Evening Meeting, Japanese Style

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Japanese cold tofu
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At 6 p.m., I perused sushi and sashimi displayed in lacquer boxes. The occasion was a Sisterhood meeting at the home of one of our members. With chopsticks between their fingers, two dozen women balanced cocktail plates layered with fish and greens.

”It’s amazing they’re eating so robustly,” a friend said. “Whenever I hold meetings at this hour, I serve cheese and crackers. But no one touches a thing.”

She was scheduled to host an evening meeting the following week.

“Instead of dips and cheese, I’m going to serve sushi,” she said.

“Sushi from a restaurant is expensive,” I said. But the situation got me wondering. Is cheese passé? Is it too fattening? Is that why our Sisterhood women bypassed the cheese board in favor of sushi and sashimi? The novelty of Japanese food must be what inspired everyone to fill her plate numerous times.

Sashimi (bite-sized pieces of raw fish eaten with soy sauce and wasabi paste) and sushi (small balls or rolls of cold rice wrapped around fish, veggies or other goodies) are petite packages of ready-to-eat treats. Refreshing and delicious, they are usually light in calories and cholesterol.

Homemade Japanese hors d’oeuvres are a fun, fuss-free way to entertain a noshing crowd at evening meetings. Don’t forget the chopsticks.

Tofu Hiyayakko | Pareve

Yield: 24 tofu cubes, 6-8 servings as an hors d’oeuvres, appetizer or snack

This tastes best when made one day ahead.

  • 1 16-ounce container of soft tofu
  • 1½ inches of ginger root
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch of scallions (about 6)
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce

Equipment: An 8-inch round or square serving dish with a rim

Drain the water from the tofu container. Place a colander in the sink and move the block of tofu to the colander. Place a small plate over the tofu. Then stack an unopened can of food or something of equal weight on the plate to squeeze out water. Leave for 1 hour.

Remove the tofu from the colander. Cut it in half vertically. Cut each half horizontally. There will be 4 slabs of tofu. Cut each slab into 6 cube-shaped pieces. Move the 24 cubes to the serving dish. They should be fairly close together. Reserve.

With a sharp knife, remove the ginger root skin and discard it. Dice the ginger and then chop it fine. Chop the garlic cloves fine. Cut off the scallion roots. Remove the tough outer stalks. Cut the scallions at the point where light green on the stalks turns dark green. Discard the roots, outer stalks and dark green parts. Slice the scallions into thin circles. Reserve the ginger, garlic and scallions.

In a small skillet, warm the sesame oil over a low flame. Sauté the ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir often, until they are fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the soy sauce and stir until well combined. Add the scallions and stir until wilted, about 1 minute.

Spoon the ginger-garlic mixture evenly over the tofu cubes. The recipe can be served immediately, but it’s recommended to cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Cucumber and Radish Sunomono Salad | Pareve

Serves 6 as an hors d’oeuvres appetizer, or snack

  • 1 large Kirby cucumber or
  • 2 small ones
  • 1 bunch of radishes
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced red onion

Slice the cucumber and radishes and place them in a mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients. Gently toss until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 hours. When ready to serve, move the salad to an attractive bowl. Use a slotted spoon to serve.

Tuna sashimi
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Tuna Sashimi with Ginger Sauce | Pareve

Yield: about 24 pieces of sashimi, serves 6-8 an hors d’oeuvres, appetizer or snack

  • 3 scallions
  • 1½ inches fresh ginger root
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ½ pound sushi-grade tuna

Cut off the scallion roots. Remove the tough outer stalks. Cut the scallions at the point where light green on the stalks turns dark green. Discard the roots, outer stalks and dark green parts. Cut the scallions into thin circles. Reserve.

With a sharp knife, remove the ginger root skin and discard it. Dice the ginger, and then chop it fine.

In a small saucepan, heat the sesame oil over a low flame. Add the ginger and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove the ginger from the flame and add the soy sauce. Cool to room temperature.

Using a sharp knife with a thin blade — a Japanese chef’s knife if you have one — cut the tuna into thin slices, about ⅛-inch thick. If some slices are larger than bite sized, cut them in half. There will be about 24 pieces.

Arrange the tuna on a platter, leaving a little space between each piece. Spoon the ginger sauce evenly over the tuna. Sprinkle the scallion over the top and serve immediately.

Salmon Sashimi with Wasabi Sauce | Pareve

Yield: about 24 pieces of sashimi, serves 6-8 as an hors d’oeuvres, appetizer or snack

  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon wasabi paste
  • ½ pound wild salmon or antibiotic-free, hormone-free farm-raised

Using sharp scissors, cut the chives into tiny pieces. Reserve.

Mix together the soy sauce and wasabi paste in a small bowl until the wasabi completely dissolves.

Using a sharp knife with a thin blade — a Japanese chef’s knife if you have one — cut the salmon into thin slices, about ⅛-inch thick. If some slices are larger than bite sized, cut them in half. There will be about 24 pieces. Arrange the salmon on a platter, leaving a little space between each piece.

Slowly drizzle the soy-wasabi mixture over the salmon. Sprinkle the chives on top and serve immediately.

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