Tidewater Kitchen - August 2007

Backyard Parties

by

Pamela Meredith-Doyle

Setting Up Your Buffet Table
    I always love to use my fun plates during the summer, but cleaning up is easier when you use disposable plates and napkins. Be creative!
Two things to keep in mind when setting up the table: nothing too heavy and nothing too fancy. Lightly dressed salads and slaws complement an easy menu of burgers and sandwiches.
    Keep things fun and easy by using different containers to hold things. I enjoy using a metal pot that is lined to put pretzels and goldfish in. I use a loaf pan to stack hamburger buns. It is the perfect size. You can also use popsicle sticks to label beef or turkey burgers, and rare to well done burgers.
    Serve sweet, but not rich, desserts. Using simple prepared pie crusts, then making your favorite lemon or lime curd, is always a favorite. Or better yet, for zero prep time, what could be better than a bowl of ripe strawberries or any other fresh fruit in season?
    Minimize confusion of orphaned drinks by using labels for glasses or writing on plastic cups.
Setting The Scene
    Summer dinners outdoors become something special with a little help from strings of hanging lanterns. Some votive candles in jelly jars can really set the mood.
    Create cozy seating areas with indoor and outdoor furniture. Encourage guests to roam – and make space around the buffet table – by setting up a separate drink and dessert station.
    Covering the table with an easy-to-assemble canopy provides protection from a sudden shower and lets you extend the party beyond the edges of the patio.
    Arm the kids with nets and jars for catching fireflies; for the bugs you don’t want to collect, be sure to have bug repellent (with less than 30% DEET) handy.
Setting The Dining Tables
    Worried your dinner table will look like a four-year-old’s birthday party if you use paper plates and plastic utensils? These no-fuss decorating ideas will help keep your table charming – and charmingly disposable.
   ? For a centerpiece, elevate the simple to the sophisticated – literally – by placing fruit and just-picked blossoms on shoe or small gift boxes that have been covered in white gift wrapping.
   ? Cut yellow wrapping paper with pinking shears to craft a runner. Use double-stick tape to secure the runner to the tablecloth.
   ? White-dot stickers from an office supply store add a playful touch to the yellow table runner.
   ? A plum will weigh down a place setting on a breezy night. And forget place cards: Use a marker to write each guest’s name directly on the paper tablecloth.
   ? Cupcake foils make elegant disposable votives.
   ? Tie down the tablecloth and runner with twine so they don’t blow in the wind, or use fun paper weights for the corners of the table.

REAL MARGARITAS
1 lime, halved
Kosher salt
½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (5 limes)
2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
1 cup Triple Sec
3 cups ice
1 cup tequila

   If you like margaritas served in a glass with salt, rub the outside rims of the glasses with a cut lime and dip each glass lightly into a plate of kosher salt.
    Combine the lime juice, lemon juice, Triple Sec, and ice in a blender and puree until completely blended. Add the tequila and puree for 2 seconds more. Serve over ice.
    If you prefer frozen margaritas, halve each of the ingredients, double the ice and blend in two batches. Serve with a cut lime.

FROZEN FRUIT BELLINI
1 bag frozen unsweetened fruit, thawed
2 T. sugar
1 bottle (750-ml) chilled brut champagne

   Blend the fruit and sugar in a food processor or blender until pureed. Strain the fruit puree through a sieve, discarding the seeds. Set up 6 champagne flutes and put about 1 T. of puree in each glass. Add champagne to each glass, stir gently and serve.

SOUR CREAM SHRIMP
2 lbs. small steamed shrimp, without seasoning, peeled
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
2 T. lemon juice
1 t. lemon pepper
Sea salt to taste
Half a Vidalia onion, sliced
3 scallions, sliced

   Mix the mayonnaise, sour cream and lemon juice together. Add the salt and lemon pepper. Stir in the shrimp and other ingredients. Serve with light, thin crackers.
    This is best made about 4 hours before the party, or the night before to allow the flavors to blend.

BRUSCHETTA with GOAT CHEESE and ORANGE MARMALADE
12 slices (½-inch thick) ciabatta or other rustic white bread
15 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup orange marmalade

   Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the bread until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Spread 2 T. of goat cheese over each piece of toast. Spoon 1 T. of marmalade over the goat cheese and serve.

PROSCIUTTO BREAD STICKS
1 (11-ounce) container refrigerated breadstick dough (Pillsbury)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
24 very thin slices prosciutto

   Line a heavy large baking sheet with a silpat (nonstick baking mat) or parchment paper. Tear the dough along the perforations into strips. Using a pizza cutter or a large sharp knife, cut each dough strip in half lengthwise to form thin strips. Working with one dough strip at a time, roll each in the Parmesan cheese and twist. Transfer the dough strips to the prepared baking sheets.
    Bake until the breadsticks are golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes. Cool the breadsticks completely on the baking sheet.
    Before serving, wrap one slice of prosciutto around each cooled breadstick. Arrange the prosciutto-wrapped breadsticks in a tall vase.
    You can always be creative with this recipe and use pesto or some other favorite cheese instead of the Parmesan.

