Categories

Love Notes to Culinary School by Anne

I've had almost a year post-graduation to reflect on my experience of culinary school, and it's almost been enough time to clear the weird post-school haze out of my brain. There was so much focus, angst, passion, apathy, tomfoolery, testosterone, and Sriracha sauce behind the scenes.   Soon I hope to share useful or interesting info and ideas from school that I learned along the way but was too harried to sit down and jot out, let alone photograph.

But meanwhile, for today, here are a few pictures.  I've had the joy of being "allowed" around campus with my camera.  I hoped to give a sense of what life is like at Seattle Culinary Academy when people are in the zone.  It's a great school--in my opinion, the best one around here.   I love the fact that we didn't just learn traditional French cookery, although that was one component.  Where else in the world would I have an intense, high speed opportunity to learn about and cook different cuisines around the world, from Japanese to Oaxacan to Middle Eastern?

Then, of course, there was the sustainability component.  At school they had classes on sustainability in the world of food.  This focus ranged from farm to restaurant to policy-building.  The classes--and the instructors' passion--were key to the quality of the program, in my opinion.  They were inspiring and motivating.  There were farm visits, growing our own greens in the campus greenhouse, and practicing nose-to-tail butchery (using the whole animal).

We learned fundamentals, such as making a good stock, sauces, and how to season properly.

bakeshop.spreading
bakeshop.spreading

I know less of the pastry side of things because the program is separated so that you select culinary or pastry for your focus.  I did have several rotations in the bakeshop (or as the culinary students called, it, Bakation. It really does have a balmy, dreamy vibe in there).  However, my friends in the program liked it as well.  It's just a completely different experience, the two programs-within-a-program.

One thing that impressed me about the chef instructors is their desire to see us succeed beyond the program.  In other words, if people needed a job they would definitely look to the instructors, who would help them find leads using their own connections in the industry.  They weren't just great teachers, they were mentors.  People sort of gravitated towards their favorites.  One of mine is pictured below, preparing for a modernist cuisine lesson.

It wasn't my favorite part of the program, but we also did "Front of House" training (i.e., serving the guests/customers in the two restaurants the school runs).  I used to wait tables, and how in the heck did I do it?  I must have changed.  Some people really do an amazing job of it, making it look effortless--they appear gracious, friendly, and thoughtful.  I only hope that I appeared that way, but inside I felt awkward, physically uncomfortable, and grumpy.  There is a real psychic toll that it takes, and I don't even know why.  Guests would be perfectly nice, and yet by the end of the shift I would be gasping to get out of my uniform like it was made out of lead.  Anyway, I have a true respect for waiters that I only thought I had before.  In my opinion, being in the kitchen was better, but front of house workers can make or break a restaurant.

One of my favorite parts of school, that I wish I could keep doing forever, was experimenting and recipe developing.  What a fun job it would be to create new, delicious dishes out of a given palate of flavors.   It would be a bonus if I could do this with healthy, sustainably grown, beautiful food.  I've had a little bit of a chance to do that out of school for my various jobs, so that feeds me, so to speak. 

Butternut Squash Arancini by Anne

arancini.closeup

Unbelievable! I wrote this post on the evening of November 24.  I was looking for this recipe on my site and couldn't find it...sure enough, there it was in "drafts" rather than "published."  Was it that late at night when I wrote this?  Anyway, here is the post:

Arancini (risotto fritters),  translates from Italian as "little oranges," since these little fried risotto balls do resemble oranges.  Arancini originated in Sicily and are usually filled with meat or tomato sauce, peas, or mozzarella. 

The Romans have a similar version of these croquettes, called Suppli al Telefono (which I believe translates to "telephone wires" or "on the phone"), which adorably refers to the strings of melted cheese that connect the two halves of the fritter when it is cut or bitten in half.   As the name indicates, Roman Suppli al Telefono are usually filled with cheese. 

These arancini are a non-traditional recipe, made with butternut squash risotto and stuffed with Pecorino Toscano, which is a creamy cheese.  I think a mild mozzarella would be fine as well.

