At first, you may think that avoiding dairy products in appetizers is tricky. After all, you can't use cheese, and your guests might wish they had something with a creamy texture to eat. Luckily, there are other ways to create a creamy texture -- some of which are quite healthy. For example, hummus is made primarily of chickpeas and olive oil, and is packed with creamy, delicious non-dairy protein.
Japanese tempura tofu, also known as age dofu, is easy to make at home. Buy extra-firm tofu in the Asian aisle of your grocery store. It's sold in shelf-stable packaging, so it doesn't require refrigeration until you open it. Cube the tofu, then gently pat each cube dry with paper towels. Follow the directions on a package of tempura batter to mix it together. Dip the tofu in the tempura batter so that all sides are coated, then pan-fry the cubes in a little vegetable oil until golden brown. Drain the creamy cubes on paper towels and serve with toothpicks and a store-bought dipping sauce.
Assemble a platter of non-dairy Mediterranean delights such as hummus, baba ganoush, stuffed grape leaves, shish kebabs and falafel. Cut fresh, soft pita breads into small pieces that are convenient for dipping. Provide toothpicks for guests to spear their own falafel, and tongs for the delicate stuffed grape leaves. Don't forget to provide some tahini dipping sauce for the falafel, as some might say it's the most delicious part.
Buy high-quality smoked salmon and use a food processor to turn it into a paste. Spread the paste over some herbed crostini, and snip a small piece of fresh dill to put on top of each piece, pressing the dill into the salmon so that it sticks. If you find that the salmon is too dry to make a good paste, drizzle a little olive oil into the food processor as you make the paste. Use just enough to give the salmon a slightly creamy consistency, so it spreads well on the crostini.
Slice a fresh, crusty baguette on the bias to create slices big enough for miniature sandwiches. Stack the baguette slices on a platter, and serve them with a separate platter filled with slices of cured meats, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and olives. Set out some fancy mustard and relish, along with knives to spread them. Include club sandwich toothpicks that have the little frills on the top, so guests can easily handle the appetizers while standing around and socializing.
- "The Professional Chef;" The Culinary Institute of America; 2006
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