Party time!

My in-laws both turn 80 this year (my mother-in-law in July and my father-in-law in November.)  They wanted a joint birthday party so Keith and I catered the food and my sister-in-law and her husband took care of the bar.  I wanted the food to be nice and knew that some of the preparation would be done in their kitchen (although it is well-equipped, it is always harder to cook in someone else’s kitchen.)

This was my menu:

Passed hors’doevres 

  • Crab salad in cucumber cups
  • Tuna tartar in tasting spoons
  • Bacon avocado cherry tomatoes

On the table

  • Beef tenderloin with two sauces (mustard horseradish and basil parmesan mayonnaise)
  • Gazpacho (served in parfait tasting glasses we got at Pier One years ago)
  • Bruschetta with three toppings (shrimp, tomato and spinach)
  • Asparagus wrapped in prosciutto
  • Deviled eggs topped with caviar

For dessert we had cake from Graul’s (two cakes so they could each have their preferred) served with the amazing homemade ice cream from Victor’s Highland Creamery in Oxford where they live.  It’s always interesting to see what is popular with different crowds.  The crab salad and bacon avocado tomatoes were slightly more popular than the tuna.  Everyone loved the beef (it’s hard not to like tenderloin) and everybody always loves deviled eggs.  Somebody commented that they never make them because they are too labor intensive but I know that whenever I serve them people gobble them up.  (Often with the remark “I haven’t had deviled eggs in years.”)  The asparagus was also demolished.

Here are the recipes:

Crab salad in cucumber cups

  • 2 seedless cucumbers sliced about 3/4 inch thick
  • 1 pound of crabmeat (lump or jumbo)
  • 3 – 4 TB mayonnaise
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt
  • 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Scoop the flesh out of the center of the cucumbers with a spoon making sure not to go all the way through the cucumber.  (This can be done ahead with cucumber cups stored in the fridge until party time)  Gently combine crabmeat with mayo, lemon juice, celery salt and Worcestershire.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Spoon a dollop of crab salad into the cucumber cups and serve.

Tuna Tartar
  • 1 lb fresh tuna, chopped finely
  • 4 TB olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp wasabi powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 5 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper with seeds removed, minced
  • 1 1/2 avocados, chopped

Place tuna in a bowl.  Whisk together olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, wasabi, soy sauce, Tabasco, salt and pepper.  Pour over tuna.   Stir in  scallions, jalapeno and avocado.  Refrigerate for a few hours until ready to serve.

Bacon stuffed cherry tomatoes

  • cherry tomatoes (I did about 50)
  • 1 lb bacon, cooked to crisp
  • 2 avocados
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 TB mayonnaise

With a sharp knife, cut a small slice off the bottom of the tomatoes so they will stand up flat.  (I made these for a family reunion in June and thought I could skip that step but it’s important – otherwise they roll around on the serving platter.)  Scoop out enough tomato from the top to make a little cup without cutting all the way through the tomato.

Crumble bacon in a bowl.  Add in chopped avocado and squeeze lemon juice over.  Stir in mayonnaise.  (Refrigerate until ready to serve.)  Scoop some of the bacon avocado mixture into each tomato and serve.  Labor intensive but delicious.

Beef Tenderloin 

We always used to cook tenderloin at high heat until we discovered this slow-roasted technique.  Meat is moist and tender.

  • 1 beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • coarsely ground pepper.

Preheat oven to 275.  Brush filet with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Check temperature – when a thermometer registers 125, your meat is rare.  If you want medium rare, cook to 135.  Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil.  Let rest for about 20 minutes and then carve and serve with sauce of your choice.  Every time we make the beef this way, people say it is the best they have ever had.

Mustard Horseradish sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 3 TB Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 TB whole-grain mustard
  • 1 TB horseradish
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Whisk together to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Gazpacho

  • 4 cups tomato juice
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chooopped
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 TB white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp tarragon
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 parsley, chopped
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 large tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
Combine ingredients in a blender and process to your liking.  Refrigerate.  Serve.  This was easy to make ahead and bring ready to go.

