washoku canapé


complex doesn’t always mean good.

during my raw food week adventure here on pmk, i realized that sometimes, the greatest and especially the most refreshing foods are often those that contain very few ingredients.  sashimi, ceviche, and all manner of salads can really hit the spot, protect the girth of your wallet, and refresh you when you need a break from heavy food.

more than anything, though, simple foods are fast.  which makes them uniquely suited to being served as appetizers and (the dreaded) hors d’oeuvres.  if i spelled that word wrong (which there is a 50% chance of what with it being french and all), feel free to correct me in the comments section.

hors d’oeuvres, also known as orderves by people who gave up trying to spell the dang word, are those little snacks that are served at fancy soirees.  they are normally about one or two bites worth of food, comprised of fresh ingredients, and engineered to be as beautiful as possible.  they also have so many different types and categorizations that they make my head spin.  a canapé, just in case you were wondering, is a hors d’oeuvre which uses a piece of bread, a cracker, or some other grain as its base.

“stop talking about the history and science of appetizers and tell me the freaking recipe, poor man.”  okay okay, calm down.

you’ll need:

  • french bread
  • a block of sashimi-grade fresh fish
  • cream cheese (maybe)
  • black pepper
  • cucumber
  1. slice the french bread into thin disks.  these will become the plate for your canapé.  toast them very lightly.  because there are very few ingredients (and the goal of the canapé is to feel “fresh” while eating it), make sure not to overtoast your bread.  even the slightest burn can completely ruin the ensemble of flavors.  conversely, undertoasting the bread will eliminate the crackery texture.  if you have to tear at the hors d’oeuvre to get it to be two bites, it’ll fall apart and be considered a disaster.  the bread must be just right.
  2. choose your fish carefully.  a meatier fish, such as katsuo, isn’t in your best interest.  my advice would be to go with something a little fattier and very fishy, like white (a.k.a. albacore) tuna.  remember, find the grain and use it to create perfect slices.  make sure your knife is sharp and able to slice through the block of fish with a single, smooth motion.  slice the sashimi nice and thick, and set it aside.  keep in mind, you don’t have to use sashimi here.  i just happen to prefer the mild flavor and buttery soft texture.  hot smoked salmon, gravlax, or lox are excellent alternatives that might be a little easier to find for some people.  raw shellfish, such as scallops, are also amazing when served according to this recipe.
  3. wash your cucumber and cut off the ends.  slice at a 45º angle so the pieces become oblong instead of perfect circles.  set aside.
  4. i wrote cream cheese on the list of things you’ll need, and i followed it with the dreaded parenthetical (maybe).  you can use cream cheese if you want.  i like cream cheese.  i think it tastes good.  but i also think it tastes very processed, especially when it comes to the cream cheeses you can purchase in a grocery store.  so i offer you an alternative.  use lebaneh.  no, it isn’t as easy as buying cream cheese from the store.  but it is way healthier, tastes better, can be made and preserved in large quantities, and gives you all kinds of leeway with the flavors you want to include (or exclude) in your canapé.
  5. assembly time.  take a cracker and carefully spread a healthy amount of cream cheese (or lebaneh) onto it.  add one or two thick slices of cucumber.  last, place one or two pieces of thick sashimi on top of the cucumber, and garnish with a little bit of black pepper.
  6. make a dozen, place them on a large plate or serving platter, and go to town.  the result will be beautiful, easy, fresh tasting, and more than anything irresistable to any dinner guests you may come across in the course of mingling at your fancy dinner party.

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