Catering by Linda

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Layering Depth of Flavor

Friday, January 19th, 2018

Layers of frozen beef broth are at the ready!

Layers of frozen beef broth are at the ready!


You may have heard the term “one note” on your favorite cooking show. The term refers to foods that have one flavor that masks all the other flavors in that dish. Building a “well-rounded” dish that contains equal and various flavors is an art! Recently, a friend and I went to Flora, in West Hartford’s Center (https://floraweha.net), for drinks, and I ordered their smoothie called “Pineapple.” It was purported to contain pineapple, cream of coconut, banana, lime, and mint, so when the drink came, I took multiple sips and tried to identify each ingredient, even though it was blended with the others. I felt like I was a judge on “Master Chef” and it made me think about the fabulous Thai Chicken & Rice Noodle soup I am making for my annual soup swap as it builds on flavors, too: ginger, curry, coconut, brown sugar, turmeric, lime. All contributing to an amazing broth in its own subtle way, none overpowering another. Layering those flavor profiles causes a depth and complexity of flavor that keeps a foodie coming back for more, and is the reason behind my dedication to the idea of saving beef pan drippings for use in soups and stews. When I roast a tenderloin, for instance, the drippings aren’t needed for gravy, so I cool the drippings– full of the herbs and seasonings I used in the rub– and pour them into a dedicated Tupperware container I keep in the freezer, and anytime I make a beef soup or beef stew, I have a “mountain” of layered drippings, ready to lend nuances of rosemary, garlic, and thyme to whatever I am making. Last week when I made beef and barley soup during the snowstorm, I just popped these babies, frozen, right in the crockpot!

Posted in "the biz", close to my heart(h), recipes and meal ideas, seasonal foods, tips | 1 Comment »

Reviving Our Parents’ Dinner Party

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Catering by Linda-87-X2Forty years ago on a typical Saturday night, you would find me at the top of the stairs in the house where I grew up, face pressed up between the spindles in the banister. Straining to hear bits and pieces of my parents’ conversations with their friends as the noise lofted up from the dining room to where I sat (perfectly still so nobody would know I was there), I would lean though the spindles until I had marks on my face. And it was all worth it when I learned a tidbit of gossip about a neighbor or, better, yet, a sibling or one of their friends. I have shared this memory with others, who have similar stories. It seems our generation grew up at the top of the stairs, listening.
I would know my parents were preparing for a dinner party because my Mom would let me to choose a TV dinner from our big chest freezer in the garage, and she would put it in the oven for me in the late afternoon. It seemed to take FOREVER to bake, but the salisbury steak and chocolate cake (center, top, between the carrots and mashed potatoes) were worth the wait. She timed it just right, so I would be fed, bathed, and in my pajamas before her friends arrived. My Mom, Dad, and their guests enjoyed highballs, my Mom’s casseroles, and lively conversation into the night. I would make one quick appearance long enough to give my parents a kiss goodnight. I believe I fooled them into thinking I was truly going to bed, but I would sit at the top of the stairs just a little while longer, convinced that they were waiting until they knew I was in bed to bring up the truly interesting topics.
In the last few years, Bill and I have tried to bring back the dinner party, inviting friends from different parts of our lives to come and meet and enjoy dinner together. This past Sunday, we introduced Bill’s “old” friends to our friends from church and a new friend of mine from my tennis group. Among us, there were 6 teachers, 3 artists, 5 guitar players, 4 foodies, and 10 people who, as it turns out, really enjoy chocolate molten lava cake. The conversation was easy, fresh, and current, and everyone enjoyed meeting one another.
I encourage you to gather some friends from different corners of your world, and introduce them to one another at your next get-together. In our world of quick, electronic communications full of “friending” and “following,” the opportunity to meet new people and share a meal together, face-to-face, is rare and special.

Posted in close to my heart(h) | 1 Comment »

What Makes Everything Better?

