The secrets behind a successful vegetarian dinner appetizer

Goodbye faithful peanuts, cucumber sticks and hummus. Culinary writer Amandine Geers gives us her best advice for a successful veggie aperitif.

If the traditional aperitif honors meat products, aspiring vegetarians should not panic when faced with the sometimes disarming unknown of the vegetable world. To prepare a dinner aperitif, vegetarian, gourmet, original and which leaves no one hungry, it is as easy as possible. The proof with Amandine Geers. A dedicated cook, author of several cookbooks and host of organic cooking workshops for nearly two decades, she has published a new book with Terre Vivante editions, My Garden offers me an aperitif (1). From the garden to the plate, inspired by what nature has to offer her, this autodidact, who describes the aperitif as a moment of coziness, is a fervent defender of the vegetable cuisine, lighter and more gourmet, making it possible to “perhaps end the evening’s dance” ! ”. For her guests, she prepares borage toasts with pumpkin seeds, beet chips, aubergine millefeuille or apricot and green tomato gazpacho with precision and simplicity. She tells us her best tips for preparing a tasty, healthy and calm vegetarian dinner aperitif.

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An impeccable organization

For some, it is a moment of pure pleasure. For others, it is anxiety even before shopping. This is certainly not the case for Amandine Geers, who “loves to take the time to put the small dishes into the big ones”. In any case, preparing a vegetarian dinner aperitif requires some preparation time and planning in advance. So from the first hours, choose your recipes and do your shopping well before you put on your apron. Once your shopping list is complete, you have every right to anticipate any preparation that retains all its freshness before serving, such as cold soups, verrines and dips. For guests who have less time to devote to their cooking, Amandine Geers has the solution: the Spanish inn system. “We can entrust each guest with the task of preparing something. This allows you to discover new recipes and find inspiration for the next time. You can also invite guests to come earlier and participate in the kitchen. It’s a very nice, friendly moment.”

A nice presentation…

No need to have the talents of a star chef for dressing your vegetarian appetizers to surprise your guests. For Amandine Geers, a beautiful presentation is always in its place: “the little extra aesthetic touch is very important to me, especially as an aperitif”. From content to container, there are a thousand ways to make a nice presentation, and to decorate her dips, sandwiches and skewers, she draws inspiration from her garden: “I only use fragrance products, then spices but also herbs, aromatics and fresh flowers for a whole edible presentation As for the containers, you can use anything without complexity: colored glasses and bowls, verrines, jars, ramekins and molds to be placed on a beautiful tablecloth.

…but lots of spontaneity

For Amandine Geers: “the preparation of the aperitif begins before the kitchen. I really like gardening and the inspiration can start when I am in the nursery or the gardener looking for a new little vegetable to grow. You need to know how to be spontaneous and get inspiration from what’s around you, whether it’s in the kitchen, at the market or in your garden. Sometimes I do things that I have never done before or that I will never do again”. And with all that the seasons have to offer, inspiration is renewed. “During the year, we got new ingredients that set no limits to our imagination. For example, it is currently the season for vine leaves that can be turned into dolmades, these little morsels filled with rice. It would be a shame to do without it!”.

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Customized drinks

An aperitif without drinks? It’s an absurd idea. But when we’re overwhelmed in the kitchen, it’s sometimes easier to settle for a few bottles in the fridge. And there’s nothing wrong with that, just choose the right drink. “On the occasion, you can choose a rosé wine, a very light red or a sparkling wine. I think they are ideal wines for an aperitif”. On the other hand, for those who have the desire and time, there are many original, healthy and alcohol-free recipes to make yourself. “In my book, I offer home-made fermented drinks. I flavor them with fresh flowers or even aromatic herbs”. Fermentations based on ginger, orange tibicos or even acacia fruits and flowers, resulting in sparkling and fragrant drinks. Then of course there are the classic and unrivaled aperitif cocktails: the mojito, the sangria, the Margarita… “Right now, like everyone else, I have a slight weakness for the Spritz”.

The dips

The dips are the essence of the aperitif. Served in colorful bowls or in verrines, their simplicity allows you to vary your taste and texture. At Amandine Geers, vegetable aioli is served with every aperitif dinner. “It’s a dip that I never get tired of and that my guests love. I use tofu, which is a somewhat feared product. But once it is mixed very finely in a knife blender and combined with foods that have a lot of flavor, its absorbency makes it possible to create a very soft and very aromatic cream. Then all the variations are possible: You can use smoked tofu, to which you add dried tomatoes or leftover vegetables, which you season with spices or chili. It is simple, economical and very easy”.

