When relaxing with friends, appetizers are perfect for noshing

In my last column I suggested dessert receptions as a fun way to celebrate, especially given our Jewish love of sweets. Another great way to entertain guests is with appetizers, or in Yiddish, forspeise. This tradition came about in the United States with the popularity of the delicatessen. Noted Jewish culinary historian Claudia Roden writes, “The preferred Jewish meal for many people is a selection of appetizers. They also represent the usual traditional cold Saturday fare.”

I love having people drop by casually, and as my children grow and make their own relationships, I love having their friends over as well. There’s a constant stream of visitors, and it’s a joy and an honor to have teenagers wanting to be in our home. Judging by the overheard comments, I often conclude that perhaps their motives for spending time at our home are not for the adult company. “Dude, Gideon, your mom’s food rocks!” or “That is some sick, sick chicken!” (Sick is a good thing, my children assure me.)

Many of the best evenings have come out of informal appetizer parties. Perhaps the lack of a structured meal makes the conversations flow easier. Whatever the reason, it’s fun to put out a few noshes and relax with friends — or as my daughter Violet calls it, “kickin’ it with the homies.”

Slightly Spicy Cole Slaw | Serves 8

1 small cabbage, shredded
1 lb. carrots, shredded
1 small onion, peeled and shredded
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and shredded
juice of 3 limes
2 tsp. fine sea salt
4 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. chopped flat leaf parsley
Toss all ingredients together. Let stand for 1 hour before serving.

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. vegetable oil
24 slices of pickled ginger
Wasabi Mayonnaise:
2 Tbs. wasabi paste
1/2 cup mayonnaise
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. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Acetunas con Anchoas (Anchovy Stuffed Olives) | Makes 40

40 large pitted green olives
20 anchovy fillets, cut in halves
1/4 cup milk
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. sherry vinegar
2 Tbs. chopped flat leaf parsley
Rinse the olives with cold water and dry well. Soak the anchovy fillets in the milk for 10 minutes, rinse the fillets with cold water, and discard the milk. Stuff each olive with an anchovy half.
Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and parsley. Pour over the olives and toss well. Allow the olives to marinate for several hours. Serve with toothpicks.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a certified culinary professional. Visit her Web site at www.GoRebecca.com. She can be reached at [email protected].