olive, feta cheese and herbs. The dish is topped with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of pepper. Stewart recommended serving with pita chips, although the dip could just as easily be spooned on to a fresh pita or a variety of other bread options.

Prep time from scratch is 20 minutes, although prepping the base ahead of time and adding the additional layers on the line is a task easily handled by any competent prep cook. This is another recipe where speedy cooking and great tastes combine.

Developing your own ideas

Creating your own appetizer is a great way to bring fresh flavors to the table. The options are nearly endless, as long as you keep a few simple pointers in mind:

  • Prepare and present a dish that is easy to share among several people.
  • Have a convenient way for diners to dip into or plate something that’s potentially messy.
  • Make sure a portion split among the desired number of people leaves them wanting to eat something more,
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    instead of completely satiating them.