Category Archives: On the Table

A Summer Dinner At Home for a Good Cause and Guests We Don’t Know

Early in my wife Christina’s career she was the Managing Director of The Philadelphia Theater Company and worked alongside then and now Artistic Director Sara Garonzik. We donated a Dinner for Six in our home to their annual auction to support their continued efforts to produce, develop and present “entertaining and imaginative contemporary theater focused on the American experience that ignites the intellect and touches the soul.” (From PTC’s Artistic Mission Statement.)  Tonight  six folks we have never met are coming to dinner.

It is pleasure for me to cook for others — especially so when I am able to live by what I preach… plan ahead and spread your tasks over time. So two weeks ago after my regular Saturday stroll through the Rittenhouse Square Farmer’s Market, I came up with my initial menu plan. I think of it as seasonal and smart.  Seasonal of course. Smart because I want to enjoy my guests as well as cook for my guests. My goal in planning tonight’s menu is to serve a ridiculously elaborate and beautifully seasonal dinner and minimize what I had to do when guests were at the table. I also wanted a menu that allowed me to maximize what I could do well in advance and especially what I had to do the day of the dinner. I was going for not just one relaxed hour before guests arrive — what I believe all hosts deserve, but the better part of a reasonably relaxed and enjoyable day.

Here’s the final menu that I printed for our guests.

The Philadelphia Theater Company
Auction Dinner
Hors d’oeuvres
Squash blossoms stuffed with Hillacres Pride ricotta
Blini with crème fraiche & California hackleback caviar
Grilled Renaissance sausage with garlic scape pesto
Fire-roasted sweet peppers & white anchovy crostini
Jersey tomatoes & fresh chickpeas with crabmeat
Chinon “La Cravantine” Domaine Gasnier

Dinner
Ceviche of Barnegat scallops
Orange essence & pink peppercorns
Z Food Farm pickled beets & chilled ginger-beet soup
Arneis “Bricco delle Ciliegie” Giovanni Almondo 2011

Seared  Atlantic tuna taco
Sesame-cucumber relish
Shiso aioli
Nahe Riesling “Lenz” Weingut Emrich-Schönleber 2011

Charcoal-grilled Griggstown Farm quail
Lemongrass & coriander
Green papaya salad
“Becco Rosso” Corte Gardoni 2010

Braised veal cheeks
Ratatouille & corn cake
Morgon “Côte de Puy” Domaine de Robert

Local artisanal cheeses
Birchrun Hills Fat Cat (Chester Springs, PA)
Birchrun Hills Blue (Chester Springs, PA)
De Glae Lanchego (Lancaster, PA)
Valley Sheperd Crontin de Chevre  (Long Valley, NJ)
Shellbark Hollow Sharp Chevre (West Chester, PA)
Local honey • Apricot butter • Candied walnuts
Metropolitan Bakery breads
Terres de Fagayra Maury Blanc 2009

Cardamom-poached Three Springs Fruit Farm Peaches
Biddle Woods lavender ice cream
Gooseberries & blackberries

French Press Espresso
Saturday, July 14, 2014

What follows is a kind of home entertaining case study. I am not suggesting that you attempt to replicate this exact menu in your home. I have been doing this professionally and recreationally for more than forty years. But I do suggest that you use this as a model of planning ahead and spreading tasks over time so that you too can have at least one relaxed our before guests arrive.

Early Saturday Morning
It’s about ten hours until guests arrive. All is well. I began planning and preparation two full weeks in advance by planning the menu, scheduling my shopping and food preparation tasks. My very first task was pickling the beets that I bought two weeks ago from my friend, farmer Dave at his Z Food Farm stand in Rittenhouse Square. Z Food Farm is located in Lawrenceville, NJ. On my stroll through the market that Saturday, in addition to pink Chioggia and golden beets, I noted garlic scapes, squash blossoms, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, summer squash, early corn, the first apricots of the season, and beautiful scallops and tuna. So, my menu plan began with essentially a list of seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients. Since shopping in a farmer’s market is a pleasure, I looked forward to this morning’s trip to pick-up “day of” ingredients as well as flowers.

Why is it that it’s hot and sunny all week without quenching rain to water thirsty crops and on Saturday when farmers have a single day to sell the fruit and vegetables of their labors, it rains? Why in the wealthiest country in the history of civilization do 43 million people not have health insurance? These and other questions about life will be left to ponder. (Actually for more on the one about health insurance see the postscript at the end of this post.)

