Avant Garde Appetizers

Lots of places here on the Cape make fantastic food. But what sets a good chef apart sometimes is the ability to make a memorable presentation. An appetizer especially needs a playful look.

Photography by Luke Simpson

Each year, chefs Maria Pollio, James Hackney and Anthony Cole come up with ways to cast signature Cape Cod ingredients as the star of their dishes. Here are six innovations that are remarkably simple to whip together for your own dinner crowd. How you present them is a true test of your own creativity as a host.—Jacquelyn Mysliwiec

Lobster Ceviche with Coconut and Mango


  • ½ oz. garlic, chopped
  • 1 12 oz. cans coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp. Harissa
  • 4 oz. fresh limes, juiced
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 2 lb. lobster meat
  • 1 c. mango, small dice
  • 1 c. papaya, small dice
  • ¼ c. cilantro, chopped
  • ½ c. red onion, small dice


  1. Prepare the marinade, making sure it is seasoned to taste.
  2. Mix marinade and other ingredients together (allow sitting over night before serving, but no longer than 24 hours) .
  3. Serve in short parfait cup. Adjust seasoning if needed.
By Anthony Cole Executive Chef at Chatham Bars Inn

Bacon-Wrapped Lamb Lollipops


  • One rack of New Zealand lamb (Frenched and cut through between each bone)
  • 3 slices of bacon, cut strips in half


  1. Tightly wrap each lamb piece with half a strip of bacon (bacon can be secured with a toothpick or just tucked under itself. If pan frying, use a splatter shield and a pan with higher sides). Or broil on high setting, turning often for an even crispness on the bacon.
  2. Serve medium to medium-rare, about 2–3 minutes per side.

Cucumber and Mint Pesto

  • 1 European cucumber, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp. rice wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp. sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste


1 Mix all ingredients and serve in a dish beside the bacon wrapped lamb lollipops or spread on top.

By Maria Pollio Executive Chef at Del Mar Bar and Bistro

Tuna Ceviche with Soy Foam and Uni


  • 1 sushi grade yellow fin tuna
  • 1 tray of uni

Soy Foam

  • 250 grams soy
  • 2.5 grams Versa whip
  • 1¼ grams xantham gum
  • 1 packet of shimeji mushrooms cut of the stem
  • Pickling liquid
  • 1 c. rice wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. Korean chili powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. mustard seeds
  • ¼ tsp. coriander seeds


  1. Cut tuna into 2-inch-square logs and slice ¼-inch thick slices and place onto a plate. Cover with plastic and keep very cold.
  2. Warm up pickling liquid until sugar and salt has dissolved and pour over shimeji mushrooms. Place in refrigerator until liquid
    has completely cooled.
  3. Blend soy foam ingredients on medium and then transfers to a KitchenAid mixer. Attach with a whisk and turn on high until you achieve foam-like consistency.
  4. Lay tuna out on a serving platter or individual plates, place desired amount of uni on top, sprinkle with shimeji mushrooms and spoon heaps of soy foam on and around the plate. Garnish with coriander leaves and Korean chili powder.

By James Hackney Executive Chef at 28 Atlantic

Steamed Pork and Scallion Pot Sticker with Ponzu Lime Dipping Sauce


  • 1 lb. pork butt, boneless and ground
  • ½ bunch scallion finely sliced whites and greens
  • 1/3 c. garlic, sliced
  • ¼ c. ginger minced
  • 2 each egg yolks
  • 1 each egg whites
  • 2½ Tbsp. fish sauce
  • ¼ tsp. green curry paste
  • 1 Tbsp. white wine
  • ½ c. jicama root, peeled and ¼ diced
  • 1 package of wonton wrappers
  • ¼ c. egg wash


