Tag Archives: feta

Summer Dinner Party

9 Jun

So last Saturday night I catered a dinner party in Orlando. Back in April, I had donated a dinner party for 8 at a fundraiser for my Mom’s school and Saturday was the big night. I was thrilled to have had donated a prize that raised so much money for the school, but I was nervous that I had to live up to the donation.

The night started off as usual. I had my timeline prepped and my ingredients ready to go. All I had to do was show up and start cooking. I even had help. My Mom and her 2 friends were the “celebrity” guests that would be helping with dinner. I was ready. Here was the menu:

Watermelon Tomato Salad
Watermelon, tomatoes, feta cheese, red onion and white balsamic vinaigrette

Salmon with Raw Sugar Green Chili Glaze and Summer Succotash
Seared salmon with raw sugar green chili glaze and a succotash with corn, tomatoes, bacon and edamame

Cornbread with Lime Butter

Toasted Pound Cake
Toasted pound cake with topped with a cannoli cream and fresh berries

I started the night out by making the cornbread and the cannoli cream. I assigned things to my Mom and her friends as the night went on. I had my Mom make a surprise appetizers. As you can see the menu did not include nibbles to have out while the guest were arriving. We made brie stuffed dates with sliced almonds and balsamic glaze. I borrowed the recipe from Wegmans. It’s very simple…

Brie Stuffed Dates

12 dates, sliced down the center and pits removed
6 oz ripe brie (I use fromage d’affinios)
1 oz sliced almonds
3 oz balsamic vinegar, reduced by half

Stuff each date with a 1/2 oz of cheese and sprinkle with the almonds. Drizzle with balsamic and serve.

The night before the party I decided that the salmon really needed a sauce. Usually I fell like a glaze serves the purpose of a sauce, but this glaze was different. It was light, and almost caramelized on top of the salmon. It enhanced the crispiness of sear, but didn’t add that flavorful moisture to the entrée that the salmon really needed. I decided to make an aji sauce. Strangely enough, aji is pepper, but this sauce did not have any aji peppers in it. It did have anehiem and jalepeño peppers, but no aji. The sauce went perfectly with the salmon and the spicy sweet glaze.

One of the unexpected hits of the party was the cornbread. I was frantic to find a recipe that hit a happy medium between the traditional corn bread of the South and the sweet, pudding-y, corn bread of the North. I had success with this recipe:

3 cups white cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 can creamed corn
2/3 cup sugar
3 cups well-shaken buttermilk
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted

Special equipment: 9×13 in pan

Preheating oven to 375°F.

Whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder and soda, and salt. Add eggs, corn, buttermilk, and 1 cup melted butter, then quickly stir together.

Bake for 50 minutes

Dessert was simple. I felt like I was cheating by using store bought pound cake, but since I made the corn bread, I thought it was a fair trade off. The cannoli cream was inspired by cannoli filling and a cake called a cassatta. The sweetened cheese tasted light and melted slightly over the warmed pound cake.

I had so much fun at this party. I can’t wait for my next one… next week!

Always thinking of the next meal


Would you like a little cheese with that wine?

10 Jan

cheeseWe love having friends over. But we especially love having friends over that love cheese. It’s really fun to do a wine and cheese party because there is virtually no work involved. Just purchase and plate.

I love simple, clean entertaining. Our friends were due to arrive around 7:30 which put the party in the dinner hour. If you are having a cheese party a little later, say around 8:30 or earlier, for cocktails, you could omit the rest of the menu, but I wanted to make sure there was enough to eat and that there were plenty of accompaniments for the cheeses.

So here’s the official menu:

Cheese Tray: (clockwise from the top) Mahon, piccoline olives, cave aged gruyere, danish blue, feta with honey and cinnamon, and cabrales

Charcuterie Tray: Genoa salami, capicola, and duck prosciutto

Caprese Bruschetta

Rustic Apple Galette with Chantilly Cream

Yes, I realize that it might look a little intimidating, but actually it’s just a lot of fancy words for simple things. Let me explain.

