Kibbeh (Middle Eastern Stuffed Croquettes)

Kibbeh is found in almost all of the Levant countries and surprisingly is the national dish for several Middle Eastern countries. That is a surprising amount of information about a dish that I didn't know existed until last week when my Arab friend took me to a halal restaurant and ordered this mediocre looking appetizer. It's like finding out that your run-of-the-mill neighbor Jim is actually the immortal Perpetual who serves as the ruling monarch of the Imperium of Man, and is described by the Imperial Ecclesiarchy and the Imperial Cult as the Father, Guardian and God of humanity. This meze is literally a ball of fried bulgur (cracked wheat flour) stuffed with ground meat. It has slight modifications depending on the country and the ruling party, the Turks call it an Içli köfte (ich-li kuf-ta) and add some potato in the dough and use ground walnuts instead of pine nuts in the meat stuffing. Pine nuts taste better but cost more, and the potato gives a much needed consistency to the dough. I've made this dish several times using recipes from different countries and come up with an abomination that probably tastes good.


Chicken and Vegetable Egg Roll

Remember that time you went to that Chinese place for lunch with your co-worker. You ordered that economical lunch combo for $5.99 that had a tiny serving of soup, an entree, and a side of steamed rice, but and then your "friend" also ordered the same combo but got that additional egg roll for $1.25. You were so envious of his egg roll but still managed to discuss the various biomarkers of neuroinflammation that would show the activation of the microglia. I remember. I remember like it was yesterday. Adding cabbage is great for this recipe, it gives that extra volume so you can skimp out on the proteins.

Chicken Satay

Eating meat on a stick, what can be fancier than that? The answer is pretty much anything else. Satay is a very common Thai street food, which should be relatable because you could be living on the streets any day now. Chicken satay make for a wonderful appetizer, they are fun to eat and taste phenomenal with spicy Thai peanut sauce. The mixture of flavors from the cinnamon-ny five spice and the sweetness from the coconut milk will explode in your mouth.

Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Bruschetta

Bruschetta is just a fancy Italian word for hard bread slices. Drop it "accidentally" in a casual conversation and suddenly the guy across the table will look up at you and say "Ah, I see you are a man of culture as well". It can be served with almost anything, and in this recipe it is going to be served with a baked spinach and artichoke dip. I first has this at a restaurant near Pompeii almost a decade ago and I had to have it again, but I can't afford a trip to Italy anymore. After trying several recipes from the internet, I finally found one I liked and here we are. Artichokes have a very strong taste especially if they have soaked in brine, but combining it with spinach and a nutty Parmesan mellows it down so everyone will enjoy it. I highly advise you to use a good Parmesan for a better taste, but I know that the Great Value brand at Walmart is all you can afford.

Prosciutto with Asiago and Olive Oil

This is by no means a broke man's recipe, prosciutto is one of the most expensive meats on the market but luckily I found some at Walmart for only $9.97. "Take that!" local Italian butcher who was trying to charge me $40 a pound. Prosciutto is an air dried ham that is cured for months to years, carved into thin slices and served raw. Making this appetizer involves going to a store and buying three or four ingredients and put them on a dish in a presentable manner but it will double your Italian EXP points when you bring it out. Just remember to tell your guests that this is just one of the appetizers so they don't eat too much.