New Flavors for Appetizers

flavors1Would you like to know what I have in common with Cher? Other than the fact that I own a box of wigs, well not much really. But I do love her movies, which brings me to her 1990 film Mermaids. In the movie she played this wacky mom who only cooked appetizers for breakfast, lunch and dinner and I remember seeing it and thinking “Ok, now if I ever became an Armenian American celebrity with her own variety show and doll who wins Grammys and Golden Globes and Oscars with hit singles in the Top 10 for the past 40 years who sometimes plays a Lesbian from Texas, then damnit, I’d want to be Cher.”  But really, that’s about as far as my Cherinterest goes.

No, really.

After Mermaids I kept thinking how fabulous a world of appetizers would really be. Perhaps I’m fickle, perhaps I become bored too easily, but a world of smaller bites and various nibbles would truly keep me happy. It’d be like tapas twentyfourseven and I challenge you to find a problem with that. See? Ya can’t. Because there really is nothing wrong with small servings of flavorful foods meant to be shared with people. And if you need further convincing I’ll give you my home address and you can see my cookbook collection.

If there’s a book on entertaining or appetizers chances are I have it. In the back of my mind I envision Cher’s world of appetizers not only for the cocktail hour but for every moment in between––my collection certainly reflects that. So last year when my friend Amy told me she was starting work on a book for Williams-Sonoma (and after my nosey self found out the topic) I knew it’d be right up my alley. Her book titled “New Flavors For Appetizers: Classic Recipes Redefined” is an innovative twist on appetizers and focuses on fresh, seasonal ingredients as the key to each recipe. The book is divided into seasons which I completely love and introduces global twists throughout the recipe collection. Amy’s done an amazing job keeping the recipes quick and flavorful, unlike my appetizer books of the 1950s and 60s that require a small army to complete a party buffet. I’m loving her recipe for Lettuce Tacos with Grilled Sesame Beef, as the intersection of Latin and Asian cuisine plays a big part in my kitchen these days. And the recipe for Chickpea Dip with Toasted Cumin and Pomegranate is a nice twist on hummus. I haven’t made it to the seafood recipes yet other than the tuna but I do plan on cooking from the Summer chapter this year. The Avocado, Toasted Corn and Chipotle Salsa recipe is calling my name. Or maybe Cher’s name.  Or both.


Tuna Crudo with Fennel and Radishes from New Flavors For Appetizers: Classic Recipes Redefined, Williams-Sonoma.

Matt says: I love tuna in any form — grilled, smoked, seared, raw in poke or carpaccio ––so this was the first recipe I made from the book. The fennel and radishes deliver that contrasting crunch. It’s heaven.

1 lb sushi-grade ahi tuna, well chilled
1 large or 2 small bulbs of fennel
1 bunch (about eight) radishes
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup peppery extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Leave the tuna in the refrigerator until you are ready to cut it. If it is well chilled, it will be easier to work with.

If the fennel stalks are still attached, trim them and reserve for another use or discard. Reserve a few of the feather fronds for garnish, if desired. Remove and discard the outer layer of the fennel bulb if it is tough, or cut away any discolored areas. Halve the bulb lengthwise and trim the base of the core. Trim off the leafy tops and the root ends from the radishes. Using a mandoline or large sharp knife, cut the fennel bulb halves and then the radishes into paper-thin slices.

Using a long, sharp knife, and cutting with the grain, cut the tuna into 1/2-inch dice, removing any sinew.

Divide the fennel and radishes evenly among chilled bowls or plates. If desired, roughly chop some of the fennel fronds and add a few to each bowl. Arrange the tuna on top of the vegetables, again dividing evenly. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and oil until blended. Drizzle the lemon-oil mixture evenly over the tuna and vegetables and season lightly with salt and pepper. Serve right away. Makes 8 servings.

(oops! Thanks to my dearest friend Dr. Dakessian who thought it’d be best if I clarified the fact that the recipe photo is from me and not the book. Thanks, Raf!)