The cheeses are kind of an odd combination. While my intent was to do all Spanish cheeses, I had a few in the fridge that I wanted to use up, and I picked up a few that I love without consideration for the theme. So here I was, with a mismatched combination, but it wound up working out fine. As for what the cheeses are; Mahon is a spanish cow’s milk cheese. It’s a washed-rind cheese that is washed with either olive oil or butter that is combined with a little bit of paprika for color. It tasted like an aged cheddar. It is slightly nutty and fruity with a salty bite and bit of grana (the salt crystals that combine with proteins to form crunchy bits in aged cheese.) Piccoline olive are small green olives from France that are a very fruity and pleasantly briny. Danish blue is a well known medium intensity blue that is mainly used as an ingredient. Cave Aged Gruyere is a Swiss style cheese made is France. It is nutty and fragrant. It has that wonderful tanginess that swiss cheeses bring to a party, but with a more mature finish. The feta is a French feta that is less briny than Greek fetas. Combined with cinnamon and honey, the cheese sings. It’s complimented well by the grapes and a few wheat crackers. Finally, the cabrales. Perhaps the most intense of the Spanish blues, cabrales is a cave-aged blue that can clear your sinuses if you’re not careful. While pungent, it still has a lovely smell that reminds me of Muscat grapes and honey. It can be mellowed with marcona almonds and honey.

The charcuterie plate is a fancy way of saying meats. With the exception of the duck prosciutto, the meats came from the deli counter. The duck is a specialty item that was well worth the trip to the Philadelphia Italian market. Fatty, and rich without the overly chewy quality that pork prosciutto can sometimes have.

The Caprese bruschetta was simple toasted crostini with mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, basil, and a balsamic reduction. Oh, and salt and pepper of course. I have to say they were a big hit because I only got one.

The Apple Crostata is a free form apple tart. I made my own crust, but you could absolutely use a frozen pie dough. Just peel and slice 2 apples, and toss with sugar and cinnamon. Lay the pie dough on a cookie sheet and pile the apples in the center leaving 2-3 inches around the side. Fold the edges in, pleating as needed. Brush the top of the dough with heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Serve at room temperature. To make the chantilly cream, whip heavy cream until soft peaks form, add in 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and whip until stiff peaks form. Serve on the side of the cooled crostata.

Next time you entertain, keep this simple menu in mind. Everything can be prepared within an hour and the best part, it can also be cleaned up in about 15 minutes!

Always thinking of the next meal,


It’s all Greek to me!

26 Jul

So I was asked o bring a salad to my cousins bridal shower. The parameters? WHATEVER I WANTED! The only thing I was my cousin wanted chick peas on the salad. I originally thought about making a Mediterranean salad with roasted red peppers and artichokes, but not knowing the tastes of the masses I thought I would go a little less fancy.

Most people like Greek salad so I thought, why not. When making salad for 30 people the best idea is to keep it simple. A few ingredients that work well together and make a big flavor impact. With Greek salad this is easy to do. As with all salads you want to seek a balance of sweet, salty, soft, crunchy, acid and spice. Greek salad embraces all of these elements.

IMG_0695Here’s how I balanced the flavors in the salad.

Sweet: Sundried Tomatoes

Salty: Feta cheese/olives

Soft: Chick Peas/Feta Cheese

Crunchy: Cucumbers/Onions/lettuce

Acid: Peppers/dressing/tomatoes

Spice: Peppers/arugula

The dressing is also a very powerful element in a salad. For a Greek salad this is where the acid, and herbal notes come into play. The dressing recipe follows, but important flavor components come into play through the dressing. Oregano, lemon, and red wine vinegar are in the dressing and play a key role in Greek cooking. Here’s the dressing recipes:IMG_0697

Greek Dressing

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 extra virgin olive oil
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey

Try this salad out it’s definitely a winner on a hot summer night. Add some grilled chicken or salmon for a little boost of protein.

Always thinking of the meal