Small Plate Dinner Recipes

Why bother with a large main course when you can make a meal out of three (or more) intriguing and flavorful small dishes? Joanne Weir reinvents dinner with these tapas-inspired recipes

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Moroccan Lamb Sliders with Tomato-Mint Relish

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 12 minutes
Makes 6

1 pound ground lamb
3 ounces pancetta, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon harissa, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground
black pepper

1 ripe medium tomato, seeded,
chopped and drained
1/2 cup finely diced roasted
red peppers
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
6 slices rustic bread, about 3 inches square
Mint sprigs, for garnish


1. To make the burgers: Process one quarter of the lamb with the pancetta and garlic until chopped well and combined. Add the paprika, cumin, harissa, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Pulse 3 or 4 times until mixed. Remove from the processor bowl, mix in the remaining lamb, and form into 6 equal patties.

2. To make the relish: Stir together the tomato, red peppers, garlic, lemon juice, the 1 tablespoon olive oil and mint. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Heat a charcoal grill. Brush the bread with olive oil, and grill until golden. Grill the sliders for 4 to 5 minutes per side until medium rare. Top the bread with the burgers, spoon on the relish, and garnish with mint sprigs.

Christopher Testani

Shrimp-and-Jalapeno Pancakes

Prep time: 40 minutes,
plus 1 hour for chilling batter
Cooking time: 23 minutes
Makes 20 pancakes

½ to ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup thinly sliced green onions, white and green parts
½ jalapeño, seeds and membrane removed, minced
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup chickpea (garbanzo) flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika)
Large pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
6 ounces shelled small raw shrimp, finely chopped
1¼ to 1½ cups cold water


1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the green onions and jalapeño, and cook, covered, until soft, 3 minutes. Cool slightly.

2. In a large bowl, combine the all-purpose and chickpea flours, baking powder, cumin, pimentón, cayenne, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Add the green onions, jalapeño, parsley, shrimp and enough water so the consistency is like very heavy cream. Cover, and chill for at least 1 hour.

3. Pour 3 tablespoons oil into a large frying pan, and set over medium-high heat. Drop 2 tablespoons batter at a time, and spread it out to make a 2½-inch-diameter pancake. Fry until golden, turning once, about 2 minutes on each side. Repeat, adding more oil as necessary. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.

Christopher Testani

Grilled Tuna Skewers

Prep time: 33 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Serves 6

½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
12 bamboo skewers, 5 to 6 inches long
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Meyer (or regular) lemon zest
3 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons preserved lemon peel, diced*
1 avocado, peeled, seeded and diced
1½ pounds fresh ahi tuna, cut into ¾-inch pieces
Cilantro leaves, for garnish

1. Place the freshly squeezed lemon juice in a container large enough to hold the bamboo skewers. Soak the skewers in the lemon juice for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat an outdoor charcoal grill, and set the grate 4 to 5 inches from the heat source. To cook indoors, heat a nonstick ridged grill pan over medium-high heat until hot.

2. To make the relish, stir together the garlic, lemon zest, Meyer lemon juice and olive oil. Season with ¼ teaspoon salt and 1⁄8 teaspoon pepper, and add the cilantro, preserved lemon peel and avocado, and stir carefully.

3. Remove the skewers from the lemon juice, and skewer the tuna. Grill the tuna skewers, turning occasionally until cooked but still slightly pink inside, about 5 to 6 minutes total. Remove from the grill, and place on a platter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Garnish with cilantro, and serve the relish alongside.


*Preserved lemons are available in gourmet markets.


JOANNE WEIR is a cookbook author, TV chef and leader of culinary tours (for information, go to


Next: More Small Plate Dinners


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Christopher Testani

First Published February 28, 2012

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