Butternut Squash Arancini

Ingredients:

  • One recipe of risotto (butternut squash or other kinds work as well), cooled
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 T milk
  • 4 oz Pecorino Toscano (NOT Pecorino Romano. Choose a creamy cheese.  Mozzarella is fine)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups dry bread crumbs
  • 3 cups vegetable oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Cube the cheese into 3/4 inch chunks.  In a small bowl, beat two eggs in with the milk.
  2. Stir the third egg into the cooled risotto.  Roll 2 tablespoons' worth of the risotto mixture in your hands, then with a finger, push a piece of cheese into the center of the ball.  Re-roll the ball around the cheese cube. 
  3. Roll the ball into the flour, coating it lightly.  Drop the ball into the  egg mixture, then roll it in the bread crumbs.  Lay the ball on a cookie sheet or a piece of parchment or wax paper.  Make the rest of the balls, which will give a chance for the first balls to dry out slightly before frying. 
  4. Slowly heat the oil in a medium, deep saucepan to 350˚.  The best temperature to do this is medium-low.  In small batches, fry the balls until they are evenly browned, turning them if necessary.  This will take several minutes.  Test the first ball to make sure you are happy with the interior--the cheese should be well-melted. 
  5. When a fritter is finished, lay it on paper towels to absorb the extra oil. 
  6. These arancini freeze well.  After frying them, lay them on a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer.  After they are well-frozen, seal them in a freezer bag.  To re-heat, place fritters on a cookie sheet in a 350˚ oven.  Bake for about 20 minutes.  Alternatively, you can freeze them before frying them as well.

Did it! by Anne

the end Today marks the last day of NaBloWriMo, National Blog Writing Month.  I feel proud to say that I wrote 30 entries in a row (having learned about this only on November 2, I wrote two entries on the 2nd).  Somehow this doesn't sound like a big number as I write it, but it was definitely a bit of a brain marathon.

Though the challenge was merely to get out there and post each day, I did make an effort not to just dump out whatever was on my mind, like a fat purse, willy-nilly. I was thinking about you and other people who might stumble upon this site and wanted to offer some kind of entertainment, information, or food for thought.   

If you have been reading in the last month, I hope you have felt entertained, informed, or fed, at least once!  It's been a great challenge and learning experience, and if you keep a blog yourself, I hope you might consider doing it next year, too.  I'm going to do it again next November. 

I'd like to share another completely adorable tidbit from the book I mentioned last night, Food for the Hungry

This book has a chapter on "The Dinner Pail" (i.e., the lunchbox), and how to make lunches wonderful and exciting for your loved ones. Really, she's targeting "the stomach of a tired man whose appetite has been dulled by mechanical, in-door toil."  I wish I could share all of the fun and fanciful ideas she has for that lunchbox (is this woman a turn-of-the-century Martha Stewart, or did this stuff really happen???). 

However, I don't want to wear out my welcome in your brain, so here's just example of something fun from the chapter that  I actually plan to try, just to see how it turns out.  As you will see, it is right up any person's  alley whose subliminal desire it is to make truffles out of everything.

Deviled Eggs (Turn of the Century Style!)

Partially quoted and borrowed from Food for the Hungry

  1. Boil six eggs (hard).  Slice the eggs lengthwise and scoop out the yolks into a small bowl.  "Rub to a paste with a generous teaspoonful of butter.  Season with pepper, salt, and a suspicion of mustard."
  2. Mold the balls into spheres of their original size and fit the yolk back into a hollow half.  Line up the other half of the egg so that you have put the puzzle back together.  
  3. "Roll each egg up in tissue paper, as you would a (get this--) bon-bon, twisting the paper at the ends.  If you wish to make the entree ornamental (of course you do! Who wouldn't?), fringe the squares of paper before enveloping the eggs. 
  4. You can  also make the yolks "yet more savory" if you add giblets & gravy to the yolks to moisten the paste. 

Serves 6 dinner pails?

