A couple of years ago, my sister and I had dinner at a very nice restaurant in Nova Scotia. With our drinks came a small dish of salted almonds, which I thought was the classiest thing I'd ever seen. Then and there, I decided small dishes were exactly what my supper table needed for an upscale look. Of course, my "little dishes" run more along the line of baby carrots, which are really grown-up carrots downsized, and tortilla chips, which I'll get to in a minute.
When my sister visits, I add a little dish of the Kalamata olives she loves, and when my son is here, I make sure a bottle of hot sauce is within easy reach. I keep an assortment of salsas in the fridge for my daughter, and when we're feeling flush, I put out a dish of cashews.
On an ordinary night, I do the carrots and my husband does the chips, which is his idea of helping get supper on the table. Before we fill our little dishes, I'm in the kitchen cooking and he's in his sitting room meditating—clearing his head and relaxing his body.
If I'm trying a new recipe or have more than three pots going on top of the stove, I am more than a little frazzled. My husband, sensing I'm "in a mood" knows that asking, "Is everything all right?" would only make things worse.
But he also knows my favorite tortilla chips are the folded ones and the ones I'm really crazy about look like the sides are practically hugging each other. He says, "I found a folded one for you" and it usually works like a charm — all it takes to clear the air in our kitchen is a folded corn chip. When we have something delicious to dip them in, all the better. Here are few to try.
—By Jean Kressy