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EST. 2011 BY LIZ RUEVEN
Every Meal Starts with a Little Nosh; Consider Muhammara for Thanksgiving
From Little Book of Jewish Appetizers by Leah Koenig, photographs by Linda Pugliese (Chronicle Books, 2017)

Every Meal Starts with a Little Nosh; Consider Muhammara for Thanksgiving

No matter what time you call your guests to gather, Thanksgiving dinner needs to begin with a nosh or two. They should be easy, do-ahead starters to keep your guests out of the kitchen while you’re juggling those piping hot dishes. You’ll want these appetizers to be bold enough to get your guests excited about what’s coming next, hearty enough to keep anyone from getting hangry, and at the ready when you’re guests arrive. Muhammara is my pick.

Leah Koenig’s tightly edited collection of 25 appetizers was released just on time to help. Little Book of Jewish Appetizers is a cookbook that hones in on nibbles and party fare that are sometimes global (Roman Fried Artichoke Hearts), sometimes classic (Smoked Trout Canapés) and often put creative spins on traditional flavors that benefit from Koenig’s confident hand (Borscht Crostini).

smoked trout canapes Thanksgiving appetizers
From Little Book of Jewish Appetizers by Leah Koenig, photographs by Linda Pugliese (Chronicle Books, 2017)

After spending a few weeks with this beautifully photographed cookbook, Muhammara became my first choice starter for Turkey Day. It’s an easy, do-ahead dip that’s bright (we need more sunny orange, right?) and creamy from a quick whirl in the food processor (recipe below; first photo). It’ll be enigmatic to those who won’t be able to identify the delicious sweet/tangy blend of roasted red bell peppers (jarred!) with pomegranate molasses (Koenig shares how to make it yourself but please please keep it easy and buy it). Prep your crudite in advance, toast some pita triangles and you’ll be ready to go.

Little Book of Jewish Appetizers is simply divided into two sections. Chapter one consists of 14 recipes categorized as fresh, toasted or pickled. Favorites in this chapter are Vegetarian Chopped Liver (not even close to that bland concoction vegetarians tried to like in the 80’s/90’s) with Shallots, Eggplant Carpaccio topped with plenty of chopped tomatoes, yogurt, tehini, pomegranate arils and scattered mint and oregano.

Borscht Crostini is a brilliantly deconstructed beet soup with quick pickled onions and creme fraiche neatly piled onto thick slices of toasted rye or sourdough bread.

Koenig shares all of the necessary elements for creative appetizer courses, including a recipe for Everything-Spice Crackers and Za’atar- Garlic Pita Chips. She’s a practical cook, understanding that jarred red peppers are just fine for the Muhammara Dip as are packaged pita and onion powder for the chips you’ll want to make.

I love that Koenig takes four pages to discuss the components of a global Jewish Cheese Plate. She illuminates some Middle Eastern choices (Halloumi, Feta, Braided) along with some small batch kosher, artisanal favorites made in the USA (shout out to 5 Spoke Creamery). There’s a long list of accompaniments, many of which can be easily purchased. She’s sparked my creativity with pairing suggestions like sour cherries in syrup (drained) and slivers of halvah.

The second chapter includes appetizers that are cooked, fried and baked. This category leads us to an exciting selection of dumplings, savory pastries and flatbreads, among other treats.

spinach bulemas Sephardic Jewish pastry
From Little Book of Jewish Appetizers by Leah Koenig, photographs by Linda Pugliese (Chronicle Books, 2017)

Russian inspired dumplings like Mushroom Piroshki and Spinach Bulemas, a Sephardic savory pastry filled with spinach or eggplant and cheese, lead the Ashkenazic reader into less familiar bites that are rooted in cuisines you’ll be tempted to explore.

Middle Eastern kosher meat flatbreads
From Little Book of Jewish Appetizers by Leah Koenig, photographs by Linda Pugliese (Chronicle Books, 2017)

At the end, Koenig lists appetizer menus that are bunched by flavors (Middle Eastern Mezze Spread) and occasion (Chanukah Party, Elegant Dinner Party, Surprise Guests). For those tempted to skip the mains and make a full meal of these little gems, she’s already set the menu for you.

Watch for our give-away later this week! We’ll be be cooking up a contest so that one lucky winner can receive one of my favorite books of the season, Little Book of Jewish Appetizers.

 

 

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