  1. Sweat the garlic, ginger, and green curry paste on medium-low heat until the garlic is soft then cool.
  2. Mix all ingredients together and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Lay the pot sticker wrappers on a clean surface.
  4. Brush with egg wash and spoon 2 Tbsp. of the mixture into the center of the wrapper.
  5. Fold up the edges of the wrapper and seal. Steam in a bamboo basket until the internal temperature reaches 150˚F.
  6. Serve with Ponzu Lime Dipping Sauce

Ponzu Lime Dipping Sauce

  • ¼ c. Ponzu sauce
  • ½ c. sweet soy
  • 2 c. teriyaki sauce
  • 1/8 c. Yuzo
  • 1/8 c. fish sauce
  • 1/8 c. sesame seed oil
  • 1/8 c. white wine vinegar
  • ½ c. fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. Kafir lime leaf, finely minced
  • 2 Tbsp. cilantro, picked
  • 2 Tbsp. mint, picked
  • 1 tsp. pickled ginger
By Anthony Cole Executive Chef at Chatham Bars Inn


Grilled Watermelon Caprese Skewers


  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Seedless watermelon (cubed or shaped with melon baller to match size of cherry tomatoes)
  • Fresh mozzarella (preferably cherry size)
  • Large basil leaves
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • ½ c. balsamic vinegar
  • ½ c. granulated sugar


  1. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, dissolve the sugar in the balsamic vinegar, stirring often.
  2. This can be done a day ahead and left at room temperature. If using bamboo or wooden skewers, soak in water for 30 minutes first.
  3. Thread skewers with watermelon, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella wrapped with a basil leaf. The basil leaf will keep the cheese from direct contact on the grill and prevent sticking. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4.  Grill over medium-high heat, turning often and basting with balsamic vinegar and sugar mixture.
  5. Remove from grill when cheese begins to ooze.
  6. Sprinkle with more fresh basil.

By Maria Pollio Executive Chef at Del Mar Bar and Bistro

Saffron Risotto “Paella,” Confit Octopus, Mussels, and Native Clams


  • 1 baby octopus
  • 8 oz. air dried ¼ inch chopped chorizo
  • 2 quarts of olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 to 1½ c. low sodium organic chicken broth, hot
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. minced shallots
  • ½ c. Arborio rice
  • Pinch saffron threads
  • ¼ c. dry white wine
  • ¼ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp. lemon juice
  • Minced fresh parsley leaves, for garnish
  • 18 littleneck clams
  • 18 mussels
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • ½ c. sliced shallots
  • ¼ c. minced garlic
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • Salt


  1. Rinse octopus under cold water. Lay on kitchen towel and pat dry.
  2. Place in an oven-proof container and cover with oil, bay leaf, and chorizo. Bring to a simmer. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350˚F for 45 minutes or until tender.
  3. In a small saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and keep hot.
  4. Put 2 Tbsp. each of butter and olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the butter melts, add garlic and shallots and sauté, stirring with a wooden spoon until soft but not browned (3 minutes).
  5. Add rice and saffron and sauté, stirring until the rice grains are well coated (1 minute). Add wine and boil, stirring continuously until it has been almost completely absorbed by the rice (3 minutes).
  6. Add a ladleful of the hot broth to the rice. Stir continuously until the broth has been absorbed and the rice looks almost dry (3 minutes).
  7.  Add another ladleful and repeat the procedure, stirring after each addition until it has been absorbed.
  8. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the remaining butter and parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and white pepper (if the risotto seems a little dry, stir in the last of the broth).
  9.  Melt butter in large pan. When the butter starts to bubble, add shallots and garlic. Cover with a lid and sweat for 30 seconds. Quickly add the clams and the white wine than place the lid back on tightly.
  10. When the clams start to open, give the pot a good shake with the lid on tightly. Let the steam from the wine open the mussels (this might take a few minutes). Leave lid on until ready to plate.
  11. Place the risotto in the middle of the dish, layer clams and mussels on top, and place the confit octopus in-between. Pull the chorizo out of the oven and with excess oil, sprinkle over the dish.
  12. Garnish with parsley or fresh dill.
By James Hackney Executive Chef at 28 Atlantic