There’s a new wave of entertaining popping up in homes throughout the world. It’s called the coffee-table movement. More and more people today are serving small, healthy dishes that are perfect for chic, informal meals served around the coffee table. Hence the name, coffee-table movement. Depending on where you live, these little dishes may be called antipasti, appetizers, tapas, mezze, sushi, or simply finger food.
In the introduction of her delightful cookbook Small Bites, author Jennifer Joyce explains, “There’s a revolution going on. The formality of the dining room is being exchanged for a more relaxed gathering around the coffee table as a new mode of entertaining. Growing numbers of home cooks are unashamedly offering guests simply a selection of canapés and appetizers as a main meal. They are dismissing the classic three course scenario with large cuts of meat and fish in favor of diminutive yet beguiling small bites.”
These little small bites, or appetizers if you wish, are especially suited for those who want to entertain stylishly, but live in a small space without a dining room. They are also perfect for those of us that wish to eat less but not compromise on quality.
This seared sesame tuna is a perfect of example of small bites that can be served around the coffee table. The tuna is best prepared the night before so it is firm to cut, making it easier to slice. The ponzu sauce can be made on the morning of the serving day. Of course you could purchase the ponzu sauce, but why when you can throw it together in a matter of minutes.
When we lived in the Bahamas, tuna was on our menu frequently. Our favorite way to prepare freshly caught tuna is to make a simple raw tuna tartare and serve it as an appetizer with crackers. This is a picture of my husband and his friends with their catch at the dock, still dripping with salt water. It took two men and a boy to boat this big boy. So unless you’re lucky enough to catch your own, be sure to buy really good top quality sushi grade tuna – ruby red with a little white marbling throughout – and for heaven’s sake, please don’t overcook it.
Seared Sesame Tuna With Ponzu Dipping Sauce
Adapted from Small Bites by Jennifer Joyce – makes 8 small appetizers or 4 small meals
1 ½ pounds best quality fresh tuna, preferably from the tail
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
1 teaspoon white sesame seeds
4 scallions, white parts and some green, cut into matchsticks
1 Granny Smith apple, (or apple of your choice), cut into matchsticks
1 European cucumber, peeled and seeded, cut into matchsticks
Green scallion tops for garnish
Ponzu dipping sauce, recipe below
Cut the tuna lengthwise into 2 – 3 long slices, 2” wide, like you would small beef fillets. Heat a large, non-stick sauté pan on medium high heat. Meanwhile, rub the tuna with the olive oil, then roll it in the salt, pepper and sesame seeds. Place the tuna fillets in a dry pan and sear until brown on all sides, taking care not to overcook – the meat should be raw inside.
Allow the tuna to cool slightly, then wrap them very tightly in plastic wrap. The more tightly it is wrapped, the firmer it will be to slice. Refrigerate for at least an hour and preferably overnight so it’s firm to cut, making it easier to slice.
Unwrap the fish and slice very thinly, about ¼” thick. Arrange on a bed of scallions, apple and cucumber on individual plates and top with tuna slices. Garnish with some of the green scallion tops. Serve accompanied by the ponzu sauce for dipping.
Be sure to zest the lemon before squeezing
1 cup low sodium soy sauce
4 tablespoons sugar
Juice of ½ lime and ½ of lemon
1 scallion, chopped
Zest of ½ of a lemon for garnish
In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the soy sauce and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add lime and lemon juice and allow to cool to room temperature, then stir in chopped scallion. Garnish with lemon zest.