The Juice Bar

December 6, 2011

Remember that exciting news I alluded to prior to our trip…Well, I am happy to introduce my newest venture…

No, no, I haven’t opened up my own bar (not yet at least) but the Juice Bar represents much more. For years I’ve been frustrated with the lack of options both commercially available and in our local establishments when it comes to cocktails. So many pre-mixed, artificial “mixers” that end up overpowering their accompanying liquor and making any regular imbiber sick to their stomach. It’s rare to get a fresh margarita, and even rarer to find a “fruit” based cocktail that isn’t cloyingly sweet. And even worse, we often only consider “fresh” as a necessity only for the summer months. But at the Juice Bar, I’ve been crafting fresh, local, and seasonal juice mixes combining fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices that pair with all sorts of liquor. Beets and whiskey? Cilantro and tequila? Trust me, the recipes keep on coming. And with our first ever bash sponsored by Absolute Vodka this coming Thursday night, it’s going to be a blast debuting some of my favorites!

For more info on the Juice Bar, I’ll be posting a new site soon. In the mean time, hope you’re as excited as I am for just one more excuse to get your buzz on!


Meat and Potatoes

November 18, 2011

Roasted Beef Tenderloin and Potato Gratin

Check out this delicious beef tenderloin and potato gratin I put together for my clients last night. Turned out amazingly! Tons of cracked pepper on the meat. Tons of gruyere on the potatoes. Just like the French define!

Less than a week before Thanksgiving! I’ve got a few more ideas coming…it’s crunch time!

Revisiting Risotto

September 20, 2011

Shallot and Pea Risotto with Seared Scallops

Can you guess what risotto and toll house chocolate chip cookies have in common?

For years, when asked, “what’s your favorite thing to cook”, my default has been risotto. Every client, every friend, and every family member I have ever cooked risotto for has loved the dish that I prepare. “You’ll have to share your recipe” they say. But here’s the secret! Just like those toll house chocolate chip cookies, the formula is not hidden. Because the best recipe for risotto is the one on the box in front of you!

Now, that doesn’t mean cooking risotto has to be boring or overly simple. It’s a delicate balance of creaminess and textures and that’s where the fun comes in. Whether it’s the proscuitto and corn risotto I made for a dinner party over a year ago or this shallot and pea risotto topped with seared scallops I cooked for my client last night, it’s easy to see, how delicious risotto can be. My go to formula involves cooking the risotto as the box suggests while simultaneously sautéing the vegetables of choice to build the flavors. Adding those veggies at the same time you add the cheese transforms your meal completely!

This was the first time I plated the risotto family style and I absolutely loved the look. How welcoming is this big bowl of creamy rice topped with those perfectly seared scallops!

So don’t be intimidated by risotto! Because while it may feel like a big undertaking for a weeknight meal, it really isn’t. When you scale down the portion, the rice cooks up much faster than advertised but remains as delicious and impressive as ever. Anyone out there a risotto lover?


Silver Caterers: Just Can’t Get Enough…

July 6, 2011

Grilled Lamb Chops with Asparagus

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten all philosophical but last night reminded me just how much I love cooking for others. One of my more consistent clients had me come up with a summer night dinner party for four with only two parameters: it had to be light and fresh and had to include these amazing lamb chops they purchase up by their apartment. With some fresh rosemary from my garden and some minced lemon zest taking care of the grilled lamb, all I needed was some seasonal vegetables as my inspiration.

I’ll be honest; I’ve never been a huge fan of chilled soups. But I think I figured out my issue. If the soup is truly cold, it’s messes with my mind. It just doesn’t seem right. But when the same soup is just south of room temperature, the flavors can really shine without confusing you (or me at least me). So my “chilled” pea soup (recipe tomorrow) was a perfect starter for the patio meal packed with fresh herbs, onions, carrots, and of course peas. This one couldn’t be more simple and delicious!

As for the main course, I knew I wanted to showcase some of the asparagus that’s available these days. With the grill already fired up, the charred stalks were a perfect compliment to the lamb. And a grilled zucchini, tomato, and feta salsa added some serious brightness and energy to the meal. This was one of the proudest dishes I’ve ever put on the table for them. Everything was in perfect balance!

Patio Set Up

So I know to some it may be crazy, but I just can’t get enough of a night like last. As someone who loves to entertain (just need to find a bigger apartment to do so), it’s an absolute pleasure to spend an evening cooking for some really appreciative folks. I’m looking forward to more nights like these soon!


Silver Caterers: Back in the Game

June 27, 2011

Bruschetta Board - Homemade Ricotta and Tomato

What a fun weekend! As you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t been catering events nearly as much as I had been. But with two big parties to feed this weekend, it was awesome to get back into the groove. And to spice it up a bit for the first event, a wonderful bridal shower, I came up with an interesting menu concept…

Rather than suggesting dishes or requesting favorite foods from the bride to be, I simply asked for 8 words; 4 foods and 4 others. Those 8 words would dictate the menu and with Goat Cheese, Beef, Risotto, Baguette, Bright, Unexpected, Crunchy, and Refreshing as my triggers I had quite the time coming up with all this delicious food:

Bridal Shower Menu:

Bruschetta Board (Homemade Goat’s Milk Ricotta + Tomato Basil) – Goat Cheese, Baguette, Crunchy

Miniature Spinach Quiches – Crunchy

White Bean “Risotto” – Unexpected, Risotto

Grilled Vegetable Panzanella – Bright, Refreshing

Grilled Flank Steak with Strawberry Tomato Compote – Beef, Unexpected

Cucumber Cilantro Cocktails and Grapefruit Margaritas – Refreshing, Bright

Everything turned out really well but the highlight was the homemade cheese. I’ve recently been working on nailing this recipe (which I’ll share with you tomorrow) and while I hate to admit this, it’s unbelievable simple. So when you start making your own cheese, plead ignorance and enjoy all of the praise thrown your way. Because with a little olive oil and some lemon zest, this fresh cheese is simply awesome.