Suffice it to say that the best laid plans of spontaneity cooking oft go astray. No golden raspberries so I switch to blackberries. Renaissance Sausage’s stand re-emerged after a few weeks absence with no fennel-pork sausage. But the tuna is gorgeous, the scallops plump and the flowers spectacular.

Dave’s first crop of exotic cucumbers appeared today even though Dave did not. Dave left the stand to his mom and dad as he tended a fresh crop of field volunteers. That’s Dave’s stand and his mom and dad.

Late Saturday Morning
There are now about eight hours to guests. My primary tasks are to do the things I could not do days ahead — prepare the  corn cakes, the cucumber relish, the squash blossoms, slice the scallops and the various herb leaves I plan to use to garnish courses. I also make a few made a few minor revisions to the menu.

The first order of business was doing the flowers. I have been arranging flowers since 1972 when I was a busboy at La Panetiere. The late proprietor Peter von Starck, who prior to my arrival did all of La Panetiere’s arrangements, gradually taught me the art of flower arranging and so began my love affair with flowers.

Soaking wet from the Saturday down-pour, I arrived home armed — literally — with flowers. The Rittenhouse Square Farmer’s Market includes two flower stands including one with farm fresh flowers from an Amish farm in Lancaster.

We were given a wonderful wedding gift some years ago — about twenty-four narrow tubes, flexibly joined together a bit like a snake so that you can shape your arrangement many different ways. The tubes hold the flower stems erect and make for very easy arranging. We were using a round table for our dinner instead of our standard rectangular dining room table. A round arrangement was in order — low so people could easily see and talk over it. Since Christina wanted candles on the table, first I tried placing the candle holders and candles in the hollow center. But I didn’t want the candles too high either. The right height candles were too low to work in the center. That’s when I had the bright idea of putting votive candles in the hollow center so that they would candlelight would shine through the glass tubes. This worked to magnificent affect.

Sometimes flower arrangements are meant to be looked at from only one direction so you can make the arrangement looking at it from that direction. But often arrangements are meant to be looked at from all around including the centerpiece for our table. Here was my second bright idea. As long as I have been arranging flowers, it never occurred to me place the evolving arrangement on to a revolving platform.  There are cake decorating stands that rotate. Our bakers use them all the time to decorate cakes in the round. In preparation of making as much empty counter space as possible for dinner turn-out, I had done some re-arranging. This resulted in an empty Lazy Susan sitting on the counter. Suddenly it occurred to me to pick-up my vase and plop it on the the Lazy Susan. Viola!

So at the tender age of 65+ and feeling like a reasonably smart fellow, I discover that I’m not so smart after all. For how many years have I been walking around my flower arrangements to get an all around view or carefully turning the vase occasionally to get a different vantage point? Now, with my arrangement smartly placed on my Lazy Susan, a simple spin enabled me to simply and constantly look at my developing arrangement in the round. I assume “real florists.” like real bakers have been doing this for years. Who knew?

The finished arrangement placed on the set table.

Here are a collection of arrangements I made for the dining room breakfront, the coffee table and the bathroom. In total the flowers cost just under $50 and I thoroughly enjoyed making the arrangements.

Friday Evening
Entertaining at home is a team sport and Christina and I make-up the team. She handles, in restaurant parlance, the “front of the house” while I handle the back of the house…aka, the kitchen. Early in the week Christina began “de-cluttering” as she calls it. A ‘de-cluttered’ apartment turns out to be a residual benifit of home entertaining. People who are familiar with my At Home blog and book — At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining — know that I utilize repositionable address labels for organizing my tasks. This is something I developed many years ago for Frog Commissary Catering. So when time comes for Christina to get to work, I give her a sheet of these labels on which I have indicated everything that we will need for each course. She uses these to pull what we need and the label gets affixed. So, for instance, we needed a platter for the crostini hors d’oeuvres. Christina knows that from the label. She picks the platter and places it in the kitchen with its label so I know what it’s for. Organization is the foundation of enjoyable home entertaining and the more organized the hosts, the more enjoyable it is for both hosts and guests.

By Friday evening the table was set and plates, flatware and glassware organized for our six-course dinner.

Friday Afternoon
Shopping is certainly a big part of home entertaining, but if you don’t feel rushed, shopping can be a pleasure and not a chore. My Friday afternoon shopping objectives included picking up the wine from Moore Brothers, trying to track down a better small container for the first course’s cold gingered-beet soup than the ceramic sake cups that we had, buying the green papaya at my favorite Asian market and the fresh-made corn tortillas from Tortilleria San Roman.