Bruschetta Toasts

  • 1 loaf of French bread (I used two since I made all three toppings)
  • olive oil
Slice bread into 1/4 inch slices on diagonal to make longer slices.  Brush with olive oil.  Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes until crisp.  Cool before topping.  (Toasts can be made ahead and stored in baggies – just make sure they are cool before bagging.)
Tomato topping
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 3 oz ricotta salata or feta cheese, diced
  • 2 TB chives, minced
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Heat oil over low to medium heat in a small saucepan.  Cook shallots, stirring until soft.  Add tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.  Toss tomato mixture with cheese, chives and balsamic vinegar.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  To serve, top toasts with 1 – 2 tsps of mixture (depending upon size of toasts.)
Spinach topping
  • 2 bags baby spinach
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
Saute garlic in medium saucepan over medium heat for about 1 minute.  Add spinach in two batches and stir until wilted (about 5 minutes.)  Drain liquid and transfer to a bowl.  Stir in mozzarella cheese.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Spoon onto toasts.
Shrimp topping
  • 1/2 lb cooked shrimp, roughly chopped
  • 2 – 3 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 2 chopped shallots
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 TB chopped parsley

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to assemble – up to overnight.  Spoon onto toasts.

Asparagus wrapped in prosciutto

  • asparagus
  • cream cheese (slightly softened)
  • proscuitto (thinly sliced)

Blanch asparagus by dropping into boiling water for about two minutes and then running under cold water.  Refrigerate.

Cut prosciutto slices into smaller pieces.  Spread with cream cheese and roll asparagus spears in it.  This is a bit labor intensive but worth it.  I had them ready to go and then refrigerated with a damp paper towel over them.  I’ll also confess that I’m not good at managing the quantities.  I bought a bunch of asparagus and a pound of proscuitto.  We ran out of asparagus and the big platter of them was decimated.

Deviled eggs
  • eggs
  • Worcestershire
  • dry mustard
  • cayenne pepper
  • paprika
  • mayonnaise
Place eggs in a pot just big enough to hold them and add water to cover.  Bring to a rapid boil, turn off heat and cover for 17 minutes.  Remove from heat and add cold water and ice cubes to stop cooking.  Chill eggs in refrigerator.  Peel eggs and cut in half.  Put yolks in a bowl and mash with a fork.  Add Worcestershire sauce, mustard, paprika and mayonnaise.  For the party I cooked 60 eggs.  I have no idea what quantities I used of anything else – I just put in a bunch of everything, stirred it, tasted it and then added a little more.  Everyone loved them.  You can top with a small amount of caviar to make them look a bit more elegant.   Refrigerate until ready to serve.  (When you fill them and refrigerate you usually end up smashing them when you cover them.  I’ve discovered it is easier to put the whites in a baggie and the filling in a bowl and then fill them when I’m ready to go.
Sadly we were so busy that I never got a chance to take a picture!
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Fresh and frozen

Tonight is my Book Club planning meeting.  We start the season with a potluck dinner and make our reading selections for the year.  I volunteered to bring appetizers and thought some nice fresh bruschetta would be just the thing.  Here is what I am taking:

Bruschetta Toasts

  • 1 loaf of French bread (I used two since I made all three toppings)
  • olive oil
Slice bread into 1/4 inch slices on diagonal to make longer slices.  Brush with olive oil.  Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes until crisp.  Cool before topping.  (Toasts can be made ahead and stored in baggies – just make sure they are cool before bagging.)
Tomato topping
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 3 oz ricotta salata or feta cheese, diced
  • 2 TB chives, minced
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Heat oil over low to medium heat in a small saucepan.  Cook shallots, stirring until soft.  Add tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.  Toss tomato mixture with cheese, chives and balsamic vinegar.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  To serve, top toasts with 1 – 2 tsps of mixture (depending upon size of toasts.)
Spinach topping
  • 2 bags baby spinach
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
Saute garlic in medium saucepan over medium heat for about 1 minute.  Add spinach in two batches and stir until wilted (about 5 minutes.)  Drain liquid and transfer to a bowl.  Stir in mozzarella cheese.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Spoon onto toasts.
Shrimp topping
  • 1/2 lb cooked shrimp, roughly chopped
  • 2 – 3 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 2 chopped shallots
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 TB chopped parsley

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to assemble – up to overnight.  Spoon onto toasts.

