I recently did a dinner party for six guests, that included a chef, several foodies and an artistic gentleman that appreciated presentation. Mind you, I am not one to brag, but I wanted to share with you the menu, which was Mediterranean in influence, and the results…read for yourself.

My client writes:
“I speak for all of us….
Last evening my 5 guests and I feasted upon the following culinary delights prepared and presented in our own home and served with the utmost of tasteful, timely and most attractive of presentation upon our own dinner table in our home in Hull.
Here is the menu we selected from several suggested by Chef Laura MacDougall of Home Plate Advantage.

Anchovy and Piquillo Pepper Bruschetta
RitzCarlton chef Emmanuel Kemji’s Mediterranean inspired appetizer.
THIS WAS PREPARED AND PRESENTED as two warmed slightly crisped slices of fresh small loaf slightly wheat bread topped with white anchovy and mildly spicy and quite interestedly seasoned soft as silk delicately spindled slices of Piquillo Red Peppers. NEVER HAVE I ENJOYED AN appetizer with such heightened relish and culinary joy as did I experience upon viewing and tasting this very first course of this very special evening.

Mediterranean Fresh Fish
Baked fresh Fish covered with a topping of Black olives, Artichoke Hearts, Feta, and Tomato flavored with a hint of Garlic, Lemon. THIS COURSE FiLLED OUR PLATES WITH overflowingly luscious looking blends of delicate fall colors. The feta and tomato flavors brimming with garlic and lemon splashes topped on the softest, flakiest, tastiest white cod fillet was delicious and devoured to the tiniest of morsels. The black olives were these tiny little objects filled interesting spicy delights. Artichoke is never a favorite of mine but these were like non others. They were silky and added an unusual hint of texture.

Brown Rice Pilaf with Chickpeas and Sunflower Seeds
THIS SIDE OF MY DINNER PLATE was heaped with soft, crunchy, sparkly and interesting and extremely tasty healthful fibre rich enjoyment.

Pears Poached in Red Wine, Cardamom and Orange
A cardamom- and orange-scented syrup is spooned over warm pears and scoops of vanilla ice cream in this lovely dessert. THIS LAST COURSE PROVIDED THE SURPRISE of the evening. The Pears were of course presented peeled and firm on the outside and softly textured inside topped with freshly scraped orange zest. Pears were floating in a Red Wine sauce and the warm pears and the cold ice cream in combination danced over my tongue and tickled my palette as the final taste defining element in a dinner party to top all.

I REALLY NEED TO ADD THAT AS WE were all half way through our desserts Laura delivered a luscious disc of deeply flavored dark chocolate to each guest. Each wrapped in a gold foil imprinted wrapper. The chocolate introduced a magical heightening of red wines flavors.

WHEN LAURA DEPARTED FOUR HOURS after arriving with all of the ingredients, pots, pans, wrappings … She departed leaving every single dish washed, dried, put away in the cupboard and every spec of trash and kitchen counter and surface spotless. During her preparation except for the flavors that wafted from our kitchen Laura’s presence seemed invisible. Laura served each course with a very brief description of what we were about to ingest. Her presentation, style and skill far surpassed our highest of expectations for this most enjoyable and effortless dinner party.

ONE SMALL DETAIL I NEED TO INCLUDE is that Laura arrived with every element in the middle of the season’s first snow storm raging across the region.”

Gosh, I think I am blushing……Home Plate Advantage – for your next dinner party.

Advertisements

cookbooks and recipes

October 30, 2011

What are your favorite Cookbooks, I was asked recently. Well, that was a very tough question for me to answer. I love my Bobby Flay collection for his layered flavors and Soutwestern flair. My William Sonoma Savoring India has proven delicious and helpful as I explore vegetarian dishes. The Complete Guide to Vegan Substitutions book I recently purchased has also been great fun to work through.

For baking I love In The Sweet Kitchen and at Thanksgiving I always reach for my tattered Fannie Farmer to check how long to cook the turkey. Daily Soup comes out in winter, Weber’s Art of the Grill in Summer…..and all the others when I need a new idea. Grazing by Julie Van Rosendaal has proven helpful when I need a little something to bring to a talk or meeting. So I ask you – what are your favorite cookbooks?

Amazon has listed their top choices – check them out http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=as_li_ac-books?ie=UTF8&docId=1000719071&tag=homeplatadva-20.” target=”_blank”>here:

Grits – a cornmeal based porridge
Polenta – a cornmeal based porridge

So what’s the difference?
Polenta – Cook 1 cup (cornmeal) in 4 cups of water, broth or milk. The courser the grain, the more tender (and classic) the polenta. Stir or whisk often while cooking slowly over med low heat for about 20 mins. You can pour into a greased pan to cool, an cut into shapes to pan fry. Or serve as you would mashed potatoes. Add seasonings or cheese as you feel fit.

Grits – Polenta – Cook 1 cup coarse cornmeal in 3 cups of water, broth or milk. . Stir or whisk often while cooking slowly over med low heat for about 15 – 20 mins. You can pour into a greased pan to cool, an cut into shapes to pan fry. Or serve as you would mashed potatoes. Add seasonings or cheese as you feel fit or top with red eye gravy.

Grits are a native American food. Polenta is dated back to Roman times, and originally was made with such starches as farro, chestnut flour, millet, spelt or chickpeas. Once the New World existed – the transition was made to the newly found corn.