Earlier in the week I had emailed the menu to Greg Moore – a Moore brother — with the request to pick a sparkling wine for cocktails and pair wines for dinner. I gave Greg a budget range of no more that $20-$25 a bottle. An email a few days later included Greg’s recommendations. While I knew of none of the wines, I knew that Greg and Moore Brothers have a deep knowledge of the wines they carefully select for their stores.

I had looked online for small glasses with a base that would fit into the cut-out in the little plate I planned to use for the first course. It was there that I discovered  Gourmet of Old City right here at 26 North 3rd Street in Philadelphia. The shop had exactly what I needed — a clear glass sake cup with a small foot.

After swinging by San Roman at 9th & Carpenter to get the best of Philly (at least I think so) fresh corn tortillas,  it was off to Hung Vuong Asian Market on the 1100 block of Washington Avenue. It is in the same shopping center as our favorite Vietnamese restaurant — Nam Phuong. (My second date with Christina some seven years ago was dinner at Nam Phuong and a tour of Hung Voung! Tres romatic.) Hung Voung carries the green papaya I needed for the green papaya slaw that would  accompany the quail and they have it and carrots pre-shredded that makes preparing this salad a snap. I shop at Hung Voung regularly and a week earlier I picked up kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass that I needed for marinating the quail. (Restaurant alert: The grilled quail that I planned to serve was inspired by the roasted quail that Nam Phuong serves.)

Friday Morning
My stroll through the farmer’s market nearly two weeks ago inspired me to serve ratatouille with the veal cheeks. Last Saturday I purchased the requisite ingredients — zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, tomatoes (I decided to use little orange Sungolds), onion and garlic. They sat quietly in my refrigerator. I didn’t want to make the ratatouille too far in advance, but Friday morning seemed perfectly fine.

I also removed the quail from the marinade and carefully scraped off the kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. I dried the quail and stored them between paper towels to remove any residual moisture.

Thursday Afternoon
I had a long-scheduled meeting at Reading Terminal Market on Thursday afternoon so I knew that I could pick-up cheeses from the Fair Food Farm Stand’s. Fair Food is a pioneer in championing the growing bounty of locally-sourced farm products. The prior Sunday I had picked up at the Head House Farmer’s Market a Fat Cat from Birchrun Hills. That was a start, but I had my eye on a selection of five cheese. If you have not yet discovered the world-class quality of local cheeses, Fair Food is the place to start as well as at farmer’s markets throughout the Delaware Valley.

Thursday morning
I skimmed off the fat from the veal cheek braising liquid and reduced the liquid by about two thirds until it was very concentrated. Yum.

Wednesday
I trimmed the quail and marinated them. I removed the braised veal cheeks from their braising liquid and strained the liquid and refrigerated.

Tuesday
I chopped the kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass for the quail and made the marinade. I made the dressing – essentially the same as the marinade —  for the green papaya salad.

I removed the veal cheeks from their white wine marinade, patted them dry, lightly floured and carefully browned. I divided the cheeks between two pans over a layer of chopped carrots, celery and onion, peeled garlic cloves and  parsley, rosemary and thyme. I added the wine marinade and some additional wine. Next I covered the pans with foil, poked some holes in the foil so the cheeks would braise and not steam and placed in a 250 degree oven. When finished six hours later, the cheeks had shrunk to a little more than half their former size and plumped up. After they cooled in the braising liquid, I transferred the cheeks to a smaller refrigerator-friendly container and strained the braising liquid and refrigerated.

Monday
I chopped the kaffir lime leaves and lemongraas for the quail, made the gingered-beet soup, roasted. peeled, julienned and marinated the sweet peppers for the crostini, chopped the onions, carrot and celery and peeled the garlic for braising the veal cheeks.

The Prior Weekend
I bought the peaches several days ago so that they could ripen. By Saturday weekend they were ripe. I peeled the peaches. As these were the first crop of summer peaches, they are what are called “cling” meaning that the peach flesh clings to the pit. Later in the summer “freestones” arrive. Because these were cling peaches, I had to take particular care  freeing them from their pits without bruising by cutting small wedges and nudging them. Once freed from the pits the peaches were poached in a cardamom-infused syrup. I removed the peaches when they were not quite done as they would continue to cook and I did not want them to become too soft. Once the peaches and liquid had cooled combined and refrigerated.