Since my husband needs dinner, this is a chance to use something from the freezer.  Fortunately, I am prepared with a serving of California casserole.  This is a great dish fresh and makes enough for leftovers to store away in the freezer for nights like tonight.  Everybody is happy!

Chicken Avocado casserole

  • 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, split
  • milk for poaching chicken breasts
  • 2 TB butter
  • 2 TB flour
  • 1 cup milk or half and half
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 dashes Tabasco
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 2 TB butter
  • 1 lb mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted
  • 2 avocados

Place chicken breasts in a glass baking dish.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and pour in milk to cover about halfway.  Cover with a sheet of wax paper sprayed with Pam and cook at 350 for about 40 minutes.  Let cool and chop.

Melt butter in a heavy pan over medium low heat and add flour.  Stir to combine and gradually add milk (or half and half), chicken stock and wine until smooth and thick.  (If mixture gets too thick, turn down heat – if it is too slow to thicken, turn up heat.)  Add Parmesan cheese, Tabasco, rosemary and basil and remove from heat.

Melt remaining butter in another pan and saute mushrooms until soft.

Place chopped chicken in a casserole dish.  Pour mushrooms over top and then cover with cream sauce.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  Add almonds and return to oven for another 10 minutes.  Serve with sliced avocado on top of casserole.

Booschetta

Our neighborhood has a Halloween party where everyone brings things.  The kids all mill around and munch and then trick or treat together.  (We skipped out a little early so Samantha could go trick or treating with her cousin.)  The pot luck is outside so I wanted to bring something that needed no last minute attention and was easy to eat.   I went with bruschetta but decided that for Halloween, we could give it a scarier name.  I made the spinach topping and the shrimp topping but you could choose between the three below.

Bruschetta Toasts

  • 1 loaf of French bread
Slice bread into 1/4 inch slices on diagonal to make longer slices.  Brush with olive oil.  Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes until crisp.  Cool before topping.  (Toasts can be made ahead and stored in baggies – just make sure they are cool before bagging.)  I did two loaves – one with the spinach topping and one with the shrimp and arranged them alternately on trays.
Tomato topping
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 3 oz ricotta salata or feta cheese, diced
  • 2 TB chives, minced
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Heat oil over low to medium heat in a small saucepan.  Cook shallots, stirring until soft.  Add tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.  Toss tomato mixture with cheese, chives and balsamic vinegar.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  To serve, top toasts with 1 – 2 tsps of mixture (depending upon size of toasts.)
Spinach topping
  • 2 bags baby spinach
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
Saute garlic in medium saucepan over medium heat for about 1 minute.  Add spinach in two batches and stir until wilted (about 5 minutes.)  Drain liquid and transfer to a bowl.  Stir in mozzarella cheese.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Spoon onto toasts.
Shrimp topping
  • 1/2 lb cooked shrimp, roughly chopped
  • 2 – 3 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 2 chopped shallots
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 TB chopped parsley

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to assemble – up to overnight.  Spoon onto toasts.

