Engage guests before wedding by offering delectable appetizers

“Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.” (Song of Solomon 8:7)

The Song of Solomon is perhaps the most beautiful book of the Bible. Not surprising, it discusses romantic and physical love. In our tradition, love, and its physical expression in marriage, are our biggest joy and celebration, as well as a very serious contract.

Engagements are always exciting and promising, and an engagement party is a wonderful way to get everyone together before the wedding. It seems the best way to mingle is with appetizers — and they can be exceptionally easy to prepare. Communal platters served casually allow for great mingling and visiting.

The following appetizers are extremely simple to prepare, yet combine interesting tastes and textures.

Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Dip | Makes about 2 cups

2 large eggplants, sliced
1 Tbs. coarse sea salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 head garlic, peeled
3 Tbs. chopped parsley
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Sprinkle the eggplant slices with the salt and allow to stand for 30 minutes. Rinse well with water and pat dry. Brush both sides of each slice with 2 Tbs. of the olive oil, place on baking sheets and roast in a 350-degree oven for 40 minutes, until they are very soft.

Separate garlic into peeled cloves and toss with the remaining olive oil. Place the garlic cloves in a small ovenproof dish, and roast in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until they are very soft.

Allow the eggplant and garlic to cool slightly; then mash them together. Mix in the parsley, salt and pepper.

Blue Cheese Spread | Serves 6

4 oz. mascarpone
4 oz. Gorgonzola
4 Tbs. toasted, chopped hazelnuts

Beat together the mascarpone and Gorgonzola. Blend in the hazelnuts. Spread the topping on crostini or on cucumber rounds.

Deviled Eggs | Makes 2 dozen

12 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbs. mustard
2 Tbs. chopped flat-leaf parsley
sweet Hungarian paprika

Peel the eggs, cut them into halves lengthwise and scoop out the yolks. Mash the yolks with the sour cream, mayonnaise and mustard until smooth. Stir in the parsley.

Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip, and pipe about a tablespoon into each white. Sprinkle each egg with a little paprika. Serve at room temperature.

Seared Ahi Tuna with Wasabi Mayonnaise | Makes 2 dozen skewers

1 lb. ahi tuna, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
2 Tbs. wasabi paste
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
24 slices pickled ginger

Combine the tuna, soy sauce and sesame oil together in a small bowl, and allow the fish to marinate for about 1 hour at room temperature.

Whisk together the wasabi paste and the mayonnaise until smooth. Place in a small bowl.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the tuna cubes and sear for 30 seconds on each side, or until lightly browned.

Thread 1 tuna cube on an 8-inch skewer, and add a slice of pickled ginger. Continue with all the tuna and pickled ginger. Arrange on a platter with the wasabi mayonnaise.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a Bay Area cooking teacher and food professional. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].