Genius Recipes

11 Very Easy, Very Genius Appetizers to Make All Summer

Starring: The simplest, swooshiest hummus we've ever whipped up at home.

May 29, 2019

With Genius Recipes correspondent Kristen off for a few months trying to raise a genius newborn, we’re revisiting the column’s Greatest Hits with brand-new videos—and hearing from a few special surprise guests. Wish her luck! (And keep sending those tips.)

Imagine you’re hosting a dinner party tonight—one you’ve been planning for weeks. You bought all the groceries ahead of time and meal-prepped like a champ. The guest list is confirmed (and not one person cancelled last minute!); the showstopping main is in the oven; the wine is chilling; a playlist of soothing folk indie is gently creating a mood in the background. Everything is low stress, under control, dare we say...perfect?

Until you survey the table you've lovingly set, and realize you’ve forgotten something: an all-important appetizer to start off the night, to satisfy your guests until it’s time to seat everyone for dinner. You throw open your fridge and pantry in a panic, finding only a box of crackers (somehow unopened!), some nubbins of cheese, and half a bottle of white wine.

Great news for you: These ingredients can become a fine start to your meal—a very Genius one, in fact—and will set you back almost no time and effort. Below, you'll find 11 more very simple, very smart secret weapons for all your entertaining needs (or for an uber-quick snacks-for-dinner sitch tonight).

1. Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi's Basic Hummus

If you've never made hummus at home (or if you've tried it and found the whole process—soaking, peeling, cooking, blitzing, chilling—more than a bit unwieldy), this is the recipe you should try. It takes half the time of your average homemade hummus recipe, with some "wait, really?" tricks that'll get you the fluffiest, swooshiest dip of your life.

2. Roberto Santibañez' Guacamole with Tequila & Apples

Sure, you know Roberto Santibañez' categorically life-changing classic guacamole. It's our little black dress of snacks—there's never a wrong time to take it for a spin. But have you met its flashier cousin, amped up with tequila and chopped sweet apples and toasty, buttery pecans? It's the, uh, tropical floral–printed kaftan you wear for a day at the beach that turns into a night of dancing.

3. Alex Raij's Radishes with Vanilla Butter & Salt, 2 Ways

If there's an easier snack possible, please tell me (and I probably won't believe you anyway). Spicy, crunchy radishes dipped in just-spreadable butter are always welcome in my book. Add complex, warming vanilla and a sprinkle of flaky salt to the whole thing? Truly staggering. This one scales up really well, so make a big batch of the vanilla butter and you'll be putting it on just about everything when the radishes run out.

4. Patricia Wells' Fake Frites

Pretty sure we've reached peak snack with these beauts: crunchy, salty, big-batchable, and even better with a conga line of fun dipping sauces. The best part? You won't fry a thing here; the recipe's two pounds of potatoes require just a couple tablespoons of olive oil (that's less than you would put on a salad)!

5. Heidi Swanson's Parmesan Cheese Spread

Ah, cheese dip, how I love you so. You're the solution to every kind of dinner-party goof (and the answer to many of life's questions). This one, from Heidi Swanson, is made with salty Parmesan; fruity olive oil; and dry white wine; and it really couldn't get more simple—there's not even a second of cooking involved.

6. Jennie Cook's Zucchini Butter

Requiring just three ingredients and about 20-ish minutes, this is an excellent way to use up the glut of summer squash you often find in your CSA box this time of year. Spread it over grilled flatbread, a crunchy cracker, your finger...

7. The Elegant Hors d'Oeuvre's Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts

This snack sounds all fancy but really couldn't be easier. Four ingredients, one of them bacon (!), and basically no recipe to remember? I'll take it. Make a whole bunch, because, according to Kristen, "there is always a fight over them, and never one left behind." A sure sign of success.

8. Ignacio Mattos’ Grilled Favas

Slightly sweet fresh favas take on a super-smoky, impossibly delicious flavor in this dish, as they first take a dip in a savory marinade and then get piled on the grill. Best news is, these stay in their shells while they char, alleviating a ton of time and making them the ideal on-the-fly summer party snack.

9. Virginia Willis' Deviled Eggs

Deviled eggs are always a hit at any gathering I host. And when I want to amp them up and make them even more special, I turn to a very Genius trick from Virginia Willis. Turns out, there's no need to double up on the mustard, or add a splash of pickle brine, or even sprinkle in an unexpected herb or spice. Just fold in—wait for it—room-temperature butter. Perfectly rich, creamy, delicate bites await.

10. Renee Erickson's Sautéed Dates

Step 1: Heat olive oil in a pan. Step 2: Add (unpitted) dates and fry for a few minutes, until warmed through. Step 3: Top with flaky sea salt and enjoy along with a bubbly drink, or next to a mound of ricotta, or atop thick and creamy Greek yogurt. It's crazy simple.

11. José Pizarro's Salt-Crusted Potatoes with Cilantro Mojo

Yielding potatoes that are crispy-crunchy on the outside, and unbelievably creamy within, José Pizarro's salt-crusted fingerlings will totally change your mind about what this humble little tuber can be. And the zippy, herby cilantro mojo for dipping and dunking is nothing to sniff at, either. (Pro tip: When you serve these, invite your guests to rub off as much salt from the potatoes as they wish before saucing.)

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it Kristen's way (and tell her what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
Order Now

The Genius Desserts cookbook is here! With more than 100 of the most beloved and talked-about desserts of our time (and the hidden gems soon to join their ranks) this book will make you a local legend, and a smarter baker to boot.

Order Now

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • judy g
    judy g
  • Allison Kennedy
    Allison Kennedy
  • Brinda Ayer
    Brinda Ayer
Brinda is the Editorial Lead at Food52, where she also edits all of Food52's cookbooks and covers the latest and greatest books on the site (drop her a line with recs!). She likes chewy Neapolitan pizza, stinky cheese of all sorts, and tahini-flavored anything. Brinda lives in Brooklyn with 18 plants. Find her at @brindayesterday on Twitter and Instagram.


judy G. June 3, 2019
can't wait to try it. Loved the presentation. she is so relaxed it makes me want to cook in her kitchen
Allison K. June 2, 2019
Okay is she calm, cool and totally connected or what ... totally adorable!!!! Looks so yummy - going to try it today, plus I am going to practice her sweet attitude about hiccups along the way ;-)
Author Comment
Brinda A. June 2, 2019
Kristen's the best!! Just be sure to start soaking your dried chickpeas now so you can have hummus for a late afternoon snack :)