Tropical salad – Light and Flavorful – No Dressing
A wonderful time last night in South Riding, Virginia – where the ladies took some time to celebrate a very special birthday. (I think it was her 20th!)
The setting was very nice and everyone came together to celebrate the day, have a few drinks and eat some good food.
Once again – the guests made everything great for me. I hope I was successful in returning the same good time.
First, let’s start with chicken.
Start by dressing the chicken with your favorite seasoning. We use a secret blend of spices which we won’t tell you here; but salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder will get you close enough. Because we use chicken breast which can dry out if they stay on the grill too long, we sear them and mark them on both sides and allow them to par-cook for a while.
Where to find the basic recipe for simple fresh crepes? This recipe is gathered from Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker.
Combine in a blender or food processor until smooth: (Ingredients verbatim from the book)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
What goes into putting together a good Sunday Brunch for 15 women? Whatever your client requests. The biggest parts are preparation, timing and execution. Even though it is a lot of food, it can still be a light, fun day of cooking as long as you are prepared.
We shopped for groceries on Saturday. Our client also went shopping and bought additional appetizers and desserts. She’s always helpful in organizing the serving dishes and getting the kitchen ready for us before we arrive and for that we would like to say thank you.
We had 4 hours to pull this off and ended up creating 15 of our most popular dishes. The guests were arriving at 12 Noon and we were out the front door at 11:40.
Mixed olives for tapenade
It starts with a selection of four different types of pitted olives; Piri Piri stuffed green colossal olives, Greek green olives, Greek black olives and Kalamata Olives which I scooped up from the local Wegmans olive bar. They’re prepared, seasoned and oil or brine soaked. Be sure to strain off the juice whatever it happens to be. You can see from the picture that the majority of the mix consists of the green variety.
Everyone has their own style – in everything they do. To me the king of the kitchen – other than legs of venison or whole-hog BBQ, has to be Beef Bourguignon.
Fresh Simit at Home
Simit is one of the favorites in street-fare found around Istanbul. Baked fresh daily, the best of them in wood fired ovens, these treats can look a little bland to the uneducated. What a delightful surprise once you give in and get one that is fresh from the fire place mantle.
Fire roasted eggplant
Now – admittedly we grew the eggplant and cukes in our garden so there is a little bit of an advantage there.
We took a batch of about 10 baby purple eggplants, skin and stems on and roasted them to perfection over an oak-wood grill.
You can poke them with your finger to check for done-ness, but be careful as they tend to steam inside while on the grill and one of them popped and sprayed molten eggplant goo all over the place – so you’ve been warned. Basically, when they’re good and wrinkled it’s time to pull them off and let them rest. They can even be refrigerated overnight if you want.
Once they’re cooled enough to be handled – open them up and scrape the contents into a bowl being careful not to include any skin. Chop them up fine in the bowl with a spoon or metal spatula. Add a tablespoon of fresh tahini paste or grind your own from fresh toasted sesame seeds. You can also add some whole toasted sesame to the mix.
Grind one or two cloves of garlic in a mortar and add them.. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. A tablespoon of good olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir until well combined. Serve with fresh cucumber slices or quality crackers..
This morning was an extra special treat. Eggs and Diced Alaskan salmon with baby bella mushrooms and red onion sauteed and topped with shredded mozzarella cheese – served over a thick-cut slice of homemade molasses-honey whole wheat bread. All washed down with a cup of fresh ground Colombian coffee. Next time I’d like to add a little fresh garden tomato and applewood smoked bacon. But for today – it was simply perfect.
Simply scramble 3 eggs, chop 1 medium red onion (we prefer very thin slices rather than a dice), a 7oz piece of fresh salmon (small cubes), 1lb of baby bella mushrooms and shred a cup of your favorite cheese. Add 3 tblspn canola or vegetable oil and a small pad of butter if you wish, saute the onion, then the thinly sliced mushrooms, then add the fish after the bellas soften. Once the ingredients have combined well, add the egg, incorporate and then add the shredded cheese . Allow the mixture to simmer gently on med-low heat until the eggs are cooked through.
You can speed this process by placing the pan in a 400 degree oven or under a salamander to make it more like a fritata. We elected to be patient and let the slow heat do its work. Add a dash of fresh or dried oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Serve over a slice of nice hearty bread.
Brie Stuffed Puff Pastry Pillows
Cooking for me is about a connectivity with the soul, usually mine. I often times will see a dish and cook it a hundred times in my head, work out all the ingredients, oven temperature and process – all before I’ve ever bought a single ingredient.
I don’t really have any interest in cooking what I don’t want to cook. Life to me is too short to spend my time challenging myself with unknown quantities and cuisines, trying to impress a stranger with a flavor from a food I know nothing about. I only want to cook what I know intimately. The things I trust and understand and can prepare with my mental eyes closed. Cooking is about a harmony for me; a harmony which can be disrupted when I toil with dishes unfamiliar to me. Experimentation is for my kitchen, not your dinner table.
Taking a catering job just to take the job is a mistake. If the guest is requesting a cuisine that you don’t rehearse – then it is time to bow out and and refuse the work – or it will be much like watching someone read Shakespeare aloud for the first time. Confusing and without flow – or familiarity. These are events that sit like hot coal in my belly when I dream about them taking place in a guests home while cooking for them. They are the epitome of my nightmare scenario in the kitchen.