Thanksgiving Recipes: Delectable appetizers like Lake Erie perch cakes, tasty dips, pesto tarts

Holiday appetizer ideas to make your guests rave

Cleveland - We're on your side to help you become a hero in your holiday kitchen.

From now until Thanksgiving, we will bring you recipes every day to help you plan your Thanksgiving menu.

And don't forget to join us for a live chat to answer your last-minute Thanksgiving cooking questions on Wednesday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. here on

Today: Tantalizing appetizers to get your Thanksgiving dinner off to a flavorful start. We start with a local favorite.


Yellow Perch Cakes with Caper Dipping Sauce

Northeast Ohio has a love affair with Lake Erie yellow perch. This recipes relies on the bounty of the "Big Lake" to bring a new twist to a traditional seafood classic, the crab cake. But, who needs crab, when you have something as tasty at your fingertips as Lake Erie perch?

2 pounds baked or broiled yellow perch, broken up (Walleye or any flaky white fish can be substituted.)

1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

½ cup plain bread crumbs

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 egg yolk, beaten

1 teaspoon hot sauce (Tabasco, Franks, or something similar)

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

½ cup vegetable oil (For shallow frying.)

Place perch in a large bowl. Add Old Bay and bread crumbs. Gently mix together. In another bowl, whisk together the Dijon mustard, egg yolk, mayonnaise, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice. Fold that mixture gently into the fish mixture. Mix until it has a loose consistency. Portion into cakes and season them with salt and pepper. You should have about 8 cakes. Refrigerate cakes for one hour. Heat oil in skillet to medium high. Place four cakes in skillet and cook for four minutes. Flip cakes and cook for five minutes. Remove from skillet and drain on paper towel. Continue the process until all cakes are cooked. Serve with tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, or caper dipping sauce (Recipe follows.)


Caper Dipping Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise

½ cup sour cream

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon capers, chopped

Whisk all ingredients together and serve.


Pumpkin Hummus

Pumpkin is an American Thanksgiving tradition. We've given it a middle-eastern flair in this take on hummus. We think your guests will dig in until the bowl is empty.

2 cups chick peas drained

1 cup canned pumpkin or pumpkin puree (Not pumpkin pie filling.)

½ cup pine nuts, chopped

1 teaspoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon lemon zest

2 cloves roasted garlic

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until it's a smooth paste. Serve with a variety of crackers, crostini, or pita chips.


Vegetable Pickles

Vegetable pickles are a great addition to any relish tray, and they give guests something light to munch on while waiting for dinner. Plus, they're easy to make, though you'll want to make them a day ahead so they're full of flavor.

2 pounds mixed chopped fresh vegetables (Like carrots, celery, cauliflower, pearl onions, beets.)

½ cup sugar

½ cup kosher salt

2 ½ cups apple cider vinegar

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

½ cup water

Place your vegetables in a jar large enough to hold them, with room at the top. A one quart jar should work. Toast peppercorns and coriander seeds in a small sauce pan over high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. Add the vinegar, salt, water, and bay leaf. Make sure the salt and sugar have completely dissolved. Bring to a boil. Immediately pour the brine mixture over the vegetables in the jar. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, about an hour. Then place a tight fitting lid on the jar and refrigerate for at least 16 hours, though longer is better. Serve on a relish tray with a variety of cheeses.


Jane's Pesto Cheese Tarts

I can't take credit for this recipe. That honor goes to my mother-in-law, Jane Powell. It's an appetizer I look forward to at family gatherings. It's easy to make and bursting with flavor, and there are never any left over.

2/3 cup chopped tomatoes

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

2 teaspoons pesto (Prepared jarred pesto is available at most grocery stores)

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 package frozen miniature phyllo tart shells (Available in grocery store freezer sections)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the tomatoes, mayonnaise, cheeses, pesto and pepper in a mixing bowl. Spoon a teaspoon of mixture into tart shells. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.


Sweet Potato Cranberry Bites

Can't get enough sweet potatoes in your holiday meal? Here's an easy and tasty way to turn them into an appetizer. It combines the sweetness of the potatoes with the tang of cranberry and the creaminess of bleu cheese.

4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch slices

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup cranberries, chopped

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

½ cup bleu cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine cranberries, bleu cheese, balsamic vinegar, and pepper. Set aside in refrigerator. Place sweet potato slices on an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle potatoes with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and bake for 35 minutes, or until sweet potato bottoms are browned. Top sweet potato slices with cranberry-bleu cheese mixture. Serve.


Tomato Bruschetta

Want something fresh and vibrant to awaken the palate, but no leave your guests feeling too full for the main event? This recipe should do the trick.

2 cups chopped tomatoes

1/2 cup scallions including white and green parts, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small baguette sliced into half inch thick rounds

Combine tomatoes, scallion, garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, vinegar, and one tablespoon olive oil in a mixing bowl. Reserve and refrigerate. Arrange bread rounds in a single layer on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Place under broiler until rounds are lightly browned. Remove and allow to cool. Top with tomato mixture.


Baked Brie

This one doesn't get much simpler, yet it's sophisticated and will leave your guests raving.

1 small round of brie

½ cup orange marmalade

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place round of brie on baking sheet and bake in oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until softened through. Remove to a serving plate and allow to cool for five minutes. Spread marmalade (Or any jam or jelly that you like. Apricot works well, too.) over the top of the round of brie. Serve with crackers, bread crisps, or bagel chips.


Turkey Nuggets with Quick Barbecue Sauce

Here's something for the kids! It's a twist on something every child loves, chicken nuggets. But this is Thanksgiving, and that means turkey. While this will be a favorite at the kids' table, we think the adults are going to love them, too.

1 pound turkey breast cutlets cut into strips.

1 cup flour

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup vegetable oil

Heat the cooking oil to about 340 degrees (or until shimmering) in a deep skillet. Combine flour, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl. Dip breast strips in egg, then dip in flour covering completely. Carefully fry the floured turkey strips in batches of four or five until golden. Remove to paper towel lined plate and allow to drain. Serve with a favorite dipping sauce or Quick Barbecue Sauce (Recipe to follow).


Quick Barbecue Sauce

1 cup chili sauce (Not chili hot sauce. Use Heinz, Hunts, or a comparable brand found in grocery stores)

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

¼ cup pineapple juice

Stir together all ingredients in a small pan. Heat through. Serve.

Tomorrow: The briny deep. To brine or not to brine, that is the turkey question. Recipes to guarantee a moist, flavorful Thanksgiving turkey.

Print this article Back to Top