Thanksgiving Appetizers

by Lorraine and Phil Shapiro October 31, 2012


By Lorraine and Phil Shapiro

A Thanksgiving menu — turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy — is an American tradition that resembles a Norman Rockwell painting. What’s wrong with this classic picture? Nothing. Everyone anticipates this festive meal, but what should be served before gathering at the table?

Perhaps something light, like carrot and celery sticks, broccoli florets or nuts to nibble. Even well-seasoned chopped liver to spread on crisp crackers or rye toast would serve well as a make-ahead starter.

For another forspeis (Yiddish for appetizer), cocktail meatballs and miniature potato croquettes, made in advance and reheated while the turkey rests before carving, are interesting hors d’oeuvres.

Reflecting the Eastern European heritage of Ashkenazic Jews, a larger, more important appetizer may be offered. Smoked salmon with buckwheat blini certainly were not on the Pilgrims’ first menu, but  this dish make an elegant and dramatic first course. Traditional blini are yeast-raised, which takes time, but our easy version goes together quickly for the first course of a lavish Thanksgiving dinner.


Savory meatballs

3/4 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon oil

1 pound lean ground beef

1 medium potato, peeled, shredded

1 egg

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon oregano


In a small skillet, sauté onion in oil until tender, but not brown. Combine with meat, potato, egg, vinegar, parsley, salt, pepper and oregano. Shape into small balls and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees 25 minutes. Serve hot. Makes 24 meatballs.



Herbed potato balls

1 pound boiling potatoes

1 tablespoon oil

1 egg yolk

1 green onion, finely minced

3 tablespoons chopped mint

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

All-purpose flour



Peel potatoes, cut into halves or quarters. Drop into boiling salted water to cover. Simmer 15 minutes, until just cooked. Drain. Mash well or push through a food mill or ricer into a large bowl. Stir in oil, egg yolk, green onion, mint, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix lightly with a fork. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

Shape spoonfuls into 3/4-inch balls. Lightly coat with flour, place on oiled baking sheets, about one inch apart. Brush tops with oil. Bake at 400 degrees 20 minutes, turning to brown both sides. Serve hot. Makes about 24 balls.



Smoked salmon with buckwheat blini

1 cup buckwheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon sugar

Dash salt

1 egg

2 tablespoons imitation sour cream

2 tablespoons melted margarine

3/4 cup lukewarm soy milk or water

Smoked salmon

Imitation sour cream

Chopped onions


Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together. Beat egg lightly, add imitation sour cream and margarine. Stir in soy milk. Blend in dry ingredients, mixing well. Spoon batter onto greased griddle heated to 375 degrees, forming small pancakes. Turn when bubbles form on surface and bottoms are browned. Brown other side. Serve with smoked salmon, imitation sour cream and onions. Makes four to six servings.


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