So isn’t it the same thing? Well Anson Mills clarifies on its website saying the difference is in the corn itself:

“Dent or Flint?
Corn is classified by the type of starch (endosperm) in its kernels. The premier mill corn of the American South, known as dent (the name derives from the dent that forms on the top of each kernel as it dries), has a relatively soft, starchy center. Dent corn makes easy work of milling–it also makes phenomenal grits.

“Flint corn, by contrast, has a hard, starchy endosperm and produces grittier, more granular meal that offers an outstanding mouth feel when cooked. One type of American flint–indigenous to the Northeast–was, and remains, the traditional choice for Johnny cakes.
In Italy, flint has been the preeminent polenta corn since the 16th century when Spanish and Portuguese treasure hunters brought Caribbean flint to the Piedmont on ships.”

A true southerner knows the difference of grits over polenta, as does a true Roman know his polenta over Southern grits. For most of us – we can interchange one for the other. For Alton Brown – well see what he had to say here….
http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/season8/grits/true_grit_trans.htm

If you dislike both, well then, “you can kiss my grits!” – Flo of Alice’s Diner

6 myths about freezing food

October 10, 2011

Today I want to share an article written by Hilary Meyer, Associate Food Editor, EatingWell Magazine on Mon Oct 3, 2011 because it simplifies the mysteries of freezing foods.

Last week I went to town on my freezer, throwing out all kinds of frozen packages from vegetables to meat to leftovers. I filled my 13-gallon trash can, then promptly walked it out to the dumpster for collection. I felt incredibly guilty about how much food I was tossing, but some of it looked more like a science experiment than something I would actually eat. I vowed to take better inventory of the stuff I store in my freezer, but I couldn’t shake the guilty feeling of being so wasteful. Was it really necessary to throw all that food away? So I looked into the facts about freezing foods and found some surprising information that will help me be a little more thrifty in the future.

Myth: You can freeze all foods.
While it’s true most edibles freeze under the right conditions, there are some that should never see the inside of your freezer. Delicate vegetables like lettuce practically disintegrate when they’re frozen then thawed. Creamy sauces that are frozen separate and “break” or curdle when thawed. Even coffee shouldn’t be stored in the freezer—especially dark roasts. The oils that make them so special break down in freezing temperatures, allowing the coffee to readily absorb off- flavors. The USDA also advises not to freeze canned goods or eggs in their shell. (But you can freeze canned goods if they are removed from their original packaging, as well as eggs as long as they are removed from their shell.)

Myth: You can freeze food indefinitely.
This is true at least from a food-safety standpoint, but quality suffers the longer food is frozen. Here are some guidelines from the USDA as to how long to keep food in your freezer (at 0 degrees F) for optimal freshness:

Soups, stews and casseroles: 2-3 months
Cooked meat 2-3 months
Uncooked steaks, roasts or chops: 4-12 months
Cooked poultry: 4 months
Uncooked poultry: 9-12 months

Of course how you store the item will lengthen or shorten its freezer life. Air coupled with moisture is the enemy of frozen food (think freezer burn), so if you can keep those two elements out you’ll give your frozen foods a longer life. That’s why I love the vacuum sealer. It sucks air out of the packaging so foods last longer than if they’re just stored in plastic bags or their original packaging.

Myth: Freezing kills bacteria.
Freezing foods renders bacteria inactive but doesn’t actually kill anything. That means if your food went into the freezer contaminated, once thawed it will still harbor the same harmful bacteria. Cooking it to the recommended temperature is the only way to ensure that your food is safe.

Myth: Frozen food has fewer nutrients than fresh.
Actually, the opposite can be true. Frozen fruits and vegetables may be even more healthful than some of the fresh produce sold in supermarkets because they tend to be processed at their peak ripeness, a time when, as a general rule, they are most nutrient-packed. If you’re worried about nutrient loss, eat your frozen fruits and veggies soon after purchase: over many months, nutrients in frozen vegetables do inevitably degrade. Finally, steam or microwave rather than boil your produce to minimize the loss of water-soluble vitamins.

Myth: Once thawed, food cannot be refrozen without cooking it first.
You can freeze and refreeze to your heart’s content as long as the food has not been left outside the fridge for more than 2 hours (or 1 hour in 90-degree heat). One point to be aware of is that refreezing anything uncooked, especially meat, will degrade the quality due to the loss of moisture in the thawing process. So although it is technically safe to eat, from a culinary standpoint, it’s best to avoid refreezing if at all possible.

Myth: You can store frozen food long-term anywhere in your freezer or anywhere that’s cold.
The door of the freezer is a handy place to store frozen items, but not necessarily the best place for long-term storage. The temperature near and on the door fluctuates every time the door is opened. Although the food may remain frozen, the freezing process could be slowed, opening up the possibility for larger ice crystals to form inside the food and destroy its integrity. To prevent this, store frozen foods toward the back of the freezer where a constant 0 degrees F is more likely to be achieved and use goods stored near the front or on the door sooner. And if the power goes out? Don’t open the freezer door! According to the USDA, a full freezer should remain frozen for 2 days. And if you’re tempted to store your freezer overflow in a snowbank—don’t. Even if the temperature is very cold, the sun can still heat up your frozen foods to dangerously warm temperatures. This is still an excellent way to store beer, though. So keep doing that.

How long do you keep food in your freezer?

EatingWell Associate Food Editor Hilary Meyer spends much of her time in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, testing and developing healthy recipes. She is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute.