Sunday, September 27, 2009

2nd Annual Relief Society General Broadcast Dinner

Once again, I found myself at the helm of a multi-course, sit-down, plated, served by well-intentioned guys pretending to be waiters, church dinner for 50 women. I love my life.

Course 1: Soup: Curried carrot soup.

This was a great way to start. The curry and ginger started the meal with a pretty powerful punch, and the carrot and sweet potato were a subtle reminder of autumn which is just barely creeping around us down here in the south. The coconut also gives an interesting depth to it, so while the soup is complex, it was perfect for a fresh, eager palette.

Course 2: Salad: Orange and goat cheese salad with candied walnuts and lemon vinaigrette.

I am in love, and the lucky girl is goat cheese. I was a little worried that "goat" may scare away some non-seasoned cheese eaters, so we called it chevre, and everyone was happy. The little citrus and the tangy cheese were a perfect punch together, and went well following the curried soup.

Course 3: Entree: Mustard sage-braised pork loin, wild-rice pilaf, and roasted asparagus.
Don't be fooled by the link that takes you to a chicken recipe. I essentially used the same recipe with the pork, just upping the mustard a little, replacing the herbs with sage, and using a crockpot fpr 2 hours instead of the oven. For a large crowd, it was perfect. I bought whole pork loins, cut them in fourths, seared them, then stuck them in crockpots with the sauce for 2 hours, and sliced them in advance. When it was time to serve the entree, all I did was take them out and spoon the sauce over. It was easy as pie (editors note: pie is not easy--crusts take serious work!--so I have no idea where this phrase comes from).

Course 4: Dessert
Caramel chocolate cheesecake. I will admit that making 4 of these was ambitious, as it takes forever, but I love this cheesecake. You need to go make it right now. It will make your life better, I promise. It was a nice way to end the dinner with a punch, especially when served with a few chocolate chips and chocolate grahams crumbs sprinkled over top. That's love, right there.

Curried Carrot Soup

Some recipes come to me naturally in their complete form, and some you have to work for.  This one took work.  I had multiple revisions, editions, experiments, and one beautiful moment walking down the aisle at the grocery store and seeing a can of what I was trying to create sitting the shelf (although I have since deviated away from its ingredient list).  I am quite pleased with the outcome.
Depending on the strength of your curry powder and your personal taste, you can adjust the curry-ness to your own liking.

Curried Carrot Soup
  • 2 pounds carrots, cut into 1/2 - inch pieces
  • 1 medium sweet potato (about 1/2 pound), peeled and diced in 1/2 - inch cubes
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, plus additional for garnish
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow curry powder
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • Toasted cashew halves, for garnishing
Add the carrots, sweet potato, garlic, ginger, and cilantro to a large pot and cover with the chicken broth.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are soft (about 15 - 20 minutes).  Add the curry powder and coconut milk, and process with an immersion blender until very smooth.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Let it simmer for a few more minutes to let the flavors combine.  Serve with some fresh cilantro on top with a few cashew halves.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Orange and Goat Cheese Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

This is a quite elegant yet simple salad. The sweetness of the orange and honey compliment the goat cheese quite well, and the little burst of lemon in the dressing pulls the whole thing together. I used arugula as the greens, which may be a little much for some people, but I really liked it. I'm sure any baby lettuce would work well.

As with almost any salad, I'm just going to let you figure out quantities of ingredients based on your preference and the size of your dinner party. I also cheated just a little and used orange slices rather than supremes, but supreming citrus is a lot of hard work.

Orange and Goat Cheese Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

for the candied walnuts
  • 1/2 cup small walnut pieces
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
for the dressing
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • salt and pepper, to taste
for the salad
  • baby green lettuces
  • oranges slices, peel and pith removed
  • goat cheese, cut into rings
  • honey, for drizzling
Candy the walnuts
In a flat-bottomed pan, toast the walnut pieces over medium heat for a few minutes until fragrant, stirring regularly. When they are becoming browned, add the butter, and stir to coat. Then add the brown sugar, and stir to coat. Cook for a few more minutes until golden brown.

Make the dressing
Whisk together all the dressing ingredients. Salt and pepper to taste.

Compile the salad
Toss the greens with some of the lemon vinaigrette until lightly coated. Layer on the orange and cheese slice, then drizzle the fruit and cheese with honey. Garnish with candied walnuts.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Asian Coleslaw

This is a little twist on the traditional southern sidedish (which I love, mind you, but I still don't mind a twist on it every now and again). It has a definite sweetness to it, and a nice crunch from the peas and the cashews. It makes a bit batch, though, so you could easily half the recipe for smaller-scale partying.

Asian Coleslaw

for the salad
  • 1 head savoy cabbage, cut into quarters and the hard stem cut out
  • 2-3 stalks celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 1/2 pound snow peas, ends trimmed
  • 2 11-ounce cans mandarin oranges, drained
  • Salt and pepper
  • about 1/3 cup cashew halves
for the dressing

  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
In a food processor with the slicing disc, thinly slice the cabbage and celery. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. With the food processor shredding disc, shred the carrot, and transfer to the bowl. With the metal chopping blade, pulse the green onions until uniformly chopped. Add to the mix. Add the peas (retaining a few to put on top) and half of the oranges. Salt and pepper the vegetables well.

In a small mixing bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients, and whisk together. Immediately before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and mix well to coat evenly. Top with the remaining peas, oranges, and cashews.