Tasty Beginnings—These five Naperville chefs share their top recipes for the perfect appetizer for your next dinner party

July 2015 View more

Every great meal starts with a great beginning, whether you’re serving lunch for friends or cooking a feast for your family. These five Naperville chefs share their top recipes for the perfect appetizer for your next dinner party.

NMAG0715_LargeFeaturenm chef margaro ochoa 5_800pxMargaro Ochoa

Francesca’s Restaurants Chef

Serves 4-6

12 shrimp
1-1/2 cups Lentils (cooked and chilled)
1 tablespoon red onion (diced)
2 tablespoons celery (sliced)
2 tablespoons red pepper (diced)
2 tablespoons yellow pepper (diced)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons cilantro (chopped)
1 teaspoon parsley (chopped)
6 celery leaves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and pepper

Heat vegetable oil in saute pan. Season shrimp with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown in color. Add lemon juice to the pan and toss with shrimp. Set aside.

Separately, combine lentils, onions, celery, peppers, cilantro, red wine vinegar and olive oil in a mixing bowl and toss together. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Plate lentil salad in a shallow serving bowl and nestle the shrimp on top.
Sprinkle with parsley and garnish with celery leaves.

NMAG0715_LargeFeaturenm chef george engel 9_800pxGeorge Engel

CityGate Grille Executive Chef

Grilled boneless lamb loin, toasted pita, with tzatziki sauce and arugula.

Tzatziki Sauce Ingredients:
4 ounces sour cream
½ lemon, squeezed
¼ cucumbers (seedless and diced)
1 tablespoon fresh dill (chopped)
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley (chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together.
Lamb Sliders Ingredients:
2 pieces pita bread
4 ounce boneless lamb loin
1 sprig fresh rosemary
½ cup arugula
2 ounces tzatziki sauce
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Season lamb with chopped rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill on high heat until medium rare to medium (or other preference) and let rest for five minutes. Lightly season pita with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill until just toasted. Using a circle cutter, remove three circles from each pita. Roughly chop arugula and dress with a small amount of tzatziki sauce. Slice the lamb into six equal slices, garnish three discs of pita with arugula mixture and place two slices of lamb on each slider and add top piece of pita. Hold together with pick and serve with additional tzatziki sauce.

NMAG0715_LargeFeature_nm chef eddie sweeney 5_800pxEddie Sweeney

Catch 35 Executive Chef

Serves 4

8 ounces of domestic pink shrimp (71-90 size)
8 ounces of white flesh fish (Halibut, cod, tilapia, haddock)
6 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
1 cup hearts of palm (medium dice)
1/2 cup heirloom tomato (small dice, any type)
1/4 cup red onion (finely chopped)
1 bunch cilantro
1 lime (juice only)
1/2 orange (juice only)
2 jalapeños (finely chopped)
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 avocados

Lightly poach the shrimp in some barely simmering water until the shrimp is just cooked through. About one minute. Chill in the cooler. Meanwhile, small dice the fish and toss in the six tablespoons of lime juice. Let it sit in the cooler for 45 minutes.

Mix together the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl. Drain the juice from the fish. Mix together the shrimp, fish, and tomato salsa mixture. Fold in the small-diced avocado. Garnish with additional cilantro.

Serve with homemade tortilla chips or tostadas.

NMAG0715_LargeFeaturenm chef filemon ochoa 15_800pxFilemon Ochoa

Meson Sabika Executive Chef


1lbs whole tiger shrimp
1 ounce minced red onion
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon thyme
Add salt and pepper to taste
5 teaspoons olive oil
Sliced tomato and mixed baby greens
Thinly sliced bread for toast points
3 whole thyme leaves
1/2 julienne white onion
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
Pinch of salt

Poach shrimp for three minutes in a pot with 32 ounces of water, dry white wine, salt and pepper, and crushed red pepper.

Remove and cool on a sheet pan without washing in water. Once cool, remove the shell and de-vein the shrimp.

Mix together onion, rosemary, thyme, olive oil, thyme leaves, white onion, and peppercorns for marinade.

Toss shrimp with marinade and let it sit for at least three hours. Best to marinade overnight.

Cumin Mayonaise Ingredients:
1 garlic clove (minced)
1-1/2 ounce sherry vinegar
1 ounce olive oil
1 teaspoon ground, fine black pepper
3 teaspoons of ground cumin
1-1/2 teaspoons paprika
10 ounces of your favorite mayonnaise
Pinch of salt to taste

Mix garlic, vinegar, olive oil, pepper, cumin, and paprika together. Then add in the mayonnaise and salt to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For Toast Points: Lightly toast thinly sliced bread. Spread cumin, mayonnaise, sliced tomato, mixed baby greens, and shrimp.

NMAG0715_LargeFeature_nm chef cein cid 6_800pxCein Cid

Sullivan’s Steakhouse Executive Chef


3 to 5 ounces of Ahi Tuna
Black and white sesame seeds
Sesame oil
Salt and white pepper
1 medium carrot (julienned)
4 ounces Jicama (julienned)
1/2 cucumber (julienned)
1 blood orange
2 ounces olive oil
1 tablespoon of honey
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
Salt and pepper

Heat sauté pan on medium heat. Add sesame oil until it starts to smoke. Season Ahi Tuna with salt and white pepper. Roll Ahi Tuna with black and white sesame seeds.

Sear Ahi Tuna for 15 seconds on each side. Once seared, remove the tuna from the heat, let rest and refrigerate.

Vinaigrette Preparation:
Squeeze the juice from the blood orange. Add olive oil, honey, cider vinegar and salt and pepper. Mix ingredients thoroughly with wire whisk and set aside.

Plate Presentation:
Thinly slice Ahi Tuna. Mix vegetables and place in middle of plate Add tuna slices on vegetable bed and drizzle vinaigrette.

Grab a cold beverage of your choice and enjoy!

Photos by Robyn Sheldon