July marks 3 years of Blog Parties and my third entry in this fun monthly event. Conceived by Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness, Blog Party (read about it here) is a virtual party that has a theme each month and guests "bring" an appetizer and a beverage that represent that theme. For this special anniversary party, Stephanie opened it up to be "Blogger's Choice", making our favorite drinks and pupus. Normally, I start with the theme, conceive the appetizer first and then madly scramble to figure out a drink that complements the dish. This month I am changing that up a bit by starting with the drink and letting the food and theme come from that.
Several years ago, I attended a annual conference in Seattle for one of the companies we worked with. Typically we ended up in the same hotel downtown and usually at the same nearby bar, The Dragonfish Asian Cafe, hanging out. Just across the street from the hotel, the Dragonfish was open late, had a late evening happy hour with cheap sushi rolls and pupus and a delicious drink they called the Sake Drop. (What more could you ask for?) The Sake Drop was a mixture of Sake, Lemonade and Grenadine, slightly sweet and very refreshing, it quickly became a favorite for me and my co-workers. When I threw a Birthday party for my friend and co-worker Susan, she requested it and we started making them regularly. It even replaced the Cosmo as the drink of choice at our Sex & The City Final Season Parties. I have not made them in a couple of years (not sure why!?) and they seemed like a great summer drink to revisit.
What to do for food? Sake Drops make me think of Japanese flavors and style, sushi and seafood. The fact that it is definitely summer means I wanted pupus that were low effort, don't require much time in front of a stove or oven and taste really good. The following three appetizers (what we would call a "pupu platter" here) that I threw together fit that criteria. Seared Sesame Ahi on Shiso, Wasabi Shrimp Cucumber Bites, and Spicy Oishi Edamame have great flavors, take minimal time and effort and require just a little time in front of the stove to boil some edamame (they can actually be done in the microwave if you want) and a mere two minutes searing some ahi (30 seconds per side). Perfect for summer entertaining including a Blog Party! They are also healthy and delicious, giving you a good excuse to have a small dessert, (see below) purchased at the store for even more summertime ease.
Dragonfish Asian Cafe-----
2/3 lemonade (make your own or use frozen "country style" concentrate)
1/3 sake (Dragonfish used Momokawa Silver Sake but any good, crisp, fruity sake will do)
a small pour of Grenadine to garnish (about 1/2 ounce)
Mix lemonade and sake together with ice in a cocktail shaker (or you can make up a larger quantity ahead of time in a pitcher). Pour into tall glass and pour about 1/2 oz of grenadine into drink before serving, garnish with a lemon slice.
Seared Sesame Ahi on Shiso
about 16 pieces--depending on size of ahi block
1 "block" sushi grade ahi
salt and pepper
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup black sesame seeds
1 Tbsp olive oil
16 green shiso leaves, rinsed and dried (you can substitute small lettuce leaves for shiso)
maccha salt to garnish (recipe here)
1 or 2 limes cut into wedges for serving
Heat pan over medium high to high heat . Meanwhile, salt and pepper ahi block, place sesame seeds on a plate and roll ahi block in sesame seeds to coat.
Put olive oil in pan and sear ahi on all four sides about 30 seconds per side so ahi is still raw in center.
Set aside to cool and slice with a sharp knife into thin (about 1/4" slices).
Place an ahi slice on each shiso leaf and sprinkle a little maccha salt . Serve with lime wedges. (Guests can squeeze a bit of lime over ahi before eating).
Wasabi Shrimp Cucumber Bites
makes about 20-25 (depending on size of shrimp and cucumber)
about 1/2 -3/4 lb small or medium cooked shrimp (you want the shrimp about the same size as diameter of cucumber)
1-2 Japanese or 1 small English cucumber
1/2 cup cream cheese (or yogurt cheese if you prefer)
1 Tbsp wasabi powder or paste
maccha salt to garnish (recipe here)
Wash cucumber well, pat dry and cut into thin 1/4" slices. (if you prefer you can peel cucumber first but it isn't necessary). Combine cream cheese with wasabi powder until thoroughly mixed together. Spread wasabi cream cheese on cucumber slices and top each slice with one shrimp. Sprinkle lightly with maccha salt and serve.
Spicy Oishi Edamame
(Oishi means "delicious" in Japanese)
1 bag frozen edamame in shells
a couple of pinches of salt
2 Tbsp Ponzu Sauce (or juice from 1 lemon)
2 Tbsp Shoyu (Soy Sauce)
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
2 Tbsp spicy sea salt mixture of your choice. (I either use a spicy Hawaiian salt mixture or a Caribbean one with garlic, habenaro chili, etc.)
In salted water, boil edamame on stove or cook in microwave according to package instructions. Run under cold water and drain. Put drained edamame in a bowl and add ponzu, soy sauce, sesame seeds and salt mixture. Mix together well and serve.
My tasters enjoyed everything. The flavors went together well and the a bit of a kick from the wasabi in the cream cheese and the spices on the edamame were great with the Sake Drop.
Notes: All the pupus are things I just threw together so recipes are a bit approximate--you can easily add more or less of things depending on your preferences for level of spice, etc. If raw fish isn't your thing (the ahi is partially cooked though!) you could use a piece of chicken, beef or marinated tofu on a shiso, mint or small lettuce leaf instead. The shrimp is cooked but if you aren't into seafood you could top the cucumber-wasabi cream cheese with a cherry tomato. The maccha salt from The Breakaway Cook, by Eric Gower is a great complement to the seafood and quick and easy to make but you could use regular sea salt instead.
Since I brought pretty healthy choices I am bringing along some bite size desserts for everyone; Mochi Ice Cream to fit our Japanese theme. If you have never had it, Mochi Ice Cream are little bites of ice cream wrapped in Mochi (rice paste). This one is a lilikoi flavor (passion fruit) and is made in Hawaii.
Three pupus and a great drink but it couldn't be simpler or quicker--about 35 minutes, all in. This gives me plenty of time to hang out at the Blog Party and see and sample what Stephanie and everyone else brought! Let's have a toast to Stephanie: "Congrats on 3 years of hosting such a great event Here's to many more!"