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Do you ever get into an appetizer rut? It happens to all of us: With a party looming, you think, “Oh, I’ll just make/buy…for the 17th time this summer.” It’s great to have go-to dishes (for me, it’s guacamole), but sometimes it’s nice to shake things up. Here are 5 ways to upgrade classic appetizers this summer.

Eggplant Chips With Cilantro Pesto

Eggplant Chips With Cilantro Pesto

Instead of: “Regular” Chips and Dip
Try: Eggplant Chips With Cilantro Pesto
Now, there’s nothing wrong with potato chips, corn chips, or even sweet potato chips. But wander with me into the realm of unexpected-but-delicious and try roasting in-season eggplant chips. Use long, thin Japanese eggplant (available at your local farmers’ market) for the optimal ratio of crispy skin to sweet chip. While they’re roasting, use your food processor or blender to whip up fresh cilantro pesto.
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Creamy Lump Crab and Corn Dip

Creamy Lump Crab and Fresh Corn Dip

Instead of: Store-Bought Creamy Dips
Try: Lump Crab and Corn Dip With Oven-Crisped Crostinis
It’s a well-established party fact that people flock to hot, oozy dips no matter the temperature. But many store-bought versions have more mayo than filling, leaving them soupy and well, kind of underwhelming. This version uses lump crab and in-season corn alongside three cheeses for a thick, hearty appetizer that will leave guests weak in the knees. While it’s baking, throw some sourdough bread slices in the oven — boom, you’ve made your own crostini.
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Salmon Tartare

Salmon Tartare in Crispy Wonton Cups

Instead of: Store-Bought Sushi
Try: Salmon Tartare in Crispy Wonton Cups
Sushi trays can be great party food, but the supermarket kind is often light on the fish and heavy on the rice. This take on salmon tartare has the flavors you love in sushi — buttery salmon, crispy cucumbers, toasted sesame oil, soy sauce and ginger — packed inside a crispy wonton shell.
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Honeydew and Shrimp Gazpacho

Honeydew Melon Gazpacho With Spicy Grilled Shrimp

Instead of: Shrimp Skewers
Try: Honeydew Melon Gazpacho With Grilled Shrimp and Honey
This summer is definitely a hot one. Give guests a bite of spicy grilled shrimp alongside something refreshing — a gazpacho (raw, blended soup) made with honeydew melon, fennel, cucumber and mint. You can make it the day before, then just pull out of the refrigerator, top with shrimp and serve. Use shot glasses for appetizer-sized servings or larger glasses or bowls for a more substantial bite.
Get the Recipe >>

Bacon, Tomato and Ranch Baby Burgers

Bacon-Ranch Sliders

Instead of: Basic Sliders
Try: Bacon-Ranch Baby Cheeseburgers
There’s nothing better than a BLT in the summer: crispy bacon, sun-ripe tomatoes and crisp greens. Okay, maybe there is one thing better: Piling that all on top of a Cajun slider alongside creamy ranch dressing. Are you with me?
Get the Recipe >>

How do you dress up basic appetizers? Tell us in the comments below.

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Entertaining

16 Responses

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  5. Jennifer Carroll says:

    Thanks Liz! I was so inspired by your post that I ended up writing 3 of my favorite easy summer appetizers on my blog here: http://celebratingeverydaylife.com/lets-cook-3-ea

Liz GrayLiz is a senior editor at HGTV.com and an co-editor-in-chief for Design Happens. She lives in a midcentury tri-level that’s stuck in the ‘70s…for now. When she’s not working on...

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