  1. says

    Amy’s book looks good enough to eat. Might I also recommend Martha Stewart’s Hors D’Oeurves handbook?? It is divided into two sections– photos and recipes Every recipe has a photo. And it has two bookmarks… Is it rude to recommend someone else’s book when the OP is about a different book by a different author? If so, sorry! But if the rest of you are like me, you’ll buy both anyway…if you don’t already have them…!!

  2. says

    I’m with you on the tapas plates, and in fact have a friend who always orders multiple appetizers instead of an entree! Another great way to serve either yellowtail or ahi tuna is with just a drizzle of Meyer lemon oil and a sprinkling of chives and sea salt. I’m salivating thinking of it!

  3. Sarah says

    Another excuse to go back to WS, yippeee! The economy needs me to keep shopping right? I can buy this lovely inspiring new book and the new Vegetable one in the same series that I have been wanting. Not to mention the le crueset braiser in citron, the mini silicone cupcake liners in pastels, the persian lime soaps, and some new assorted kitchen towels in pink and green. Happy Spring to me.

    I think Cher in Mermaids had another quirk to her appetizer only menus. Nearly everything was on a skewer or a kebab. I see a theme dinner in my near future….. :-)

  4. says

    Oooh yum! I have to try this. Ahi Poke is my favorite food so I’m sure I’ll enjoy this too. I often make appetizer dinners, they’re some of our favorites.

  5. says

    Hi Cher!!!! 😉

    I am such the appetizer hound ( i had another word for it but I didn’t think it appropriate as we just met) and I luv luv luv having cocktail parties just for that reason.

    The tuna looks just divine. Your friends book needs to be in my kitchen…..

  6. says

    A life of tapas only would be so exciting and think of the variety! This looks wonderful. I enjoyed an appetizer similar to this last week at Redd. They included tiny puffy rice which gave an interesting contrast of texture to the cubed tuna.

  7. says

    Looks so pretty, sounds so fresh and tasty! I like this…might have to get that book! I agree, appetizers all the time would be a wonderful way to live!

  8. says

    I have already ordered this book. It looks amazing, and Matt your photo is wonderful as well. I will certainly try that recipe this weekend!

  9. says

    I’ve never forgotten the appetizers part of that movie. I keep thinking the next Oscar party I go to that requires me to bring food from a movie, I need to bring Appetizers from Mermaids!

  10. says

    I never saw Mermaids, but I do love Cher. Her nephew, Russell, used to be my guitar player and songwriting partner, and I loved him. So, that counts, right?

    Small bites rule the school – always have! And, Amy’s book sounds great. She’s fortunate to have someone like you endorsing her on your blog. What a darling you are!

    Gorgeous photo too, as always, Matt!!


    ~ Paula

  11. says

    Sigh. What a beautiful photo! You are truly an artist….and you’ve ALMOST convinced me to move on to appetizers from soups…just not quite yet.
    And I clearly need to check out this book – fresh and seasonal sounds pretty darn exciting!

  12. says

    oh! And I got so distracted by the tuna (how do you do that!?) that I forgot to say how funny the Cher part of your post is. My friend co-sleeps with her toddler, who touched her hair for comfort all night–she told me the other day she was going to get her a wig to transition her to her own bed, an image that had me hysterical!! xo

  13. says

    This photo is definitely more than good enough to be featured in a recipe book! But I sure as hell knew it came from you, not the book! This appetizer is so nicely presented!

    I’m assuming Adam has the other share. So, lucky him!

  14. says

    I would agree with you, the biggest problem I have is I try to say to the missus that I want to cut back on my dinners, I have put on a bit of a beer belly since I met her 5 years ago and now want my 6 pack back, I have been going the gym for about 6 months and it don’t seem to be working to well, maybe because I often skive, but anyhow every time I ask for smaller portions she does so for a week the starts dishing me out half pie dinners that would feed 2, i don’t want to be cheeky as she does all the cooking and I don’t want to upset the apple cart, I think appetizers might be the way forward.

  15. says

    Hi Matt, really impressed with the design and layout of your blog here, some excellent work. The picture of the Tuna Crudo with Fennel and Radishes makes this dish feel quite special and I am going to give it a try over the weekend – I may have to go with the traditional 3 courses though, given I do not own any wigs…


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