My Favorite Appetizers

A have a rotation of truly delicious vegetarian appetizers that I go back to again and again. These tried-and-true crowd-pleasers and wow-eliciters range from an easy bowl of nuts to the special occasion savory stuffed mushrooms that recall the flavor of Thanksgiving stuffing (with none of the dryness).


There is a magical place in Washington DC called The Columbia Room, a 10-seat private bar tucked into another bar called The Passenger.  You have to walk through the narrow, hipster-filled, super causal Passenger to reach the Columbia Room, an elegant, calming space with an air of casual exclusivity. It is exclusive, in fact, because it’s reservation-only and costs $69 a person (for three drinks and some light snacks). A group of us went back in 2011 the night before Mr. Dame in Spain shipped off to Yemen. The three specialty-crafted cocktails I received knocked my sandals off, but the most enduring star of night was one of the little appetizers they served. Marcona almonds with truffle oil. So simple, so decadent, so aromatic, so tasty. I’ve been replicating them ever since. It’s easier on the wallet here in Spain because Marcona almonds are grown here, so they’re cheap. Unlike in the States where Whole Foods feels the need to set the price of these sweet and delicate nuts to match that of gold.

Truffled Marcona Almonds Recipe

  • 1 cup Marcona almonds
  • 1 teaspoon truffle oil
  • A pinch of coarse sea salt or Maldon sea salt flakes
    • Put nuts in a bowl, drizzle the truffle oil on it, add the salt, and shake up so each nut is coated with oil. Add more oil if necessary.
deviled eggs

I love deviled eggs. And I’d probably eat a truffled shoe, that’s how much I like truffle flavor. So how could this 1950s classic appetizer updated with a decadent umami twist not be spectacularly delicious?

Truffled Deviled Eggs Recipe

  • A dozen eggs
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ tablespoon sweet pickle relish
  • 1 teaspoon truffle oil
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
    • Hardboil eggs using your preferred method, or easier yet, buy precooked, prepeeled eggs. I hardboil eggs placing them in a large pot and cover so eggs are submerged in two inches of water. Bring to boil, and let boil for 2 minutes. Turn off burner, put a lid on pot. After 20 minutes, drain water, and dump the eggs into a bowl of ice water. When they are chilled, peel them. (The ice water bath makes peeling eggs much easier, as does using eggs that are a little old).
    • Cut each egg in half length-wise (so you have two symmetrical halves). Scoop out the yolk and put all yolks in a medium bowl. Line the yolkless eggs on a tray or a plate.
    • Mash up yolks with a fork until it looks like you have a bowl of bee pollen, real fine and almost dusty-looking. Add mayo, mustard, relish, paprika, truffle oil, a dash of salt and pepper. Taste. If it’s amazingly delicious, you’re ready to fill your eggs.
    • Scoop yolk mixture into eggs, so it’s slightly mounded. Sprinkle a little more paprika on top just before serving.

This recipe is from Cork Wine Bar in Washington DC. It’s crunchy, creamy, salty, brightly beautiful, and so easy to make.

Avocado and Pistachio Toasts Recipe

  •  ½ baguette of sourdough or crusty country bread, sliced to ½ inch slices
  • 3 ripe avocados, sliced thin
  • ½ cup pistachios, shelled and chopped
  • Pistachio or avocado oil for drizzling
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Butter, softened.
    • Heat a grill pan, an actual grill, or a George Foreman grill. Butter your bread slices on both sides. Grill until golden and crispy. Arrange bread on a tray or plate.
    • Arrange avocado slices (a few to each piece of grilled bread). Sprinkle with pistachios, drizzle with a little oil, and sprinkle some salt.

This vegetarian stuffed mushrooms are my number one recipe. I’ve been perfecting these beauts since college. They are bursting with delicious mushroom flavor partly because of two “extras” I’ve incorporated: Rehydrated dry mushrooms and a drizzle of truffle oil at the end (clearly). They are still delicious without those special ingredients. I will say, this is a kind of labor-intensive recipe, so I tell myself I’ll save it for special occasions, but in reality, I make these all the time. Sometimes I have filling leftover and freeze it, so make my next batch of mushrooms much easier.

Vegetarian Stuffed Mushrooms

  • 2 packages white button mushrooms, or 6 large portobello mushrooms
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tube of Gimme Lean fake sausage, or a box of Morningstar Farms veggie patties, crumbled. Any sausage-style fake meat will work. And sigh, real sausage would be good too.
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (plus a few spoonfuls for sprinkling on top)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 cup red wine
  • Butter and olive oil and little red more wine
  • 1 egg
    • Remove stems from mushrooms and finely chop stems, set aside. Wipe any dirt from mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Place hollow mushrooms in baking dish or roasting pan.
    • Sauté onions in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a little butter for 5-7 minutes, add chopped mushroom stems, and “sausage.” After “sausage” gets somewhat brown add some red wine (about ¼ cup) to unstick the pan. Add garlic. Once the wine cooks off (probably about three minutes) remove from heat and place contents of pan in a big bowl.
    • Add all the cheese and stir up well, add bread crumbs and parsley. Taste. Add salt if necessary. Now, add one egg and stir. If it’s too wet, add more bread crumbs. Should be the consistency of kind of wet Thanksgiving stuffing.
    • Fill mushrooms with a hearty spoonful of filling, pressing down to pack it in. Top each with some parmesan cheese. Drizzle olive oil, little pieces of butter, and red wine into pan, which will create a delicious cooking liquid.
    • Cook at 375 for about 20 minutes, until mushrooms are cooked and the filling is golden on top.
    • ***Two things I do to makes these extra delicious is throw some rehydrated dried mushrooms into the pan when I add the fresh mushrooms. This gives it a stronger mushroom flavor. Soak about five dried mushrooms in a cup of warm water for 15 minutes or so, then rinse any grit from the mushrooms and finely chop. Also, if you have truffle oil handy, it doesn’t hurt to drizzle a few drops on each mushroom when they come out of the oven, right before serving.

To whetting the appetite,

The Dame in Spain

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