Book Review: Southern Appetizers

Southerners adore their appetizers, and this collection of 60 recipes—served up with a healthy dose of Southern hospitality—shows why. Smoked pecans on the sideboard, cheese straws on the coffee table, an array of hot dips on the dining table, and pickled shrimp on the porch are just some of the myriad of dishes found in this volume that prove food is the life of the party. Tips on creating the ideal party flow, being a gracious host, arranging flowers, sending out invitations, and planning the perfect menu ensure any event will go off without a hitch. Both a lovely hostess gift and a party-planning idea book, Southern Appetizers is all anyone needs for a successful gathering with Southern style.

You’ll find a little bit of everything here, from one-bite Debonaire Devilled Eggs and Fried Black-Eyed Peas to fork-worthy Gifted Baked Brie and eat-it-swatting-down Crawfish Beignets with Jalapeño Tartar Sauce. There are just as many ways to feast on dips, spreads, puffs, tarts, biscuits, and carved meats as there are to prepare them. But no Southerner forgets about the cocktails! Stanley’s Juleps with Honeydew-Mint Sorbet and Gin Yummies are just two of the delectable libations within. Are you having a brunch? Your guests will definitely appreciate the Pitcher-Perfect Mimosas and Wee Chicken & Waffles with Jezebel-Maple Syrup!

Denise Gee and Robert M. Peacock are a wife-and-husband team (she writes, he photographs) behind six successful titles. Denise has written for Better Homes and Gardens, and Southern Living magazines. Denise and Robert live in Dallas, Texas. 

Southern Appetizers by Denise Gee is available at and

Strawberry-Beet Salsa


This takes a bit of chopping work, but it’s a sparkling showstopper—especially served atop vibrant Sweet Potato Crisps or tucked into endive leaves. Use any leftover salsa on seared fish or grilled chicken or pork.

8 ounces peeled, steamed baby red beets [see Cooking Note]

8 ounces hulled, ripe, fresh strawberries

3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 ½ teaspoons honey

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

¼ to ½ teaspoon hot sauce [optional]

Salt [optional]

Finely chop the beets and strawberries and add them to a large bowl. Stir in the onion, cilantro, honey, and lime juice. Add the hot sauce (if using) and season with salt, if necessary. Refrigerate, well covered, for about 2 hours before serving.

[Cooking Note] To save time, I buy steamed baby beets available from large or specialty supermarkets (I especially like ones packaged by Trader Joe’s or Melissa’s). In a pinch, well-drained canned beets will work fine. To steam them at home, place peeled, trimmed baby beets in a steamer rack fitted within a pot of 2 or 3 inches of boiling water; cover and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until they are fork-tender. Remove the beets and allow them to cool before dicing.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Chronicle Books. 

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