Joanna and I wanted to try our hand at small scale catering, so we mentioned this to Aunt Karen, and two weeks later were apron-clad and surrounded by produce and poultry preparing a meal for sixteen.
Our first dinner party was hosted by our aunt and uncle and their two teenage boys and attended by three other families. We dreamed up hundreds of themes and menu combinations before deciding on the winner: simple Mediterranean-style fare, served family style, with all the recipes invented by us* using fresh and seasonal foods.
We spent a week testing and perfecting our dishes, an entire Saturday in the kitchen, and were able to serve a meal that got everyone at the table talking about food, swapping recipes, and enjoying every dish. At the end of the night, the guests’ feedback was heartwarmingly positive, which was icing on the cake of an experience which Joanna and I thorougly enjoyed and can’t wait to repeat.
Here’s the meal, see recipes after the jump:
Alongside appetizers and cocktails we served social soup, handheld in a mug premeal, before everyone sat to dine. It’s Roasted Summer Pepper Soup with Chèvre-Basil Cream and Crostini Finger.
For our main course we had roasted chicken with a kalamata olive yogurt sauce,
Lemon-oregano roasted potatoes,
Mixed greens with candied walnuts, oranges, and a citrus vinaigrette,
and a deconstructed ratatouille of summer veggies with basil, feta, and pine nuts (not pictured).
We capped off the meal with a freshly baked warm nectarine and blueberry crisp with vanilla ice cream and homemade cinnamon whipped cream.
Roasted Summer Pepper Soup
4 large bell peppers (red, yellow, and/or orange)
2 tbsp. olive oil
½ yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 pinch dried red pepper flakes
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup crushed tomatoes
1 handful basil leaves, chiffonade
Preheat oven to 500°. Place peppers on baking sheet and roast, turning frequently, until skin is black. Using tongs, seal peppers in paper or plastic bag, or in a large bowl covered with plastic wrap. Remove after 10 minutes and peel off skin under cool running water. Discard seeds and chop into 1″ pieces. (Alternately, peppers may be roasted on an outdoor grill, gas range, or under a gas broiler.)
Heat olive oil in small stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-low burner. Add onions and carrots and saut until onions are translucent and carrots are less firm, about 10 minutes. Raise heat to medium and stir in red pepper flakes, broth, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer. Add roasted peppers and basil, bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, mix until purée becomes even-textured, with no lumps. Reheat to a gentle simmer to incorporate flavors, remove from heat and let cool a bit as this summer soup is best served warm, not boiling. Add salt to taste and serve with a dollop of chèvre-basil cream.
Chèvre -Basil Cream
½ cup fresh goat cheese
½ cup sour cream
1 large handful of basil leaves, torn into pieces
Salt & fresh ground pepper
Mix first 3 ingredients in a food processor until texture is smooth and color is consistent (should be a beautiful spring green). Taste, add salt & pepper accordingly, and pulse to incorporate.
Baguette (preferably day-old)
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp dried Italian herb blend or herbs de Provence
Sea salt & fresh ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400°. Cut baguette into ½ inch slices at an extreme angle to make an elongated oval. In a small bowl, mix olive oil with dried herbs. Using a pastry brush, lightly apply herbed oil to both sides of bread slices and arrange on a baking sheet. Salt and pepper to taste and bake 10-15 minutes or until golden, turning once. Crostini should be crunchy on the outside and slightly soft and chewy on the inside. Serve warm with soup, salad, or appetizers.
Note: For this recipe I used “baguettes” from the Costco bakery which are twice as wide as and slightly denser than a typical French baguette. The bread was ideal to make the long crostini slices, but a bit wide, so I halved each oval lengthwise before baking to create elegant “fingers” to dunk in soup.
Calamata Olive Yogurt Sauce
We served this sauce as an accompaniment to roasted chicken, though it tasted wonderful with the roasted potatoes, and would be a great spread for sandwiches or dip for pita and veggies.
16 oz. plain Greek yogurt
1½ cups pitted kalamata olives
4-5 cloves roasted garlic
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Blend ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
Mixed Greens with Candied Walnuts and Citrus Vinaigrette
Makes 12 servings
11 oz. mixed greens
2 oranges, peeled and cubed
Candied walnuts (recipe below)
Citrus vinaigrette (recipe below)
Place greens, oranges, and walnuts in a large bowl. Toss with vinaigrette just before serving.
¼ cup water
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tsp honey
½ tsp cinnamon
6 oz. walnut halves
Microwave water, ½ cup sugar, honey, and cinnamon for about 1 minute, until sugar dissolves. Stir sugar mixture. Add nuts and stir until they are completely coated with the sugar mixture. Lay nuts and any extra liquid on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle nuts with remaining tablespoon of sugar and sea salt to taste. Bake at 350o for about 15 minutes, stirring once during baking. Remove from oven and place nuts on a rack to cool. Nuts can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container.
Makes 2 cups
1 navel orange
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
½-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice the orange and lemon, and strain the juices to remove any pulp. Whisk together juices, vinegar, mustards, and honey. Add olive oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Taste vinaigrette after ½ cup oil has been added. If you prefer a tangier dressing, ½ cup oil should suffice. If it is too tangy for your taste, add remaining olive oil. Dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Nectarine & Blueberry Crisp with Cinnamon Whipped Cream
This combination of fruit is delicious in the summertime, but feel free to adapt the fruit depending on the season (the crisp topping would be delicious on apples or pears).
Makes 15 servings
For the fruit:
10 nectarines, ripe but not too soft
2 pints blueberries
¼ cup sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1 lemon juiced and zested
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
Cut the nectarines into ½ inch thick slices (you can leave the skins on or off¬—I personally like the color they add). Toss the nectarines with the blueberries and the remaining ingredients. Allow fruit to sit for about 15 minutes while you prepare the topping.
For the crisp topping:
1 ½ cups old fashioned oats
1 cup flour
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
Combine oats, flour, sugars, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add butter and using a fork or your fingers (I prefer the latter method) thoroughly combine the dry ingredients with the butter. The topping can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Be sure to remove it from the fridge at least 20 minutes before you assemble to crisp so that it is easy to work with.
To assemble crisp:
Pour fruit mixture into a glass or porcelain dish that is at least 2 inches deep and no more than 10 inches wide. Break apart the crisp dough into small pieces and scatter them over the fruit to create an even layer. Bake the crisp at 375o for about 30 minutes, or until the top begins to brown. Let crisp stand at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving to allow juices to settle. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and cinnamon whipped cream.
Cinnamon Whipped Cream
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Using a hand mixer or stand mixer with whisk attachment whip cream, sugar, and cinnamon until soft peaks form.