Sunday began with a trip to the Head House Farmer’s Market where I purchased frozen Griggstown quail. I would have preferred fresh, but practicality took hold as fresh would have required a two plus hour round trip to the Griggstown Farm above Princeton. I picked up the fresh ricotta from Hillacres Pride and found shiso leaves.

The Week Before
Of the six dinner courses, only two curses were hot and only one required actual last-minute cooking. The other could be prepared entirely in advance and just reheated. Before planning the menu I had checked with our dinner guests as to whether there were any food issues. Veal cheeks fit the in advance bill. I first prepared braised veal cheeks some three and a half years ago when I was working on the menu for Christina’s and my wedding at The Franklin Institute.

Unfortunately it is not easy to find veal cheeks. Calling around, I located them at Esposito’s on 9th Street — across from San Roman on Carpenter. Though veal checks are small, I needed only one per person as all the courses in the multi-course meal were meant to be small. The problem is that Esposito’s only sold veal cheeks by the 10-pound case — about 32 veal cheeks for $129. I was mentally committed so I purchased the case, reasoning that I would braise them all and freeze what I did not need for another time.

Preparing veal cheeks is a simple process. The most difficult part is trimming away the “silver skin” that covers the entire of the top side and some of bottom. It takes a very sharp knife, patience and about an hour.  with that accomplished, I rubbed the cheeks with a mixture of toasted crushed fennel and coriander seed and let it sit for two days. Next I added a white Rhone — a viognier — and let them sit another two days.  Veal cheeks are typically marinated and braised in red wine. But I wanted a light summer version. At this point I had been “working on” my veal cheeks for four days, but only about an hour and a half.

One Relaxed Hour
I enjoyed my Saturday. Inevitably there was more to do than I had anticipated but at no point did I feel hassled, out of control and resentful — all feelings that I have known when I have entertained at home without adequate planning and spreading tasks over time. Paul, our wonderful Frog Commissary waiter had arrived. Christina went over the plan for the evening, the wines and I reviewed the menu and the plating plan. By 5:30 I was taking a nap.

A Half Hour Before Guests Arrive
About a half hour before guests arrived I arranged the cold hors d’oeuvre platters, pulled things from the refrigerator, reviewed my course labels and set the charcoal in the grill. Christina appeared in the kitchen with a glass of sparkling wine to get the evening started. Shortly after seven the guests arrived. Christina and I were looking forward to an enjoyable evening.

Hors d’oeuvres and Cocktails
I have two principal dictums for guests. One is do not arrive early. Despite my pleas to plan ahead and spread tasks over time, there are still last minute things for hosts to do so one thing they don’t need to do is to begin entertaining you before the appointed hour. My second dictum is for guests to stay out of the kitchen unless invited.

Our evening began in our living room with the coffee table was invitingly set with champagne glasses, small plates, cocktail napkins and a few cold hors d’oeuvres. As guests arrived we poured the Chinon La Cravantine Vignoble Gasnier Non-vintage, a sparkling French wine (it was Bastille Day) from the Loire with a slightly pink cast. (Note: The two red velvet covered chairs in the photo background come from the Orchestra Boxes of the Academy of Music — a fundraising benefit in return for a contribution Christina made to the Academy some time ago.)

Roasted sweet peppers, marinated in olive oil and garlic on top of a small crostini cut from a ficelle (essentially a small baguette) and topped with white anchovies. White anchovies are available in specialty food stores such as DiBruno’s and online. A little sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley added some color.

Squash blossoms are a beautiful and edible by-product of growing zucchini and other summer squash. Here they are stuffed with a mix of Hillacres Pride ricotta that I picked up at the Head House Farmers Market and mascarpone with some chopped basil, mint, salt and pepper. I used a pastry bag to stuff the flowers.


Last Sunday at Head House I bought a pint of fresh chickpeas. These have a very short local season. I didn’t know what I was going to do with them and they just sat in my refrigerator. I was uninspired. As the dinner approached it was now or never. I blanched the chickpeas and removed them from their pods. This is a slow and tedious process and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert help get this done. I peeled two ripe red tomatoes, seeded and removed the juice and diced. I threw a little olive oil and garlic into a pan, lightly browned the garlic, added the chickpeas and Allepo pepper, cooking until the tomatoes broke down and thickened. I served this cold with a little fresh crab meat and some cooked tomato on top. It sits on a platter on a bed of dried beans to stabilize the little porcelain spoons.

