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 »

Playing with Granola Bars

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

4ab630a00464200a89199fe740284a32 I’ve been experimenting with making my own granola bars. In these days of “gotta-grab-something-quick-and-get-to-the-next-practice/game/class/event,” I am wishing I had bought stock in granola bars and bananas. It goes without saying that the granola bars we like to eat are the chocolate-covered ones that taste like candy bars, and the ones that are healthiest for us (high protein and carb, low sugar, least processing) taste like tree bark. In an effort to find a happy medium, I have been playing with recipes and making my own. The recipe I like best (so far) is from Ina Garten. The base includes oatmeal, almonds, and coconut, and the binder is made from honey and brown sugar, which brings the sweetness. So far, so good, right? The fun comes in the additions. Ina’s recipe calls for dates, apricots, and dried cranberries. Well-played, Ina. Well-played. I made it Ina’s way once, and since then, I have subbed in just about everything that Trader Joe’s sells: pistachios, sunflower seeds, dried blueberries, dried mangoes, etc, and now tonight’s addition: chocolate chips. Not sure why I didn’t think of it sooner. Still healthy? The verdict is still out. Here is the recipe. Let me know how you change it up! (Other changes: I use more coconut, less honey, and coconut extract instead of vanilla) Ina Garten’s Homemade Granola Bars.

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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 »

A Caper Caper

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Ready for a little quiz?

Capers are:

b) usually pickleda) edible flower buds

c) delicious

d) commonly avoided at all costs because many people think they are fish eggs

e) all of the above

Drum roll, please!  The correct answer is “e”!

Capers are a funny food. They aren’t humorous/”ha-ha” funny, but funny in that people either love them or hate them. I had three catering events this weekend, and two of them had menus that involved recipes that used capers. One host asked me to put them on the side because she doesn’t like them and wasn’t sure if her guests did either, and the other host asked me to “bring ’em on!” Capers are like cilantro, olives, and mushrooms; some people flick them off in contempt, while others hope that the haters will flick them onto their plates.

Capers are the flower buds of the caper bush, and they are most commonly pickled, which accounts for why they are so deliciously salty. They are commonly found atop bagels with lox, fish, pork, and chicken, and in pasta sauces, tartar sauce and relishes, and caponata.

My favorite combination is salmon and capers. I make a simple, low-cal salmon dish that is easily duplicated: Place salmon fillet on a large piece of foil. You can wrap each portion separately, or wrap a whole side at a time. Drizzle olive oil and marsala wine lightly, sprinkle dill and/or rosemary, salt and pepper, add some slices of lemon, and toss on some capers. Wrap the fish in the foil with good “seams” so that the steam won’t escape, and bake in the oven (on a cookie sheet) for 15-20 minutes at 400°. (Plan 15 minutes for individual portions and 20 minutes for a whole side of salmon). When it’s done, open the foil carefully, and enjoy!

And because I am addicted to capers, I also toss extra capers onto chicken piccata, and make a mayonnaise-caper-mustard combination that tastes great on deli sandwiches. To try it at home, mix mayo, a dab of Dijon mustard, sliced green onions, a few drops of lemon juice, and capers in a bowl and allow the flavors to marry (if you can be patient) or use right away (if you are hungry and/or impatient). My whole family loves this mayonnaise with roast beef, in particular.

In this post is a picture of one of the items on my catering menu: Smoked Salmon Pizza. It is a favorite of many, and a great way to enjoy smoked salmon and get your fill of capers. The crunchy, salty burst of flavor livens up any dish, and is sure to be a great conversation starter next time you are at brunch and ask the other guests if they know where capers come from…

Posted in "the biz", appetizers, recipes and meal ideas, tips | 1 Comment »

Feeding a Crowd, Happily

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

Some people might call me a literary snob for admitting this, but I take pleasure in using a healthy dose of commas and guffaw at dangling parts of speech, such as the dangling adverb above. Does “happily” refer to the well-fed crowd, or to the gracious host?  In most culinary experiences, I would hope both the cook and the guests would be happy.

One of the most-requested items on my menu, Tarragon Chicken Salad with Red Grapes and Walnuts, always makes my crowds happy. Some guests like to eat the chicken salad on its own, and others eat it on focaccia bread (above) or on rolls. The secret to a great chicken salad is the white-meat chicken breast and the Hellman’s mayo.  Add some tarragon vinegar and fresh tarragon for a French twist, some shallot and celery, and you are on your way!

Tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday and we are having some family friends over to watch the game and/or commercials and to spend some time together. We are expecting a crowd of 35 people, ranging in age from 6-55. The challenge comes when one considers that a 6-year-old’s idea of a good time is far different from that of a 55-year-old’s. I like to consider everyone when I plan a menu, so along with chips & dip and cheese & crackers, I am also making a lo-cal chili and a chopped salad with chick peas, chicken, mozzarella balls, and basil. Dessert will consist of cupcakes (recipe from Georgetown Cupcakes!) and Chocolate Chip Cookies, and I think everyone will happily enjoy those, no matter what their age.

Posted in recipes and meal ideas, tips | 2 Comments »

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