Summer appetizers

We are hosting a meeting at our house tonight.  It’s a neighborhood board that my husband is involved with and once a year they do a potluck dinner.  This year we had someone who generously agreed to supply the dinner.  I felt that the least I could do was appetizers.  These are all easy, always a hit and I got most of the work done yesterday.  The asparagus and wasabi has always been a favorite as has the bruschetta.  I tried a new bruschetta topping with shrimp in addition to my stand by spinach and tomato.  Here are all the recipes:

Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnaise

  • Asparagus spears, tough ends broken off
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 tsp wasabi paste
Blanch asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes per batch.  Rinse under cold water and refrigerate.  Whisk together remaining ingredients and refrigerate.  Serve asparagus with mayonnaise dipping sauce.  (Mayonnaise keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks and is also good on turkey sandwiches.)

Bruschetta Toasts

  • 1 loaf of French bread
Slice bread into 1/4 inch slices on diagonal to make longer slices.  Broil about 1 minute per side about 4 inches from broiler.  Let cool and keep crisp in a plastic bag.  (Make sure toasts are cool before bagging or the steam from their heat will make them soggy.)  You can brush with olive oil and garlic but I seem to run out of time before I get to that.
Tomato topping
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 3 oz ricotta salata or feta cheese, diced
  • 2 TB chives, minced
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Heat oil over low to medium heat in a small saucepan.  Cook shallots, stirring until soft.  Add tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.  Toss tomato mixture with cheese, chives and balsamic vinegar.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  To serve, top toasts with 1 – 2 tsps of mixture (depending upon size of toasts.)
Spinach topping
  • 2 bags baby spinach
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
Saute garlic in medium saucepan over medium heat for about 1 minute.  Add spinach in two batches and stir until wilted (about 5 minutes.)  Drain liquid and transfer to a bowl.  Stir in mozzarella cheese.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Spoon onto toasts.
Shrimp topping
  • 1/2 lb cooked shrimp, roughly chopped
  • 2 – 3 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 2 chopped shallots
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 TB chopped parsley

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to assemble – up to overnight.  Spoon onto toasts.

Potluck

Last night was my book club planning meeting which was a potluck dinner and tomorrow at work we are having a potluck football tailgate party at lunch.  I always want to bring something interesting to a potluck (after all now that I’ve been blogging for a year about food, I feel that I have a reputation to uphold!) but it’s been a hectic week.  Tonight was my daughter’s 5th birthday and both of these events are falling during the work week.  I was looking for simple and do ahead.  Any time I’m bringing something to a potluck, I’m looking for something that is low maintenance when I get there.  I hate to walk into someone’s home (or my office) with something that needs to be cooked at a specific temperature or needs special serving utensils.  For my book club meeting I made 2 types of bruschetta and they seemed to go over well.  For work I made a Mediterranean layered dip to serve with pita wedges.  Here are the recipes:

Bruschetta Toasts

  • 1 loaf of French bread
Slice bread into 1/4 inch slices on diagonal to make longer slices.  Broil about 1 minute per side about 4 inches from broiler.  Let cool and keep crisp in a plastic bag.  (Make sure toasts are cool before bagging or the steam from their heat will make them soggy.)
Tomato topping
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 3 oz ricotta salata or feta cheese, diced
  • 2 TB chives, minced
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Heat oil over low to medium heat in a small saucepan.  Cook shallots, stirring until soft.  Add tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.  Toss tomato mixture with cheese, chives and balsamic vinegar.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  To serve, top toasts with 1 – 2 tsps of mixture (depending upon size of toasts.)
Spinach topping
  • 2 bags baby spinach
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
Saute garlic in medium saucepan over medium heat for about 1 minute.  Add spinach in two batches and stir until wilted (about 5 minutes.)  Drain liquid and transfer to a bowl.  Stir in mozzarella cheese.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Spoon onto toasts.
Mediterranean layer dip
  • 1 container hummus (you can use plain or flavored – I doubled recipe so used one plain and one flavored)
  • 1 finely chopped tomato
  • 1 chopped cucumber
  • 1/4 red onion chopped
  • 4 oz feta cheese
  • 2 TB chopped black olives
  • pita bread
In a shallow serving dish layer hummus, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, feta and black olives.  Refrigerate until ready to serve with pita wedges.