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And for a quick dip, with the bottom of the cabinets? “You can use leftover cooked vegetables, which you mix with pulses or grains. You can add whatever you want: lemon juice, ginger or a good olive oil”. We dip raw vegetables in it, but not just any vegetables: “There are obviously the big classics like sticks of carrots, cucumbers or cauliflower florets. You can choose to serve them cooked or raw. You can also choose to fill vegetables such as small peppers, cherry tomatoes or even small Mexican cucumbers, these vegetables that look like pickles and grow in creepers all over the garden. What about fruit? “Fruit is just as important as raw vegetables. For example, very ripe apricots cut in half and dipped in a garlic dip are excellent”.

Toasted bread

They can be rejected at will. With vegetable puree, fresh cheese or crisp fruit and raw vegetables, in addition to being easy to prepare, the sandwiches allow for practical tasting. For the culinary writer, the bread is the essential element that it is imperative to pay attention to. “We can have wonderful ingredients, if they are placed on a white bread full of holes, the toast will be disastrous. It is necessary to choose a bread with a slightly tight crumb, so that it is held properly and that nothing flows through. The ideal is to choose a bread with wholemeal, semi-wholemeal flour or with small seeds inside”. And for even more originality? “You can use Scandinavian breads, these slightly moist, semi-baked breads, brown in color with small seeds. They are great for all iodized foods. And for the sandwich to be really successful: “you can make sweet-salty combinations, play on the textures. What I like to do is to decorate the sandwiches with very ripe and sour fruit chutney, vegetables or well-seasoned yoghurt creams. So I like to finish them with fresh flowers and aromatic herbs for even more flavor”.

The skewers

Ready to be crushed in one bite, the skewers are as tasty as they are easy to make. And the times when only meat was invited are over: “you can put everything on a skewer. You can use crisp vegetables like onions, zucchini, peppers… without forgetting fruits of course. Alternating between the different colors for a rainbow effect is very beautiful. You can also make skewers of raw vegetables that you then dip in dips, or small individual skewers that just fit on a toothpick, like my recipe for small cucumber and anchovy bites”.

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The cakes

Little effort for big results: “a good cake is soft, tasty and fragrant”. Since we are one of the simplest aperitifs to make with the same base for a thousand possibilities, it is up to us to choose its assortments. And using leftovers is perfectly fine. “We add everything that will give it flavor: cheese, dried or mashed vegetables, herbs, spices, lemon juice”. And why stop at the same rectangular shape when you can choose something more original? “I like to turn my cakes into individual portions by cooking them in cupcake or madeleine tins”. Small gourmet and practical bites.

The Verrines

Mainly associated with an elegant dinner aperitif, the verrines allow an endless possibility for creations: “There are so many ways to do things that there should be no limit to the imagination”. For Amandine Geers, the verrine is thus more of a means of presentation: “of course it must be small, colorful and well-decorated. You can serve small fresh soups, such as gazpachos, or a nice ajo blanco. It’s like one shot of very pleasant freshness, which, by the way, can be prepared in advance”. The interplay between textures is also very popular: “you can add a layer of softness and then crispness, always adding it at the last minute so that it retains its chewiness”. And for those who have less time, we recover other elements used as aperitifs to decorate the verrines: dips, spreads, grilled vegetables, fruits and cheeses.Creativity does the rest.

The sweet dinner aperitif

In the rush to prepare the dinner aperitif, we almost forget the desserts. However, there is always a little hunger to appreciate a fruit skewer or a lovely verrine of chocolate mousse. At Amandine Geers, the last part, although sweet, is a real continuation of the aperitif. “I really like using vegetables and making sweet-salty combinations. For example, the big discovery I made a few years ago was beet stalks. I thought it would be a shame to throw them away, so I got the idea to lick them in sugar and then serve them with fresh cheese, a slightly sweet yoghurt or even integrate them into a cake”. In fact, always in this spirit of ecological common sense, in addition to saving time in the kitchen, we can take back certain elements previously used, such as chutneys, fresh cheeses and fruits.

Our vegetarian appetizer recipes

Pepper pickles, vegetarian pizza, melting croquettes and kefir shot will be essential on your aperitif tables this summer. The proof in pictures.

Our vegetarian starters

(1) My Garden offers me an aperitif by Amandine Geers, Terre Vivante, 120 pages, €14.

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