Last Saturday Jim’s parents threw a party to celebrate their beautiful one-of-a-kind kitchen tiling, painted by friend and artist Erica Barton Haba. The stories behind the tiles were hand picked by Jim’s parents and represent their interest in alchemy. The tiles are gorgeous and vibrant. Deep reds and bright blues create an interesting scheme. I remember the first time I visited I couldn’t take my eyes off the tiles and later went home and researched the different scenes, learning about the mythology behind them. I’m still captivated by the beautiful, visual stories.
So, there was much to celebrate.
I was asked, a few weeks ago, to act as a caterer with Jim at the party. All that his mother had in mind was for me to thaw some frozen appetizers and serve them to guests with champagne. I, however, dived right in at the offering and decided to cook, from scratch, all of the food.
We planned for 50 people. We planned for 3 or 4 appetizers per dish per person. Why I didn’t plan to start cooking before Friday night at 7PM is beyond me. Jim and I were up until 3 AM Friday night, making smoked salmon and tilapia salad, phyllo-wrapped asparagus, Parmigiano-Reggiano crisps with goat cheese, and my special Bacon-Deviled eggs. The asparagus were the most time consuming—you have to take a thin sheet of phyllo, spread melted butter on top, sprinkle some Parmesan cheese, place in a single asparagus spear, roll up, spread a bit more butter and sprinkle a bit more cheese on the outside, and place into the pile, ready to be baked. We did this for over 100 asparagus spears. Luckily, we found out at the party, they were totally worth it. Buttery, golden brown, and with the distinct bite of in-season asparagus, this recipe was my personal party favorite.
The Parmigiano-Reggiano crisps with goat cheese were a hit. On Friday night, I was bummed out, thinking they weren’t very tasty, but I happily found out that the guests loved them on Saturday. All the goat-cheese taste testing I was doing to make sure it was exactly right put me in a dairy-tizzy and I couldn’t taste reliably on Friday night. They were also incredibly hard to make, which I should have guessed since the recipe came from Daniel Boulud (from a book given to me by Daniel Boulud, hehe!), but in the end, I greatly enjoyed learning and succeeding at this challenging recipe.
The deviled eggs were delicious. We made 8 dozen, so it was also very time consuming to shell all those eggs! Then again, I think it was worth the work.
The seafood salad, which was a recipe adapted from Scrumptious Street’s, was very good, and went perfectly with sesame-ginger rice crackers.
I loved hearing that people enjoyed the food, and seeing people reach for seconds, and thirds was amazing. It made me realize how badly I want food to be my life and work—a great motivation!
Next time, though, I’ll start cooking earlier!
Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Parmesan) Baskets with Herbed Goat Cheese
Time: Depending on how many you make, trust me, it could take forever, but as this recipe will make 40, it should take you about an hour or so. Also, the bigger the cooking sheet (or the more cooking sheets that you can fit in your oven) will reduce the time it takes to make these, only 6 crisps fit on my one baking sheet, so I had to repeat the baking process many times.
Details: Unless you are coordinated, be prepared to have burnt fingertips by the end of this recipe. I think I may have even burnt my elbow.
- 1 ½ cups finely grated Parmigianno cheese (or use Parmesan if you like)
- 6 oz. fresh goat cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup of milk
- mixed fresh herbs, such as chives, flat-leaf parsley, cilantro , and tarragon
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 tsp. sherry vinegar
- Salt & Pepper
- Center a rack in oven at 350º. Have at least two empty eggs cartons on hand (be like me and make deviled eggs to go with these!)
- Sprinkle Parm cheese to make circles about 2 inches around (no more than 1/8 inch thick). Space 1 inch apart and fit as many as you can on your baking sheet (I fit 6).
- Bake for 5-10 minutes, watching to make sure they don’t burn. Make sure they do brown, however, as this makes them crisper and tastier.
- Here’s the hard part—take sheet out of oven and use a good spatula to loosen and lift each cheese round (before it cools and hardens) and then flip onto egg carton and lightly push down the center of round to push it into the egg mold and form a basket-like shape. I used the bake of my spatula to push the cheese into formation—don’t use your finger, they are HOT! Let harden.
- Mix together goat cheese with all other ingredients, depending on your goat cheese, you may have to tweak ingredients. Taste-test as you go.
- Transfer goat cheese to piping bag. Pipe into baskets and garnish with parsley to look oh-so-pretty. Nurse your burning fingertips and enjoy!