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

 

Like a mother’s kiss on her child’s boo-boo, some things just make other things magically better. I could end this post right here with a few “magical” ingredients that make everything better. The list would include Whipped Cream, Raspberries, Peanut Butter, Chocolate, Butter, and Bacon for starters. These are some of the Foods that I hold in such high regard that I simply must capitalize them. Jack reveres Bacon so intensely, he wants me to list it twice, so here goes: Bacon. And when you put two of these ingredients together in the same food (think chocolate-covered bacon, Reese’s peanut butter cups, and raspberry croissants), it’s almost too much goodness in one bite, if there is such a thing. The sweet-salty crunch of chocolate-covered pretzels and the happy marriage of sweet cream and dark chocolate on a sundae makes one’s tastebuds sing. It’s why, when we pour syrup on our pancakes, we pour some (by accident, of course) on our bacon, too. It’s why, when we are given a canister of Chex Mix or a baggie of Trail Mix, we pick out the pretzel-peanut combination or have to pair an M&M with a Honey Nut Cheerio in every bite. And it’s why, when I made chocolate-covered fruit for my church’s coffee hour a year ago, my friend, Richard, took a bite of chocolate-covered pineapple, and remarked, “My mouth doesn’t even know what to make of this!”

The above picture is one of my favorite desserts: Home-made Gingerbread Cake with Raspberry Topping. The combination that stems from the deep, cinnamon-y, wholesomeness of Grandma’s traditional gingerbread, and the sweet zing of flavor from the newer, raspberry twist makes this dessert one that needs capitalization.

Posted in close to my heart(h), desserts, recipes and meal ideas, tips | 4 Comments »

Food Pantry Musings

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

My girls prompted my musings today. It’s rainy and cool in CT, and they were in the mood to “make something.” They went on Pinterest and typed in “Desserts” (Epicurious of  the Teenage World?) and found a recipe for Chocolate Scotcharoos that they deemed “delicious.”

Then the questions began.

Girls: “Do we have any Rice Krispies, Mom?”

Me: “I think so. Look in the pantry.”

[A few minutes later]

Alli: “Mom, where would I find the corn syrup?”  Then, “There isn’t much left… do we have mo-… yup! Found a back-up!”

Natalie: “Where are the butterscotch chips?”

Me: “In the pantry. Bottom shelf on the far left, under the light switch.”

[Sounds of banging pots and pans, drawers opening and closing, girls dividing tasks, me loading clothes into the washing machine, thinking]

Me: “I just want you to be thankful that we have such a well-stocked pantry. So when stuff falls out of the refrigerator on you, or you have to stand on a stool to reach something, give some thought to how nice it is to be able to make just about anything in a moment’s notice. Do you think many other homes have butterscotch chips, corn syrup, and Rice Krispies IN STOCK?”

Granted, butterscotch chips and a “back-up” corn syrup are now on my grocery list, but there are plenty of items I always have available, ranging from olive oil and chicken stock, to chocolate chips and peanut butter. I admit to running out of milk, bread, and eggs once in a while, as my neighbors can attest, but when I did a Google search for “well-stocked pantry,” Google came up with over a half million results of what Martha Stewart and the “Chicago Tribune” thought I should have on my shelves. It was interesting to note how the farmers’ wives lists of dried beans and bacon differed from the city dweller’s gourmet lists of infused oils and capers.

Hence, today’s question.

What are the items YOU keep in your well-stocked pantry?

 

Posted in close to my heart(h), tips | 1 Comment »

Love People. Cook them tasty food.

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

“Love People. Cook them tasty food.”  It’s Penzey’s Spices motto, and a message by which I abide so whole-heartedly, that I bought the magnet to put on my van! I have always showered friends and family with food. When Bill and I first met, I surprised him with home-made cookies, invited him to my house for cook-outs, and even made him a two-pound loaf of pate (long story). It took a few years for Bill to understand that cooking people tasty food is one of the ways I show I care. He wasn’t raised with that same connection, but since then, he has hopped on board. In this picture, Troy of co:lab, is showing his enthusiasm for the lunch I brought him and his co-workers in thanks for the great work on my website; in fact, now that I think about it, co:lab always scheduled our meetings right around lunchtime. Foodie gestures never go unappreciated. One of our friends admitted she had her 3rd, 4th, and 5th baby just so I would bring her dinner.

I believe in showering the people I know with good food to delight, nourish, and honor them. I believe that cooking with love and care makes the food taste better. I believe that the time and mood has to be just right to make a soufflé rise or a sauce come together. When the kids were young, I created the rule that there is no arguing or angst in the kitchen, and since then, I haven’t burned a single cookie or pie.

I recently catered an Open House for someone I had only met once, and in her thank you note to me, she wrote, “I think what I liked most was that although it was a business arrangement, you made me feel like a friend.”

Cooking for people I care about– friends, family, clients– it’s what I like to do.

Posted in "the biz", close to my heart(h) | 5 Comments »

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