IMG_5191

What's a Vegetable? by Anne

spinach I

spinach I

Happy Thanksgiving!  Did you have pumpkin debates at your house, too?  Ours hit us by surprise.  World Championship Punkin Chunkin' was on TV, and after a particularly good launch, some dude on the show commented, "Not bad for a vegetable." 

"Except that a pumpkin's a fruit," I commented, probably smugly.

Mom protested with equal authority, "Except that it's a vegetable." 

"Pumpkins, squashes, cucumbers, watermelon.  All fruits," I insisted.  "They blossom, they have seeds on the inside.  Fruits!  Oh yeah, by the way, did you know that strawberries aren't really fruits? Their seeds are on the outside.  They're in the rose family." 

Now Mom's eyes narrowed suspiciously, a look I recognize from the bluffs we try to pull on each other during Scrabble games, trying to sell fictional words with made-up definitions.  She informed me,  "The only reason I'm not checking this out right now is because I decided I wouldn't use my computer on Thanksgiving..."   I was already opening up my laptop bag and getting online. 

Sure enough, I was right.  So was Mom. The ideal argument conclusion for a day of thanks.

Each time I've ever learned about another "vegetable" actually being a fruit--tomato, capsicum, eggplant, squash--I've gotten a mini thrill.  On a botanical level, they are considered fruits (and yes, the strawberry is botanically a "false fruit"). Knowing this feels like being in on a botany secret. 

However, as I picked up these nuggets of info, it didn't occur to me that there's not an equivalent "vegetable" botanical category as with various fruits. Scientists do use the word vegetable to refer to plants, such as "vegetable matter."   However, fruits and vegetables are not mutually exclusive.  So much for that mental game of Red Rover in which we sort out who's who: "Oh, goody, spinach still gets to be on my side!  The veggies are ahead!  Oh well, you get beans."  

The word "vegetable" is a culinary or cultural term.  Any edible plant or edible part of a plant can be considered a vegetable: leaves, roots, stems, flower buds, bulbs, and even fruits.   And, of course, since the term is culinary and cultural, that means people can come together to decide whether something's a vegetable or not.  For example, in 1893 the US Supreme Court ruled the botanical fruit, tomato, to be a vegetable for taxation purposes.  Cultural vegetable, botanical fruit.   

 Well, now that that's settled, I have to say: Punkin Chunkin'???  A World Championship for it?  This is the first day I've heard of it.  It's a whole different area of food-related science I've been missing out on: physics.

Information Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetable

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/624564/vegetable#

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squash_(plant)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fruit

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_culinary_vegetables

Epiphany by Anne

Butternut Squash Risotto Fritters with Lemon-Sage Sauce I was probably about eight years old when I came up with a brilliant business scheme.   I made a cafeteria in my bedroom.  Using food from the cupboard, I made several different options to choose from.  The only dish I remember right now is the canned corn that had been heated up and buttered.  

Anyway, I set up a buffet in my bedroom, called it something profoundly creative like "Anne's Cafeteria," and--get this--invited my parents to dine there and charged them a market-standard fee to do so.  They thought this was hilarious.  Eventually I realized that they were laughing because I was charging them to eat food from their own cupboard.  I found it pretty funny, too, but I still charged them, and they still enjoyed a nice dinner.

However, this week I realized: Wait.  Isn't that what catering is, really?  People buy food.  Then they pay you to cook it for them.  Sure, you're usually responsible for going out to get the food for them yourself, but don't you think if this eight-year-old had had the means to get to a grocery store (and up-front capital), she would go buy the canned corn for her in-house operation?  I think yes.   Does this mean I could tell a potential client that I've been catering since 1978?

Bliss by Anne

mushroom rolls

In case I wasn't sure earlier, it's confirmed now: I love to cook for people.  Especially medium sized groups, like tonight.  Especially good people, like tonight.   It was a lovely party, and unfortunately I have hardly any pictures to show for it.  Too busy cooking and talking to those good people.

My favorite food moment of the night:  A woman dared someone to put a meatball onto the chicken salad in the crunchy cones, which he did...and proclaimed that it was delicious.  I was standing right there, so I popped a meatball onto one of those cones myself.  It never would have occured to me to put that Swedish-style meatball onto an Indian-curried salad with a sesame cone.  But you know, it wasn't bad!  More importantly, they loved it and sent their friends back over to try it as well.  It thrills me that they were enjoying the food so much, and that the whimsical style of the appetizers made them want to experiment, too.

My incredible husband moment of the night: I had been so organized.  I had my inventory list, and I had checked everything off so diligently.  So how was it that I was standing in a clubhouse in Issaquah without the lemon bars?  No, this is not a joke, it is that elegant logic in the universe.  My new cuss word was the big mistake of the night. I called my incredible husband and asked him to bail me out.  He left work early.  He bussed home from downtown.  He asked our babysitter to watch Rosalie for awhile longer.  He drove from Ballard to Issaquah -- which is a long drive -- to bring me a pan of lemon bars.  I'm equal parts embarrassed to tell you that I did all of this (forgot them, then asked Mike to get them for me) and proud to tell you that Michael is my favorite husband on the planet.

All in all, the night was a great success. People loved the food, and my friend Taylor and I had fun serving it. 

By the way, if you've been reading lately and know about my recent thrilling acquisition of a chocolate tempering machine, I'll tell you...  Nope,  I did not get a chance to dip the truffles for the party.  Holy cannoli, what a bummer.   But they were still marvelous tonight with the cocoa powder, almonds, and candied citrus peel. 

Sometime this weekend, though, I'm getting alone with that machine to finally dip things into perfectly tempered chocolate!  Who cares what it is?!!  Pizza? Legos?  Whatever!  I can't wait!  Well, yes I can.  Apparently the burning obsession has limits.  It tends to fade out at around 1:00 in the morning, right along with the rest of me.  I hope you're having sweet dreams as I write this.  I'm gonna go get some of that sweet dreamin' too.

Green by Anne

marinade.lime

I'd like to keep green.  In this case I'm not referring to being environmentally responsible; that one is a given.   Nope, I'm saying that in my life and in my cooking, I'd like to always remember that I'm new.   Each time I learn a new technique, fact, or recipe, it just further humbles and excites me.  Some days I feel like I know quite a bit about cooking, and those are the days when I accidentally forgot about the other 99.98% of all the cooking knowledge out there that I don't know.   So I hope to always feel excited about what I'm learning and never be jaded (wrong shade of green) about the world of cooking, growing, and eating food.  Let me be the green person that I am.

So with that sentiment in mind: I learned about two new-ish nuggets today.  Before today, I had never seen an actual deep fried Monte Cristo sandwich up close and in person, so the first time was today at lunch, at a relatively nice restaurant downtown.  Ham, turkey, cheese.  White bread.  Dipped in batter.  Deep fried.  Sprinkled with powdered sugar.  Served with jam or syrup.  -- Did you know about this kooky concoction?  It's like the sandwich has a secret clubhouse called A Donut. It did not taste unpleasant, but I was a little confused.  It got me curious about the cultural context of such an efficient lunch/dessert vehicle.  Tonight I looked up info on the Monte Cristo, and apparently it was a variation of the Croque Monsieur in France.  However, the Monte Cristo gained its popularity in Disneyland.  Wow.  That's some cultural context.

Speaking of foods that sorta span continents: My entire life I had not heard of it, and now I see recipes that include it all over the dang place.   It's clotted cream.  I first learned of its existence a couple of weeks ago when my friend Mary showed me a recipe from a Persian cookbook that included it, and then my friend Heather, who is married to an English man, suggested that we have a proper tea sometime--and the scones would definitely be served with clotted cream.  Frankly, the name sounded clumpy to me.  It calls to mind some disturbing textures.  However, looking at pictures of the stuff and reading about it, it sounds like it's got the consistency of butter and a nutty, caramel flavor.  This I can get my spoon around.  And I want to!   I wish I had a hot scone right now with this mystery substance smeared all over it.  Now that I know what it is supposed to be, I think the name "clotted cream" sounds obscenely and wonderfully rich.   Sign me up. If you have eaten clotted cream before, did you like it? What did you eat it with?

