Appetizers? Before Thanksgiving dinner?
Yes. Yes. And yes (in answer to your next question: "But will I have time to make them?").
The main event might be the big golden bird, but a thoughtful appetizer or two goes a long way toward making dinner special -- to say nothing of keeping your hungry guests occupied while you're putting the finishing touches on the real food.
With so much of the Thanksgiving menu scripted in stone, this is your opportunity to put something on the table that's unexpected: wedges of Fuyu persimmon wrapped in prosciutto; servings of avocado mousse topped with crème fraîche, caviar and a little pistachio oil; or olives warmed with crushed red pepper, fennel seeds, lemon peel and garlic.
Here are 25 easy-to-make appetizers, most of which you can prepare in the time it takes to mash potatoes. They require little or no oven time. The only special equipment you might need is a blender or food processor. A couple -- the quick-pickled radishes and shishito peppers -- need a day's marinating; that calls for no extra work from you, just a modicum of forethought.
Cold seafood platter: Marinate cooked shrimp in orange juice and a little red chile. Arrange the shrimp around the outside of the platter and heap cold cracked Dungeness crab in the center.
Avocado mousse with caviar: Purée avocado with a little milk or cream until it's the consistency of pudding and season with salt and lemon juice. Place a couple of spoonfuls in a martini glass or small bowl, top with crème fraîche, caviar and a drizzle of pistachio oil.
Shaved fennel with slivered Parmesan: Slice the fennel as finely as you can, then toss it in a bowl with very good olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Use a vegetable peeler to shave sheets of Parmesan over top.
Roasted pepper bruschetta: Roast and peel red bell peppers (or use good-quality bottled ones). Dress them with olive oil and arrange them on toasted bread, then strew minced preserved lemon over top.
Fried sage leaves: Rinse whole sage leaves and pat them dry with a paper towel. Dust with flour and fry in 2 inches of hot olive oil.
Fingerlings with anchovies: Steam fingerling potatoes. When cool, slice them in half lengthwise and top them with salted anchovy fillets that have been rinsed and patted dry. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.
Jicama salad: Cut jicama in matchsticks. Purée fresh cilantro, lime juice and vegetable oil in a blender. Dress several handfuls of baby greens with some of the dressing. Arrange the jicama over top and drizzle with a little of the remaining dressing.
Quick-pickled radishes: Salt a couple bunches of trimmed radishes and soak them in ice water to crisp. Make a pickling liquid by simmering three-fourths cup rice vinegar, one-half cup water, 1 tablespoon sugar and some whole black peppercorns and mustard seed. Place the drained radishes in a sealable container and pour the hot liquid over. Pickle for 1 day before serving.
Spiced almonds: Sauté raw almonds in a hot skillet with one-half teaspoon olive oil until they are fragrant. Remove from the heat and season with coarse salt and a dash of smoked paprika or minced fresh herbs.
Home-cured olives: Season black or green brined olives with olive oil, lemon juice, crushed red pepper, fennel seeds, lemon peel and sliced garlic. Warm them briefly in the oven or on top of the stove and serve.
Stuffed piquillo peppers: Drain the peppers and pat dry. Spoon a little fresh goat cheese inside and arrange on a platter with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of minced garlic and parsley.
Orange, red onion and radish salad: Peel oranges and slice crosswise. Sliver red onions and thinly slice radishes. Combine in a bowl with pitted olives and dress with good olive oil.
Spiced breadsticks: Roll prepared pizza dough and run it through a fettuccine cutter on a pasta machine or cut it by hand as thinly as you can. Brush lightly with beaten egg white and sprinkle with a mixture of coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper and allspice. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown.