First Courses

Shrimp and Avocado Salad
Photo: © Frances Janisch

Amazing first courses for every taste, from a little gem salad with lemon vinaigrette to fromage blanc custards with radish salad.

01 of 19

Little Gem Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Little Gem Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
© Sara Remington

Nancy Silverton's lovely salad, adapted from her Mozza Cookbook, features Little Gem lettuce, a smaller, sweeter variety of romaine. If you can't find it, use hearts of romaine instead.

02 of 19

Celery Root Soup with Clementine-Relish Toasts

Celery root soup with clementine-relish toasts
© Tina Rupp

Americans Braden Perkins and Laura Adrian have turned Hidden Kitchen, their Paris supper club, into a tiny (and still underground) restaurant with the same name. The lovely seasonal menu includes this silky soup.

03 of 19

Zucchini Carpaccio with Salt-Broiled Shrimp

Zucchini Carpaccio with Salt-Broiled Shrimp

In this clever recipe, Jason Stratton of Seattle's Spinasse makes a simple, creamy sauce by simmering toasted pine nuts with lemon zest and chicken stock, then pureeing them. His other smart trick: cooking shrimp on a superhot bed of coarse salt flavored with bay leaves and lemon zest.

04 of 19

Red Snapper Crudo with Watercress Pesto

Red Snapper Crudo with Watercress Pesto
© Lucy Schaeffer

At La Buca restaurant in Cesenatico on the Adriatic coast, Matt Molina and his crew tried slivers of raw orata, a meaty local white fish, embellished simply with agretti pesto. Since orata is harder to find in the U.S., this recipe calls for red snapper.

05 of 19

Pickled Vegetable Salad with Soft-Boiled Eggs

Pickled Vegetable Salad with Soft-Boiled Eggs

This elegant, crunchy salad includes vitamin-and-mineral-packed beets, turnips and fennel, plus protein-rich eggs. Barbara Lynch tosses the shaved vegetables with vinegar and olive oil until they're slightly pickled.

06 of 19

Salmon Trout Tartare with Pressed Caviar and Tomatoes

Salmon Trout Tartare with Pressed Caviar and Tomatoes

Salmon trout has a mild, delicate taste, but regular salmon is also delicious in this bright-flavored tartare.

07 of 19

Scallops with Grapefruit-Onion Salad

Sauvignon Blanc: Goes with tart dressings and sauces

Jarred pickled onions are usually relegated to cocktails, but Melissa Rubel Jacobson's simple recipe combines them with scallops and ruby red grapefruit to create a deceptively complex-tasting dish.

08 of 19

Cherry Tomato Tart with Basil

Cherry Tomato Tart with Basil
© Tina Rupp

Serve this brilliantly simple tart with a crisp white Burgundy.

09 of 19

Poached Shrimp, Melon and Frisée Salad

Poached Shrimp, Melon and Frisée Salad
© James Merrell

To make the dressing for this pretty salad, Daniel Humm takes the zesty poaching liquid for shrimp—flavored with coriander seeds, garlic, peppercorns and orange zest—and reduces it. The salad is wonderful as both a first course or a light main course.

10 of 19

Tomato Aspic

Tomato Aspic

Chilled jellied salads were popular on hot days in "60s-era Mississippi, and they were often a centerpiece at ladies" luncheons. This tomato aspic is like a wobbly take on a Virgin Mary.

11 of 19

Fromage Blanc Custards with Radish Salad

Fromage Blanc Custards with Radish Salad. Photo © Kate Mathis
© Kate Mathis

Chef Ludo Lefebvre adores radishes, and he's always looking for new ways to feature them. Here, he turns them into a colorful, spicy salad, served on top of a divine custard that's really a savory panna cotta.

12 of 19

Asparagus with Scallops, Browned Butter and Prosciutto

Asparagus with Scallops, Browned Butter and Prosciutto

This simple dish makes for a light but filling first course.

13 of 19

Butternut-Squash-and-Sage Wontons

Butternut-Squash-and-Sage Wontons
© Tina Rupp

"Wonton wrappers are terrific for making ravioli when you don't have time to make homemade pasta," says Jill Donenfeld. The wontons here, filled with mashed butternut squash and roasted garlic, get nicely crispy when sautéed in a touch of oil, but they're also delicious simply steamed.

14 of 19

Pea Porridge with Fresh Cheese and Ham

Pea Porridge with Fresh Cheese and Ham
© Anna Williams

Chefs Bowman Brown and Viet Pham of Salt Lake City's Forage make this creamy, tangy porridge from sweet peas and yogurt.

15 of 19

Grilled Squid Salad with Celery Leaf Pesto

Grilled Squid Salad with Celery Leaf Pesto
© John Kernick

Kelly's inspiration for this salad is a dish she ate in Santa Margherita, on the Ligurian Coast of Italy. It includes butter beans; they're a terrific source of potassium, iron, copper and manganese and rich in soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol.

16 of 19

Green Tomatoes with Pistachio Relish

Green Tomatoes with Pistachio Relish

Relishes typically contain cooked and pickled vegetables; the one here is mouth-tinglingly tangy. James Syhabout of Oakland, California's Commis makes it by pickling shallots, capers, pistachios and pink peppercorns overnight in Champagne vinegar and olive oil. It's awesome on tomatoes, but he also likes using it on fish.

17 of 19

Salmon-and-Spinach Cakes

Salmon-and-Spinach Cakes

Pair these little cakes with a crisp, floral Indian Pale Ale (IPA): Elysian Avatar Jasmine.

18 of 19

Autumn Fritto Misto

autumn fritto misto
© John Kernick

Antonio Ciminelli prepares this starter year-round with whatever produce is in season. In the fall, that means apples, mushrooms and late-harvest zucchini, fried in a batter made extra-light and crisp by adding sparkling wine and whipped egg white. The fritto misto is best eaten hot from the pan, perhaps served in a paper cone.

19 of 19

Shrimp and Avocado Salad

Shrimp and Avocado Salad
© Frances Janisch

Traci Des Jardins created this refreshing salad to showcase one of her favorite Latin ingredients, the avocado. She tasted her first avocado during a visit to her Grandma Salazar in Mexico; she would snack on it at taco and fruit stands on the street, where it is typically served with fresh lime juice and chile salt.

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