The other highlight was the “risotto”. I wasn’t too keen on cooking up a big batch of steamy, creamy risotto on a hot summer day. But early last week this idea hit me and I’m sure glad it did. White beans took the place of the arborio rice and a creamy feta dressing provided that perfect risotto consistency. With some chopped vegetables, this chilled “risotto” was really fantastic.

So cheers to the bride to be (and her fiance) one more time! Glad I could be part of such a special event!

Crisis Averted

February 9, 2011

Whole Wheat Pasta - Family Style

Despite having made a few attempts to defend the honor of whole wheat pasta, I really do hate the crap. So when a client of mine asked me to cook up a healthy but delicious whole wheat pasta dish for a family get together last night, I had some serious concerns.

I would bet that over 50% of people respond “pasta” when asked “what’s your favorite food?” We all love the stuff! So replacing a favorite with a less than acceptable substitute is never easy. The texture isn’t right, the flavor is overpowering, and the cross over from “al dente” to mush seems to take place in a split second. But there is always a way around some of these negativities and it all comes back to expectations.

Rather than throwing the replacement pasta into a traditional sauce that we all know and love, like a marinara or clam sauce or even a bolognese, whole wheat pasta works best when it’s taken in a new direction. There may not be anything ground breaking about a spinach, tomato, zucchini, and basil combination, but it was this pairing of these light and fresh flavors that made this dish really work. Using a handful of parmesan and some of the pasta cooking water to help form just enough of a sauce, this preparation was not only easy but pretty darn good; as much as I hate to admit it. Finishing the dish with some crumbled feta balanced the strong earthy flavor of the pasta and a little lemon and a heavy hand of olive oil brought all of these flavors together.

So while it may not live up to a fresh pappardelle or a big bowl of penne, whole wheat pasta may have some potential after all. Although you still won’t find the stuff in my pantry!

Silver Caterers: Babies-R-Me

July 26, 2010

Mediterranean Chicken Skewers

I never imagined I’d utter these words, but I’ve become a seasoned veteran in baby showers. Catering for these types of events is always fulfilling and extremely entertaining, but this one was a lot more special. Partially because of the keg, the tailgating games, a slip and slide (yes, for adults), and even more so because of the co-ed invite list. But mainly because, this baby party was for my brother, his wife, and my very first niece! 

When Steve and Nat asked me if I’d help out with the party I knew that making a menu fit for both an outdoor grill fest and a cocktail party, would be the perfect combination. Despite the abundance of friends and the showering of gifts, this event was more party than baby shower. And that’s exactly how they wanted it. I’m so pumped for them, and their soon to be new addition to their family. I can’t wait to be an Uncle! 

But that’s enough gushing for now…what about the food? 

Snack Spread: Philly Soft Pretzels, Guacamole, Hummus, Salsa, and Veggies

The group may not have been able to finish the keg, but the food, that was a different story. Everything was great but there were a few stand outs in my mind. The grilled chicken skewers (shown above) were flat-out amazing. I cubed chicken thighs into pretty tiny pieces and marinated them in citrus and mediterranean spices. Cutting the pieces smaller than your typical chicken skewers worked wonders to infuse the flavor of the marinade and keep the chicken extremely moist, as they only took a few minutes to cook. Additionally, grilled mushroom, pineapple, and zucchini skewers basted in a ginger sauce were a huge hit. 

The grill was also featured in the potato salad. These par-boiled baby potatoes (purple, red, and yukon) were tossed in roasted garlic and thrown on the grill to char. Mashing them up with a yogurt and lemon juice dressing added just enough tang to make this side an interesting twist on the typical. 

Grilled Pineapple, Mushroom, and Zucchini Skewers

But the dessert is where the meal really took off. Sticking with my ice cream sandwich trend, I made peanut butter shortbread cookies that sandwiched strawberry ice cream. Think a frozen version of a peanut butter and jelly. I love this idea as there is nothing more comforting than an ice cream sandwich. Even more delicious (at least in my mind) was the fresh blueberry mousse and basil whipped cream cups. I’ve always loved making chocolate mousse in the past but it is a bit rich and decadent. Using fresh blueberries and mint to make a thick syrup (same as the syrup I used for the blueberry lemonade cocktails), and then folding in the remaining mousse essentials gave this tangy dessert serious body with a ton of freshness. And with a dollop of basil whipped cream, the best words I heard describing it were “summer in a cup”. 

 I really admire Steve and Nat’s willingness to break down some of the “rules” and welcome in some of their closest friends to share in their happiness! Events like these are meant to be celebrated in every way and I’m just thrilled I could help make their day a special one. 

Baby Part Menu: 

Snacks – 

Chips w/ Salsa, Homemade Guacamole, Hummus 

Philly Soft Pretzels 

Vegetable Crudite w/ Edamame Dip 

Main Dishes –  

Mexican Corn Salad 

Grilled Vegetable Panzanella 

Grilled Potato Salad 

Mediterranean Chicken Skewers 

Pineapple, Mushroom, and Zucchini Skewers 

Desssert –  

Peanut Butter Shortbread and Strawberry Ice Cream Sandwiches 

Blueberry Mousse and Basil Whipped Cream

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