Inspiration often presents itself in the unlikeliest of places, and for Lukas Volger, the inspiration for his latest cookbook, Snacks for Dinner, happened while on vacation in California. He and his husband, Vincent, went for lunch at a friend’s home and what started with an assemblage of things — cheese, cut vegetables, dips, salads — ended up being a pleasantly memorable and satisfying meal. Volger immortalizes “Leslie’s Lunch” in the introduction and explains how this one, casual meal became the blueprint for how his cooking and eating style — most importantly, how he viewed dinner — shifted during the pandemic and beyond. He ends the introduction by describing the process as: “…little bites of a few different things, none of it individually plated, all placed at the center of the table for sharing — but also satisfying and complete.”(2)
I find Volger’s approach refreshing and fun — his reimagining of what a meal can be is original and delicious! He has organized the recipes by trait (flavour, texture, degree of heartiness) so that pulling recipes from each category makes for an interesting and balanced experience. There are 7 categories: 1) Crispy-Crunchy/Savory, Snack Bites, 2) Tangy-Juicy/Pickles + Marinades, 3) Scooped + Smeared/Dips + Spreads, 4) Centerpiece-ish/A Little Heartier, 5) Small But Mighty/Salads + Soups, 6) Sturdy Support/Crackers, Breads + Chips, 7) Sips + Sweets/Drinks + Desserts, with an additional section: A Few Favorite Snacky Dinner Menus, featuring some of Volger’s favourite go-to combinations. Shopping for ingredients isn’t complicated either — I found that his recipes make excellent use of pantry items and whatever I didn’t have on hand could easily be found at the local grocery store or farmer’s market. For those wondering, this is a book of vegetarian and vegan-based recipes.
While I followed Volger’s method for creating snacky suppers, I also relied on his book for hero recipes — that one, delicious recipe I could build a meal around. When my sister came to visit, I felt like I had lots of ingredients but was unsure of how to pull a meal from it. So, I decided on making the Smoky Confit’d Beans with Olives which I then built grain bowls around (cooked grains, roasted and raw veg, with a creamy harissa sauce). If you ask my sister, she will say the best part of the meal were the confit’d beans — she enjoyed them so much that a copy of Snacks for Dinner went home with her! This recipe goes to show that a memorable meal need not be complicated or overly orchestrated. As Volger has illustrated through his recipes, it can be an assemblage of traits.
Hands down, my favourite from the book is the recipe for Farinata (or Socca) with Chicories. The first time I made it, I lamented the fact I only made one batch (In the recipe notes he warns: “You may want to double or triple the recipe and cook them off to order, as they won’t last long at the table.”) and, I ate it all without sharing (this is one of those sorry/not sorry situations). The batter is mixed ahead of time and then left to rest for a couple of hours. It’s then baked in a preheated cast iron skillet until browned and crispy along the edge. Chickpea flour has such a beautiful flavour and texture, and I love the addition of the chopped radicchio.
As the fresh, local asparagus began appearing at the market, I made Volger’s recipe for Fresh Asparagus with White Beans + Crispy Cheddar. Normally I roast asparagus in the oven, but this recipe has shown me how delicious raw asparagus can be! As he says in the notes, asparagus is “sweet and green-tasting” and it lends itself so well to a vibrant spring salad. Instead of using watercress sprigs or baby arugula, I opted in favour of using microgreens from the farmer’s market. The finishing touch is a sprinkling of cheese that’s been baked in the oven until crispy, then crumbled over the salad.
We enjoy having something sweet after supper and, a simple dessert example from Snack for Dinner are the Dates Stuffed with Sharp Cheddar and Honey. A cinch to make, requiring a few ingredients, it’s a delightful composition of flavour and texture. Salty/sweet with an umami hint, the caramel texture of the dates pairs well with the creamy texture of the cheese. Even writing about it is making my mouth water! While there are several other suggestions for stuffed dates in the book, this is by far, our favourite! I’ve found that it also makes for a delicious afternoon/after-school snack.
Snacks for Dinner offers an original way of looking at what constitutes a meal by creating an array of delicious, individual dishes that can be shared. By drawing from the different trait-categories, the combinations are endless as are the menu configurations. Not only is this a huge plus in my mind, but I also appreciate how versatile the recipe yields are — as the recipes can be scaled up or down depending on how many people you’re serving. Snacks for Dinner celebrates humble recipes and has given them an opportunity to shine!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Harper Wave / Harper Collins Publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
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