FRITTATA
6 large eggs
2 T. whipping cream
½ t. salt, plus a pinch
¼ t. freshly ground black pepper
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
12 ounces asparagus, trimmed, cut into ¼- to ½-inch pieces
1 tomato, seeded and diced
3 ounces Fontina, diced

   Preheat the broiler. Whisk the eggs, cream, ½ t. salt and pepper in a medium bowl to blend. Set aside.
    Heat the oil and butter in a 9½-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the asparagus and sauté until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the tomato and a pinch of salt and sauté 2 minutes longer.
    Pour the egg mixture over the asparagus mixture and cook for a few minutes until the eggs start to set. Sprinkle with the Fontina. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the frittata is almost set, but the top is still runny, about 2 minutes.
    Place the skillet under the broiler. Broil until the top is set and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Let the frittata stand for 2 minutes.
    Using a rubber spatula, loosen the frittata from the skillet and slide it onto a platter.

CHICKEN FINGERS with GINGER & APRICOT DIPPING SAUCE
Vegetable oil for frying
Sauce:
2/3 c. apricot preserves
2 T. soy sauce
2 t. ketchup
6 slices unpeeled fresh ginger
Half a lemon, juiced (about 2 T.)
Chicken:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ t. baking powder
1½ t. fine salt, plus more as needed
1¼ to 1½ cups cold seltzer water
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 large breasts)

   Pour enough oil into a tall heavy-bottomed pot so it comes about a third of the way up the sides. Heat the oil over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer inserted in the oil registers 340°. Set a rack on a baking sheet, put it in the oven, and preheat to 200°.
    Sauce: Stir the preserves, soy sauce, ketchup and ginger in a small microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on HIGH until the preserves melt, about 30 seconds. Stir in lemon juice and cool before serving.
    Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the cold seltzer and whisk until batter just comes together; it should be lumpy.
    Pat the chicken very dry. Cut the chicken lengthwise into 1 by 3-inch strips. Season the chicken with the salt and pepper. Working in small batches, dip the chicken strips into the batter to coat evenly. Fry the chicken, turning once, until richly golden and crisp, about 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a rack in oven to keep warm while frying the remaining chicken.
    Notes: Seltzer produces a light, airy and crisp batter. Use cold seltzer water as it makes the batter lighter and crisper. After frying the last batch, re-crisp the first few batches in the hot oil for 30 to 45 seconds as they may have become a bit soggy.

BUFFALO CHICKEN WINGS
16 chicken wings (about 3 lbs.)
4 T. unsalted butter
1 t. cayenne pepper
1 t. Tabasco (Trader Joe’s is my favorite)
½ t. kosher salt
1½ crumbled Gorgonzola
½ cup good mayonnaise
¾ cup sour cream
2 T. milk
¾ t. Worcestershire sauce
1 t. kosher salt
¾ t. freshly ground black pepper
Celery sticks

   Preheat the broiler.
    Cut the chicken wings into thirds, cutting between the bones. Discard the wing tips. Melt the butter and add the cayenne, hot sauce and salt. Put the wings on a sheet pan and brush them with the melted butter. Broil them about 3 inches below the heat for 8 minutes. Turn the wings, brush them again with the butter, and broil for 4 more minutes until cooked.
    For the sauce, place the Gorgonzola, mayonnaise, sour cream, milk, Worcestershire, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade or with a mixer or blender. Process until almost smooth.
    Serve the chicken wings hot or at room temperature with the blue cheese dip and celery sticks.

STRAWBERRY SALAD
1 bag arugula or mixed field greens
14 oz. crumbled blue cheese
1 box strawberries, sliced
2 cups walnuts or almonds, toasted
1 red onion, chopped
Half bottle of your favorite vinaigrette dressing

   Mix all ingredients together.
    This is always a hit when I serve it and is very easy.

BROILED SALMON
with MUSTARD GLAZE

2 garlic cloves
¾ t. finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
¾ t. finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 T. dry white wine
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. Dijon mustard
Non-stick olive oil cooking spray
6 (6- to 8-oz.) salmon fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 lemon wedges

   In a mini food processor combine the garlic, rosemary, thyme, wine, oil and Dijon mustard. Grind the mustard sauce until combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a small bowl. Set aside.
    Preheat the broiler. Line a heavy rimmed baking sheet with foil. Spray the foil with nonstick spray. Arrange the salmon fillets on the baking sheet and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Broil for 2 minutes. Spoon the mustard sauce over the fillets. Continue broiling until the fillets are just cooked through and golden brown, about 5 minutes longer.
    Transfer the fillets to plates and serve with lemon wedges.

