Category Archives: Seasonal

You say “to-MAY-to”, I say “to-MAH-to”…

You say “to-MAY-to”, I say “to-MAH-to”…

Tomato season is here, which means an abundance of well-priced options at the market through the summer and early fall.  By storing your tomatoes on the kitchen counter and not in the refrigerator, tomatoes will ripen naturally and maintain their texture, flavor and nutritional value.

My tomato shopping guide, below:

  • Cherry.  Typically the smallest – perfect for snacking, stuffing, of adding to salads and pastas.   Red is most common, but you may find yellow, green and black varieties, too.
  • Grape.  Great for snacking, salads and garnishes.  With a low water content, they store well.
  • Compari.  A round, firm, deep-red tomato – smaller than cherry tomatoes but bigger than an average tomato on the vine.  Great for snacking, salads, sandwiches, on pizza, in salsa or roasted.  A good Compari tomato will be sweet, juicy, tender, and deep red.
  • Beefsteak.  A large, base-ball sized tomato that is warm, fragrant and juicy.  They are easy to slice, so one tomato can go a long way – making them perfect for sandwiches or hamburgers.
  • Roma.  Also commonly referred to as plum tomatoes or paste tomatoes, they are often used for canning because of their firm texture, slender shape and low water and seed content.  They are well-suited for salsas and tomato-based sauces.
  • Kumato.  Brownish-red, with a complex, sweet-tart flavor and strong “tomato” smell.  Delicious and beautiful in a Caprese salad or bruschetta.
  • Heirloom.  Heirloom tomatoes have become increasingly popular over the years, with over 100 varieties.  An heirloom is considered to be a variety whose seeds are passed down through several generations, and can be found in a variety of colors, shapes, flavors and sizes.  Look for plump fruit without bruises or decay.  Heirlooms are also more susceptible to cracking, but as long as you can’t see the flesh of the tomato, it won’t affect taste or safety.
David’s Tips for a Creative and Stress-Fress Summer Party

David’s Tips for a Creative and Stress-Fress Summer Party

My goal as a caterer is for my clients to feel like guests at their own party.  However, you don’t need to hire a professional to throw a great party without undue stress or weeks of preparation.  My top 5 tips for a party that your guests will never forget:

  • Plan your menu around what’s in-season, for best-pricing and freshness.  Buffets (versus plated or tray-passed service) are typically the easiest option – just remember to offer “buffet-friendly” menu items that don’t don’t over-cook or dry-out easily (i.e., if served warm in a chafing dish), or that need a lot of maintenance or re-freshing (i.e., complex hors d’oeuvres).   Bone-in/skin-on chicken thighs are a perfect entree option as they maintain moisture far better than a boneless chicken breast, for example.  Tri-Tip is also an excellent buffet entree choice.
  • “Theme” parties are extra-festive and fun (i.e., Beach BBQ, Southern BBQ, Hawaiian Luau, Mexican Fiesta, etc), and can be weaved through the menu, cocktails, decor, music and attire.   Pair it with something completely unexpected, like a Piñata containing plastic leis for a Hawaiian theme.
  • Embrace foods that you can prepare in advance and that serve well at room temperature, or taste better a day or two after they are prepared.
  • If you want to keep it really casual and simple, and don’t have enough tables or chairs, you can spread quilts on the ground and let everyone gather picnic-style.  Rentals can also be surprisingly inexpensive, and you can save $40-$75 on delivery fees (depending on your delivery distance) by transporting the items yourself.
  • Serve a refreshing, specialty cocktail.  If watermelon is in abundance, try a Watermelon & Mint Cooler (recipe below):

Watermelon & Mint Cooler (make by the pitcher for ease) Ingredients:  12 cups seedless watermelon cubes; 1/2 cup fresh lime juice; 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves; 2/3 cup cachaca, rum or vodka (optional).  Directions: In a blender, working in batches, puree the watermelon, lime juice and mint leaves until smooth.  Transfer the mixture to 2 large pitchers.  Cover and refrigerate until ready for use.  Divide the liquor, if using, between the pitchers.  Top with ice and enjoy.

Cheers!

David

“Eat Down” the Freezer/Pantry with Nana’s Vegetable Soup!

“Eat Down” the Freezer/Pantry with Nana’s Vegetable Soup!

With many fruits and vegetables out of season in the cold winter months, preparing varied and delicious meals can be more challenging than usual.  One creative (and very easy) solution is to pull out the crock pot and look no further than what is already stocked in your kitchen pantry and freezer.  There is no real “recipe” required to create this hearty meal, although I have listed the items that my family typically likes included, and provided a few tips, below.  Serve with a warm loaf of crusty bread and enjoy!

“Nana’s Vegetable Soup”

Chicken or Vegetable Broth (16+ oz), Frozen Veggies (peas, carrots, corn, green beans, etc), Beans (any kind), crushed or diced Tomatoes (2-3 cans), Diced Potatoes, Noodles (optional), and/or Ground Beef/Turkey or Chicken (optional).  Stove Top: bring to a boil and then turn down to low/medium for 2-3 hours.  Crock Pot: turn on High, will be ready in about 3 hours.  Add Salt & Pepper to taste.

 

‘Tis Apple Season

‘Tis Apple Season

There are over 7,500 varieties of apples!  While you can always find an apple in modern-day supermarkets (especially well-known varieties like Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Gala), not all apples will appear in the stores at the same times.  Some varieties only appear for a short time, and some only at a local orchard or farmer’s market. October is generally the peak of the season, and the best time for baking.  Empire, Granny Smith and Honey Smith all ripen from mid-to-late October, and are the “best of the best” for baking a pie or making an Apple Crisp.  However, if you don’t have those, no worries, any apple will do.  One of my favorite recipes (also very easy), below…serve warm with Vanilla Ice Cream.

Ingredients:

6 apples – peeled, cored and sliced; 1/2 cup melted butter; 1 cup all-purpose flour; 1 cup white sugar; 1 cup quick-cooking oats; 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, divided; 1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces.

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Place apples in a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. In a bowl, mix melted butter, flour, sugar, oats and 1 tablespoon cinnamon to form a crumbly mixture. Sprinkle over apples. Dot with remaining 1/4 cup butter, and sprinkle with remaining one tablespoon cinnamon.  Bake 50 minutes in the pre-heated oven, until lightly brown and apples are tender.