No Frills by Anne

Onions from Mom's Garden Well,  I do love complicated meals with surprising spices and architectural elements.  But a moment during a simple, elemental meal with hardly any ingredients at all, shared with someone I love, can fill me all the way to my toes. 

Today for lunch, my little Rosalie and I had just a can of tortilla soup along with freshly mashed avocado on a new kind of bread.  Something about this simply filled me with joy.  What was it?  She was over there playing with her toy animals, inventing unintelligible stories for them as usual, and I was over in the kitchen squishing avocado with a fork.  I just imagined what it was like—to be playing one of your favorite games and then realizing that your mom is over there making you some food you enjoy.  Now, I know.  Toddlers cannot have the perspective to appreciate this, per se.  But in my boots, feeling the warm love in the room sure made me appreciate it. 

So, we had this basic, unexciting lunch that I whipped up in a matter of minutes—and yet, we sat down and ate together and it felt so fulfilling, for no particular reason. It was a calm and pleasant lunch.  I don’t have to teach her many table manners.  For some reason she’s particularly okay with watching us at the table and going along with protocol.  Sometimes I think she has better table manners than us.  She certainly has better posture.  Each bite she takes is filled with focused enjoyment.

Anyway, she decided she liked the soup more than the avocado sandwich, so I gave her lots of my soup and asked her if I could have some of her sandwich.  She picked up a piece of it, and for a moment I thought she was going to shove it in her own mouth, now that she realized it was a hot ticket item.  But instead she handed it to me.  It was a very good piece of sandwich.

After lunch we sat at the back door and watched a hailstorm.  We stared out at the backyard for a good 15 minutes, just chatting about what we saw.  No frills.  A perfect lunch.

Ready by Anne

Pastry tips at the very well-prepared Rover's kitchen When I was a kid and vaguely interested in being a detective, I wanted to make a Ready for Everything Kit.  Usually I pictured myself stuck in a dark cave, underground.  But with my Kit, I'd definitely be ready.   I started collecting some items for it.  It included a small flashlight, a whistle, and a battery-operated fan the size of a pen. With the plans I had, all of my supplies would have filled at least a suitcase.   Really, I needed a Batman/James Bond setup, but this fourth grader couldn't afford the technology needed for that.   Even though that Kit was never fully assembled, thinking about it made me inexplicably happy. 

I have gotten this same pleasure when packing for a camping trip, our wedding day, and even Rosalie's diaper bag.   I'm happy getting ready for anything complex, especially if I have time to think about it.  Many extra points if there are many, many containers, particularly with compartments. 

This love of a Ready for Everything Kit carries over into my professional life, too.  When I used to take childrens' portraits, I could unload the gear for my "studio" in about four trips, because the equipment was so efficiently organized.  

When I taught at that wonderful private school, every year we took our 50  sixth graders down to San Francisco for a couple of days.  I had a binder with over a dozen color-coded tabs.  It needed its own backpack to be lugged around, but it had every single piece of information ever needed for such an insane but fun trip. 

One of the most impressive Ready for Everything moments I experienced at a job, though, was when I first started working for a catering company that traveled to event sites.  I remember the first time I went out with a team of people to cater a party of about 50 people.  It was on a large boat that would take a tour of the lake while dinner was served.  Talk about needing to be ready for anything.  I was so impressed by our lead caterer's composure as we essentially unpacked an entire kitchen and dining room from the truck and within an hour assembled it for action in an inconspicuous corner of the main cabin.   I don't remember what we served that night, but I remember the  fastidious preparedness and the speed with which we were ready to kick into gear and start serving people food.

I've been remembering and feeling this joy as I strategize the amount of chafing dish space needed, make sure the knives are properly sharpened, and collect small essentials like blue tape & pastry tips.  Now all I need is a battery-operated fan the size of a pen.  You never know when one of those will come in handy.

