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.


  • 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!

Tapas party

My husband is the captain of an Interclub tennis team and we usually host an end of season party for the team and spouses.  We have done this for a number of years and I’ve done varying things (last year I did the Chinese Chicken salad and sesame noodles, one year I did Fajitas, etc.)  This year they won the title for their league so I wanted it to be special.  In a moment of insanity, I decided to go with a tapas theme.  Tapas are fun because they are lots of little dishes.  Tapas is a lot of work because it is LOTS of little dishes.  I usually pride myself on planning things pretty well but I got a little carried away.  I’m not going to give you the full grocery list.  I am going to share the individual dishes with their ingredients and recipes in the event that you want to make some.  Trust me that if you want to make all of them you should plan on devoting an entire weekend to the effort.

Here is the menu with recipes following:

  • Marcona almonds, olives, bread and Spanish cheese (the easy part because you buy these)
  • scallops with Serrano ham
  • mushroom and shrimp tartlets
  • gazpacho (which gave me an excuse to get the cute single serving glasses I’ve been craving from Pier One)
  • zucchini fritters with chipotle mayonnaise
  • sauteed mushrooms
  • cherry tomatoes stuffed with black olives anc apers
  • patatas bravas
  • steak with garlic and sherry
  • Moroccan chicken kabobs
  • deviled eggs
  • oven baked vegetable tortilla

And a dessert platter with:

  • brownies
  • lemon iced gingersnap sandwiches
  • orange poundcake
  • iced sugar cookies (decorated to look like tennis balls)

Here are a couple of pictures:

Tapas party

Tapas party

Don't you love the centerpiece - trophy and tennis balls

Don’t you love the centerpiece – trophy and tennis balls

The dessert platter

The dessert platter

So I made:

Mushroom and shrimp tarts

Make the filling ahead adn fill the they will get soggy if you let them sit.

  • 1/4 lb chopped mushrooms
  • 1 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 TB butter
  • 1/4 cup champagne
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 5 cooked jumbo shrimp, peeled and chopped
  • 2 oz. grated cheddar cheese
  • croustades crispy shells
Saute mushrooms and garlic in butter over low heat for 15 minutes.  Add wine and bring to a boil.  Cook until almost dry.  Add cream and shrimp and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.  Fill shells with mixture and top with grated cheese.  Cook in oven at 375 for 2 – 3 minutes or until cheese is melted and serve.
Scallops with Serrano ham
  • scallops (I bought 30)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB minced parsley
  • 1/3 lb Serrano ham sliced thin
Combine lemon, garlic, olive oil and parsley and marinate scallops for 20 minutes.  Drain and skewer each scallop on a small skewer (I used bamboo ones that I soaked in water first).  Then skewer a 1/2 slice of scrunched ham.  Broil for 4 – 5 minutes or until scallops are done.  If I had made 60 of them I don’t think there would have been any left.


  • 4 Cups Tomato Juice (If you want spicier soup, use V8)
  • 1/2 cup finely minced yellow onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 red pepper, minced
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and minced
  • 2 scallions minced
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 TB sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp tarragon
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients.  Puree some or all as desired.  Chill and serve.

Zucchini fritters
  • 2 zucchini grated with a coarse grater
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • olive oil
Combine zucchini with garlic, scallions, Parmesan, eggs, lemon zest and flour.  Heat a heavy saute pan over medium heat and add olive oil.  Plop zucchini mixture into hot oil by tablespoons and cook 2 -3 minutes per side until crisp.  Remove to a plate covered in paper towels and serve hot.    (I made them ahead and reheated for about 10 minutes in a hot oven.)

Patatas Bravas

  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 14 oz canned chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tsp white wine finegar
  • 1 tsp crushed, dried chile pepper
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 lb fingerling potatoes

Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add about 2 TB of olive oil.  Cook the onion until soft.  Add garlic and stir in.  Add wine and bring mixture to a boil.  Add tomatoes, vinegar, pepper and paprika and simmer uncovered for 10 – 15 minutes or until sauce thickens.

Remove sauce and transfer to a blender.  Blend until smooth and return to pan.  Keep warm.

Cut potatoes into chunks (unpeeled).  Heat oil in a large skillet and cook poatotes over medium high heat until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.  Put potatoes in a dish and spoon sauce over potatoes.  Use toothpicks to spear the potatoes.

These are spicy and delicious.  This would make a good vegetable dish with chicken.

Chicken Kabobs

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into cubes
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp oregano

Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup.  Pour over chicken and marinate 8 hours or overnight.  When ready to cook, drain and reserve marinade and thread chicken cubes on metal or wooden skewers (if using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes first).  Grill or broil kabobs, turning regularly and brushing with reserved marinade (10 – 15 minutes or until chicken is done).  Serve hot.

Deviled eggs
Everyone loves these so plan on each person eating at least two.
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
Place eggs in a pot just big enough to hold them and add water to cover.  Bring to a rapid boil, reduce heat to just simmering 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.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.  Fill egg whites with filling and top with additional paprika.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Stuffed cherry tomatoes

  • 2 – 3 pints cherry tomatoes, pulp cut out
  • 10 – 12 pitted black olives
  • 2 TB capers
  • 1 package softened cream cheese

Combine olives and capers in a food processor (I used my little one) and mince.  Add cream cheese and combine.  Stuff tomatoes with filling and refrigerate until ready to serve.  These would also be good stuffed with crab salad or tuna salad.

Steak with garlic and sherry

  • 1 pound sirloin cubes
  • 4 – 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1/3 cup good sherry

Combine steak and garlic and toss well with your hands.  Refrigerate for at least one hour or up to overnight.  When ready to cook, heat a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add oil and then steak.  Cook until desired doneness, then add sherry and cook 2-  3 minutes.  Serve with bread.

Oven baked veggie tortilla

  • 4 scallions, minced
  • 2 peppers (I used one red and one orange), diced
  • 2 cloves garlic , minced
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 potato, boiled, peeled and diced
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 6 oz shredded cheese (I used half Parmesan and half cheddar)

Preheat oven to 375.

Saute garlic, scallions and pepper in olive oil over medium heat until soft but not browned.  Cool and add potato.

Beat eggs and beat with sour cream.  Stir in cheese and vegetables.  Line a 7 x 10 baking dish with aluminum foil and brush with olive oil.  Fill with egg mixture and bake 30 – 40 minutes or until set.  Remove from container and peel off foil.  Cut into squares and serve at room temperature with toothpicks.