When it comes to summer entertaining, cold dips, spreads, pasta salads and the ubiquitous bruschetta are all well and good.
However, if you really want to show off, layered and rolled bite-size apps look as good as they taste. Inspired by sushi, these bits of finger food feature a ton of flavor in bite-size portions. And they also take just minutes to make.
Tiny towers of foods are easy to assemble, and the layers look lovely. Use a small dome mold or ramekin to create the shape, filling each one with layers of salad ingredients. Then wrap each one in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour to set the shape; unmold carefully onto a platter. I love making layers of guacamole, a slice of tomato and black beans. Or I make a fruity version with diced mangoes, avocado and minced red onion.
If you want to make something even simpler, without a mold, just slice small rounds of mozzarella and layer them between basil leaves and thinly sliced Campari tomatoes to form a circular tower. Secure the stack with a toothpick.
Also super easy and even more Japanese-looking is stuffed cucumber. Slice cucumbers into 2-inch-thick rounds and use a small melon baller to scoop out some of the middle. Mix together equal amounts of white miso and Japanese mayo. Pipe the mixture into the center of the cucumber. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds or seven-spice powder. A great variation is to stuff the cucumbers with shrimp or ham salad, or a cream cheese spread. A great recipe for this is Stuffed Cucumber Snacks
. Add some broccoli, sprigs of herb or radish sprouts as a garnish helps to give it a sushi-like appeal.
To mimic maki rolls, you can make mini salad rolls using either cucumber or grilled eggplant slices as the wrapper (in the same way nori wraps sushi rolls). It is easier than it sounds. Use a mandoline or a sharp knife to cut 1/8-inch-thick lengthwise slices (or 1/4 inch for eggplant). Any variety of cucumber is fine; for eggplants, Italian and Japanese varieties work the best. Curl the slices to form a bowl shape, with the ends overlapping about ¼ inch. Secure with a toothpick if necessary. Fill the “bowl” with salad ingredients like green leaf lettuce, julienned carrots, bits of bacon, radish sprouts and tuna, shrimp or grilled chicken. Arrange the ingredients so some are sticking up vertically, just as you would see a bit of filling peeking out of the end of your sushi roll.
Pinwheels are a more classic appetizer, but they don’t have to be boring if you use creative flavors. Spread a cooked flour tortilla with hummus. Sprinkle with smoked paprika then top that with a single layer of alternating long slices of cucumber and roasted red pepper. Roll the tortilla up tightly, refrigerate for 30 minutes, and then cut into ½-inch rounds. Other fun combinations I’ve tried: crumbled feta and roasted eggplant; capicola, olive spread and sweet sopressata; blue cheese with diced chicken and a drizzle of hot sauce or buffalo wing sauce; and mashed avocado, thinly sliced pork and red onion. Or try these other great recipes:
Seafood Sushi Wraps
Greek Salad Pinwheels
If you're looking for even more sushi-inspired entertaining to bring to your party, try serving your guests a little sake! Check out this great guide to sake
that will tell you everything you need to know.