Lemon Bars: My New Cuss Word(s) by Anne

lemon.cubesWhen I taught 6th Grade math a few years back, I was always looking for ways to make my job harder with fun-for-the-kids activities that tripled my workload.  This resulted in many fine yet amorphous projects, such as writing songs about the properties of triangles and designing your dream room.  One year, around the holidays, I took a turn for the crazier and decided that our geometry unit would be so much more fun if we applied it to making gingerbread houses.  Hey! We could re-visit fractions by tripling recipe amounts, then launch right into architecture plans, calculating the area of gingerbread needed for the square, triangle and rectangle panels to build the houses.

Yes, that's correct.  No graham crackers for me, boy.  Let's get 19 pre-pubescent kids into the school kitchen to make dough, roll it out, cut it into shapes, bake it, and build it--all in a couple of 40 minute periods. 

I've blocked out many of the specifics from this purgatory.  Mostly I remember the moments.  The most vivid one involved me staring in disbelief and panic at my hand mixer that had just been killed dead by attempting to mix the gluey boulder of a gingerbread dough-hunk in a triple-recipe-sized bowl.  From where I stood in the cloud of spilled flour, I could hear something that sounded way too fun over by the tables; it was possibly a dough fight or exuberant winter break plans, or both.  Meanwhile there were multiple pleas for me to come moderate arguments over the hot commodity decorating items like red-hots and pretzels.   

At the end of the day, not one house was completed, and yet all of the candy was gone.   You might be asking yourself,  "What the hell was she thinking?" or, "How did she grade her students on that?"  or, most importantly, "What kind of lame-ass recipe would break a hand mixer?"   I couldn't even investigate that last one, because the recipe is long gone.   I will likely never make gingerbread again for fear of the PTGD (Post Traumatic Gingerbread Disorder).

After that bitter, chaotic day,  "GINGERBREAD!"  became my new cuss word for the year when something was pissing me off.  For a couple of months, the word actually had a greater shivery-rage impact on me than any of those other four letter lightweights.  For me, this word encompassed the feeling you get when you accidentally dump yourself into hell.  Maybe you don't ever accidentally do that.  I do try not to.

But who am I kidding: I think I've found a new cuss word for the season.  That word is "LEMONBARS!"   Most of the lemon bar recipes I've tried  so far said the same thing in their opening blurbs: Lemon bars are so easy to make!  Shut up, recipes.  It probably is easy to make if you're not ME.  Seriously, though, I have learned important tips if you are planning on making lemon bars this holiday season.

First, most lemon bar recipes seem to follow the same concept: Make a quick shortcrust dough, press it into a pan, and briefly bake it to give the shortcrust a head start on cooking.  Make a liquid of eggs, sugar, lemon juice, flour and (sometimes) lemon zest.  Pour it over the crust, and bake it again.  So simple! 

Simple until you remove your zesty treat from the oven, only find your crust has turned into a shrunken cracker floating in lemon sauce--or a springy sheet of lemon gummy worm.  How to avoid these?  Apparently by disregarding all baking times.  They vary wildly in both published cookbooks and internet recipes, even with those same ingredients in similar quantities. 

Most recipes I found state that the crust will bake at 350˚ for about 15 to 20 (or even 35??) minutes, depending on the type of material your pan is made of.  But ignore these times.  If I were you, I'd start peeking at 10 or 15 minutes.  You don't need to brown the thing.  It should only be barely starting to brown around the edges, and most definitely it should be not shrinking yet. 

Some recipes will tell you to cool the crust before adding the lemony liquid, whereas others will tell you to pour it in immediately after removing the parbaked crust from the oven.  I liked the texture of the bars best when pouring the liquid immediately on the hot crust. 

Regardless of whether you poured into a hot or cooled crust, and regardless of the cooking time your recipe advises, remove the bars when the top surface doesn't jiggle when you tap or shake the pan.  I removed my last lemon bar batch yesterday at about 25 minutes, which was less than half the cooking time of a recipe in a well-edited, reputable cookbook.  Oh, also: several recipes out there mention that for this second round of baking to reduce the temp to 300˚.  This seemed to work well for me, especially after the trauma of a previous gummy worm slab.

