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Native Cooking: Wow Them With Simple Appetizers

Dale Carson talks about some simple appetizers, grilled or broiled oysters and mozzarella balls—easy to make for the holidays, or anytime.
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I’d like to talk about apps, not phone apps, but the kind we like to snack on before dinner to stave off hunger for a while, also known as hors d’oeuvres.

There are easy bites, fancy bites, dips and spreads, hot and cold bites and everything many others. Then we have vessels, these can be as imaginative as you want, from a simple potato chip to cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, dates, olives, artichokes, celery—as long as it holds a delicious something. When I got to thinking about this vessel thing, my brain went all visual and I saw deviled eggs, seashells, oysters, clam shells, even big scallop shells, corn chips, baguette slices, rolled tortillas, cucumber slices, you get the idea. Edible leaves worked for the Greeks in wrapping their delicious dolmas. Native cooks lined bark trays with edible leaves for safety and the food looked pretty. You can use maple, grape or kale. Scooped out squash makes a pretty presentation as well. There aren’t any rules when it comes to vessels, they are just a way to pass bites around quietly while people are chatting.

A large plate of assorted meats and cheeses may be all that is needed, you can even add some olives and pickles. When I ask some people what their favorite appetizer is, nine times out of ten it is the old simple salsa or onion dip. Who knew, I was expecting something fancy like caviar on toast points. No doubt about it, appetizers evoke memories. It is hard to beat a clam or oyster on the half shell, although this recipe took that a step further.

We were invited to neighbors for an evening high up on their deck overlooking the bend in a tidal river teeming with wild life. There were egrets, eagles, hawks and an occasional seagull. Our host was grilling fish for the entree and while our host was rather protective of this recipe, I felt it was too wonderful not to share. This time the recipe used cherrystone clams, but medium oysters are better in my opinion, the choice is yours.

Grilled Oysters

12 oysters on the half shell in their liquor*

2 strips of hickory smoked bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces

1 teaspoon chopped jalapenos, canned are ok

½ cup mild white cheddar, divided evenly

a pinch of parsley or cilantro on top is optional

*Arrange oysters in a shallow pan so you can remove them easily with tongs.

Lay a bacon strip on top of the oyster, then the jalapenos. Top with cheese and broil on low or grill until done.


Start with small mozzarella balls and wrap them in thinly sliced prosciutto or salmon for an easy appetizer.

Wrapped Cheese Balls

2 dozen small mozzarella balls

1-2 pounds prosciutto, cut very thin

Cut the prosciutto lengthwise into half-inch strips and wrap each cheese ball, secure with a cocktail pick. Chill at least an hour or two before serving. A variation would be to use smoked salmon instead of prosciutto.