From the Latin “to open,” an apéritif is a lovely way to kick off an evening. So what exactly is an apéritif? Quite simply it is a starter drink before a meal. An appetizer cocktail, so to speak. And how about a sweet or savory amuse bouche, or nibble to accompany…? Why thank you!
An apéritif should be something light and crisp, cool and refreshing and most importantly, it should get the palate primed! So no many-fingers-full of bourbon or heavy port-like wines here. A sparkling wine, rosé or champagne is perfect. Light cocktails made of Campari, St. Germain or Lillet are also quite popular. It is best to remember that you are not looking to hit the palate over the head but prepare it for a night of culinary delight.
In places like Paris and Rome, people will gather at a friend’s place for an apéritif before heading out for the night. Typically this is an informal gathering so there is no need to prepare for a party but you will want to offer your guests a little something to nibble on, an “amuse bouche,” or “a little mouthful” to accompany those palate primers.
Recently a friend from Bordeaux, France was visiting and I was telling him how delightful I found his country’s concept of an apéritif prior to a meal. And that I absolutely love how it is all about savoring not only the nibbles but the conversations and time with friends. There is no rushing! So it is all the more important to offer those nibbles since apéritifs could easily be three cocktails…
Today’s “amuse bouche” to accompany your aperitif is a simple marinated artichoke recipe. It is easy to set out a few small bites for guests so bowls of sweet cashews and crunchy cornichons are tasty and quick. But it is also nice to prepare something a little extra, especially when it takes about five minutes!
Lemon-Thyme Marinated Artichokes:
1 can of artichokes in water
juice of one lemon
1-2 garlic cloves, grated
1/4 C olive oil
1/2 TSP salt
1/2 TSP red pepper
1 TSP fresh thyme
Drain and rinse the artichokes in a colander. Carefully squeeze any excess water out and pat dry. Cut them in halves or quarters so they will truly be bite size. (Note: this recipe easily doubles so alter according to how many guests you are expecting. Each can contains about 8 hearts.)
In a small bowl, add the juice of the lemon and grate in the garlic. (Note: I prefer using a microplane here to allow the garlic to almost melt into the juice.) Add the salt and red pepper along with the fresh thyme and mix together. Pour over the artichokes and add the olive oil. Gently make sure everything is covered and refrigerate. Marinating overnight is best — just remove from the fridge about a hour beforehand to come to room temperature and gently mix again to incorporate the herbs and olive oil. Set out with small forks or picks.
Have a great evening!