Finally, I feel that it is helpful to cut the bars into tiny pieces to be palatable.  They are intense and will leave you gasping for water if you make them into the size of a piece of cake.   I am from the lemon zest school of thought, which necessitates generous amounts of sugar to balance the commanding sourness.  So much sugar, in fact, that I'm questioning how important lemon zest is to me, after all. 

Perhaps a mellower (and less sweet) bar will better match my vision for this dessert item for the Corks & Forks menu.  It's a great bite-sized dessert so far, with a trio of happy, sour harmony--the lemon & shortbread cube, the cranberry coulis and the sliver of dried sour cherry.  It's just that I'm curious what would happen if I made the lemon bar play backup singer rather than fronting the band.  That cranberry flavor is quite a party animal and needs more play.

Oh, lordy.  It's true.  I'm going to have to try yet another version. 

LEMONBARS.

Getting Geared up for Corks & Forks by Anne

marinade.sugar.honeyThis is Day 2.  (but really my day 1, part B.  See previous post) I feel like I've won the lottery. 

In less than two weeks I'm catering an event called "Corks & Forks," which is a fundraiser for a food and wine club.  Last year I helped my chef friends Kristen and Melissa cater for this event.  My friends were both busy this year, but the club liked my work at last year's event, so they hired me to cater it this year.  This club is the ideal group of people to cook for and serve.  They are generous, kind, lively, and laid-back. 

To have a chance to develop recipes for an appetizer/dessert menu I designed myself--then cook the whole brainchild for dozens of appreciative and happy people--is a dream come true.  Yes, I've worked for catering companies before.  And I've planned and executed large, complex, and detailed events.  And developing recipes?  Hey, when DON'T I do that?  But putting this all together and designing this flavor experience for people...it just gives me a goofy grin and heart palpitations every time I think about it.  So, here's the menu.  I tried to make a broad range of flavors to create fun opportunities for wine pairings.  In the near future I'll be ready to share recipes from this menu as well, so stay tuned!

Corks & Forks Fundraiser 2009

Plates

artisanal cheeses - with assorted autumn fruits and fine crackers

olives and toasted nuts

Bites

wild mushroom rolls - with leeks, gruyère and fresh thyme (similar to my crêpe filling here)

chorizo-stuffed dates - wrapped in crispy prosciutto

gingered chicken salad - in crunchy sesame cones

butternut squash arancini - risotto fritters stuffed with creamy pecorino

garlic shrimp crostini - and toasted hazelnut romesco sauce­­

braised meatballs - in spiced cream sauce

Confections

port-braised pears - with toasted pound cake and fresh whipped cream

classic baklava

lemon and shortbread cubes - with cranberry coulis and dried sour cherries

hand-dipped chocolate truffles (such as the ones here)

Day "One" of NaBloWriMo by Anne

pears in a bowl IIIt's ironic that I haven't written about food in weeks when all I've been thinking about lately (and doing?) is food-based.  But tonight Ashley of Not Without Salt  posted an irresistable invitation to join her in a lovely yet insane challenge to blog every day for the month of November -- National Blog Writing Month.  This is, of course, concurrent with other national writing situations-- most notably, National Novel Writing Month.   I believe for "NaNo," though, that you have to pump out a 50,000 word novel.  In contrast, I've got to write blog posts.  The juxtaposition of these makes the notion of daily posting feel a little more possible and a little less brain-explode-y. I'm using this as an opportunity to think less and write more.  Things may get a little loose and sloppy around here for while, but hopefully it's worth it.  Because honestly,  I would love to share with you all the thoughts about food that have been interrupting  my life and my sleep in the past few months.  Recipes may not be as frequent, but here's hoping you'll get some food for thought.  I'll tell you more about what's been going on around here in the next post.

This is not November first, but hey, I just found out about this thing a mere few hours ago.   So.  Let this stand in for Day 1.

Well, time to get down to the nitty gritty. Here we go.  Yessir.  Not intimidated at all.  Right.

If you are curious about this and would also like to challenge yourself, here's the link.

http://nablowrimo.org/