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Summer appetizers made easy

Looking for a few simple recipes to share at summer picnics and barbecues. When it comes to appetizers, local food blogger Vicki Amsinger (A Table at Robert Ridge) has a few ideas on keeping things simple and simply delicious. Here she shares a few favorite recipes and her thoughts on each.

Florentine bean dip; photo by Vicki Amsinger

Florentine bean dip; photo by Vicki Amsinger

Florentine White Bean Dip 

Need a five minute appetizer that can be done ahead, is inexpensive, doesn’t need refrigeration and tastes amazing? This dip is it. I’ve made this for probably 20 years, sometimes with spinach, sometimes without. I think that garlic salt is better than fresh garlic here because the flavor melts all the way through the dip.


2 cans (15 ounces each) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons garlic salt

1/3 cup grated parmesan

1/2 cup frozen spinach that has been thawed and squeezed dry

Directions: Whirr the beans, oil and garlic salt in a food processor until well combined. Spoon into a bowl. Stir in the parmesan and spinach. Serve at room temperature with carrot and celery sticks and pita chips.


Grilled peach toasts; photo by Vicki Amsinger

Grilled peach toasts; photo by Vicki Amsinger

Grilled Peach, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Toasts 

Makes 8 substantial appetizers

This appetizer lives somewhere between sweet and savory. The grilled bread is the perfect vehicle for creamy and tart goat cheese, salty prosciutto and fresh, fruity peaches. Using peaches that are less than perfectly ripe allows them to stand up to the grilling and doesn’t overload the dish with sweetness.

Although this recipe calls for a whole log of goat cheese, you may not need it – but it’s good to have on hand in case you want to do a “goat cheese overload.”


8 (1/2 inch) slices from a French baguette (or whatever sturdy bread you care to use)

Olive oil

1-2 medium peaches (under-ripe is just fine)

Canola oil for drizzling

1 (8 ounce) log of goat cheese (cream cheese is a good substitute)

4 slices prosciutto, cut in half (thinly shaved ham is a good substitute)


Coarse sea salt

Directions: Preheat the grill to medium and place a grill grid on it so nothing falls through the grates. Drizzle the bread slices with a little olive oil and place them on the grill. Cook until the bottom is slightly golden. Then, flip them and toast the other side. This will probably take 4-5 minutes total.

Remove the bread to a plate and spread goat cheese on each one.

Cut the peaches into eight, thick slices and lightly coat with canola oil to keep them from sticking to the grill grid. Place the peach slices on the grill grid and cook about 3 minutes per side, just until they start to soften and get a little grill marking on them. Remove to a plate.

Place one prosciutto slice on each goat cheese-slathered piece of bread and top each with a grilled peach slice.

Drizzle a little honey over the top and sprinkle with a pinch of coarse sea salt. These can be served as soon as they are ready or at room temperature.


Mexican corn relish; photo by Vicki Amsinger

Mexican corn relish; photo by Vicki Amsinger

Mexican Corn Relish

This recipe makes enough for the whole neighborhood, so you may want to halve it for a small group. It also is totally customizable – you can leave out the jalapenos to make it kid-friendly, you can add beans if you like – whatever!


2 11-ounce cans of Mexican style corn, drained (I found some with chipotle!)

2 10-ounce cans of  tomatoes with green chiles, drained

1/3 cup red onion, chopped (You can soak for 15 minutes in cold water and drain to mellow the red onion a bit)

1/2 cup green onions, chopped

1/2 cup red pepper, chopped

1/2 cup green pepper, chopped

1 to 3 jalapenos, seeded and diced

1/4 cup ripe olives, chopped (optional)

Pinch of sugar

Salt to taste

Squeeze of lime

Cilantro or parsley to garnish

Directions: Mix all ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Serve with tortilla or corn chips.


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