GREAT GRILLED
SALMON SANDWICHES

2 lbs. fresh salmon fillets
Good olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
Sauce:
½ cup good mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
¾ t. white wine vinegar
12 fresh basil leaves
¾ cup chopped fresh dill
1½ T. chopped scallions, (white and green parts)
¼ t. kosher salt
¼ t. freshly ground black pepper
2 t. capers, drained
To assemble:
6 brioche rolls (4-inch rounds)
¼ lb. fresh basil leaves

   For the salmon, heat coals in an outdoor grill and brush the top of the grill with oil. Rub the outside of the salmon with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Grill for 5 minutes on each side, or until the salmon is almost cooked through. Remove to a plate and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
    For the sauce, place the mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, basil, dill, scallions, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until combined. Add the capers and pulse 2 or 3 times.
    To assemble the sandwiches, slice the rolls in half crosswise. Spread a tablespoon of sauce on each cut side. On the bottom half place some basil and then a piece of salmon. Place the top of the roll on the salmon and serve immediately.

LIME CURD TARTLETS
    I like lime curd during the summer months. Lime curd is wonderful on a slice of toast, for dipping long-stemmed strawberries in, or to serve with pound cake and fresh fruit. Grating the zest in the food processor is very quick. Lime curd lasts for weeks in the refrigerator.

Tart Shell:
¾ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
½ cup sugar
½ t. pure vanilla extract
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Filling:
4 limes at room temperature
1 cup sugar
¼ lb. unsalted butter at room temperature
4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1/8 t. salt

   Preheat oven to 350°.
    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar together until they are just combined. Add the vanilla.
    In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Press the dough into a 10-inch round or 9-inch square false-bottom tart pan, making sure that the finished edge is flat. Chill until firm.
    Butter one side of a square of aluminum foil to fit inside the tartlets and place it, buttered side down, on the pastry. Fill with beans or rice. Bake them for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the foil and beans, prick the tart all over with the tines of a fork, and bake again for 4 to 6 minutes more, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature.
    Remove the zest of 4 limes with a zester, being careful to avoid the white pith that is very bitter. Squeeze the limes to make ½ cup of juice and set aside. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the sugar and process for 2 to 3 minutes, until the zest is very finely minced. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar and lime zest. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then add the lime juice and salt. Mix until combined.
    Pour the mixture into a 2-quart saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. The lime curd will thicken at about 175°, or just below a simmer. Remove curd from the heat and set aside.
    Fill the tartlet shells with warm lime curd and allow to set at room temperature. Once set, serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

COCONUT MACAROONS
14 oz. sweetened shredded coconut
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1 t. pure vanilla paste
2 extra-large egg whites at room temperature
¼ t. kosher salt

   Preheat the oven to 325°.
    Combine the coconut, condensed milk and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.
    Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper using either a 1¾-inch diameter ice cream scoop, or 2 teaspoons. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and serve.
    Note: These are great served with your favorite sherbet or sorbet.

FRUIT JUICE KNOX BLOX
4 cups pure grape juice or other clear juice
4 envelopes unflavored gelatin

   In a large bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1 cup of the juice and allow to stand for a few minutes.
    Meanwhile, heat the remaining 3 cups of juice until just boiling and pour it over the juice and gelatin mixture. Stir until the gelatin is dissolved.
    Pour this mixture into a 9- by 9-inch pan and chill until firm, about 3 hours or overnight. Dip the pan briefly into hot water to loosen, cut into squares or shapes and serve.
    Everyone loves these. For a light dessert, serve with a whipped topping.

PIZZELLE ICE CREAM SANDWICH
Pizzelles:
1/3 cup sugar
2 large egg whites
1½ t. vanilla extract
¼ t. salt
4 T. butter, melted
1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Ice Cream Sandwiches:
1 pint good-quality ice cream or gelato (espresso, vanilla or chocolate)
Powdered sugar for dusting

   Preheat the pizzelle iron to medium-high heat. Whisk the sugar, egg whites, vanilla and salt in a large bowl to blend. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the flour and whisk just until blended.
    Brush the pizzelle cooking surface with some of the remaining melted butter. Spoon 1 tablespoon of batter in the center of the pizzelle iron. Close the iron and cook until deep golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer the pizzelles to a cooling rack. Cool completely. Trim off any excess pizzelle along the edges. Store the pizzelles in an airtight container at room temperature.
    To make the ice cream sandwiches you must cut the ice cream carton to remove it all in one piece. Starting at the widest end of the piece of ice cream, cut it crosswise into ½-inch-thick rounds. Place 1 slice of ice cream atop each pizzelle. Top with another pizzelle, pressing gently to adhere.
Roll the sides in colorful sprinkles or nuts, coconut or cocoa powder. Arrange the sandwiches on a baking sheet and freeze until firm.
    These can be made 2 days ahead if they are stored in an airtight container and kept frozen.
    Before serving, dust the ice cream sandwiches with powdered sugar.

   Note: If the ice cream sandwiches are eaten immediately, the pizzelles will be crisp. However, if the sandwiches freeze overnight, the pizzelles will soften just enough to allow the sandwiches to be cut into wedges, if desired.