This hors d’oeuvres’s origin was my love of the early summer arrival of garlic scapes — the long green shoots that emanate from hardneck Rocombole garlic. Garlic scapes appear for about a month beginning in late Spring. Usually I just grill them  – sometimes blanching first. But garlic scapes also lend themselves to garlic scape pesto. Ah, but what to put the pesto on? I am a big fan of our local Renaissance Sausage. I was first introduced to them when they operated a truck at Head House where their Breakfast Sausage Sandwich was a Sunday highlight for scores of Society Hill and Queen Village shoppers. I had trouble tracking down the sausage — only able to find vegetarian sausage at Green Aisle Grocery in South Philadelphia. They often have a retail stand in the Rittenhouse Square Farmers Market but they had been AWOL for the past several weeks. I sent an email to them and learned that they would indeed return on Saturday as they did. But they had no Italian style pork sausage. I had to settle for their Country Pork Sausage, laden with herbs that were going to compete with my basil-infused garlic scape pesto. Not ideal, but good enough.

Caviar is always a treat. Here I serve it on blini that I had in the freezer — leftover from a Frog Commissary catered event and creme fraiche. The caviar is a California Hackelback — the best barely affordable domestic caviar. With mostly cold hors d’oeuvres, my kitchen time was kept to a minimum. We also had Paul, a wonderful Frog Commissary waiter to help with service. I fully understand that you likely will not have a waiter for your dinner for eight, but the principles of do ahead and lots of room temperature items stand. Having a waiter enabled Christina to hold down the fort with our guests while I was in the kitchen. If were were serving dinner to friends and family Christina would be more able to help serve as would friends and family!

Dinner is served
Shortly before calling guests to dinner I retreated to the kitchen where the elements of each course — what is called mis en place in kitchen parlance — were carefully arranged on an otherwise clear counter. Affixed to the cabinet above the mis en place was a little label that reminded me what went with what. My experience is that the more I have written down the less I have to remember and the more likely I am  do what I planned. (My otherwise marvelously capable late mother was known to find the salad she had prepared for guests still in the refrigerator long after the last guest departed. I am sure had she written down “serve salad she would have avoided this sad outcome.) I started the fire in the little Japanese grill that sits on our fire escape so the charcoal would be ready to grill the quail about an hour into the dinner. I removed the quail from the refrigerator. I dressed the green papaya salad. Removed the cheese from the refrigerator to temper. Placed the veal cheeks and ratatouille in a 300 degree oven to slowly warm. I quickly seared and sliced the tuna for the taco.

Our first course — preset and on the table as guests sat — was inspired by a recent trip to Berlin where at a restaurant named Bandol we had a wonderful dinner and encountered the plate pictured above. (Not that exact plate!) It is hard to understand scale in the photo. The plate, which looks like slate but is actually porcelain, is only slightly bigger than a 3 x 5 card. Upon returning home I tracked them down online at Chef’s Arsenal and ordered ten. This was my first chance to use them. The course included little wedges of pickled — the predominant pickling flavor being star anise – thin-sliced pristine sea scallops that sat for a few hours in fresh orange juice. I dressed the scallops with a little lime juice, a drizzle of peppery olive oil, fresh chives, a crunchy pink sea salt and a few pink peppercorns. The soup was a gingered red beet puree with a tiny chive blossom. All pretty as a picture.

Our wine was a 2011 Roero Arneis “Bricco delle Ciliegie” Giovanni Almonde. From the Piedmont area of Italy, it paired perfectly with the little study in beets and scallops.

I have come to love little tacos. This one was inspired by the shiso leaves that I found at Head House last Sunday. The taco is cut to about a 3 3/4″ size with a circle cutter and lightly warmed in a dry pan to soften. Next a large shiso leaf. Next a relish of two types of cucumbers from Z Food Farm dressed with rice vinegar, a little olive oil and soy sauce. On top of that was the Atlantic tuna that had been cut into 3/4″ square logs and very quickly seared, sliced and arranged on a platter into eight portions. The tuna was topped with a shiso aioli — essentially a garlicky mayonnaise with lots of crushed shiso leaves and finally topped with a  chiffonade of  and a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds. I know this sounds fabulously complicated but everything was prepared ahead and it took maybe two minutes to assemble these on to waiting plates.

Greg Moore suggested a Nahe Riesling “Lenz” Weingut Emrich-Schönleber 2011. In Germany we came to appreciate Reislings and loved that Greg introduced one for our dinner.

On to the Griggstown Farm quail. As noted above, these had been marinated for two days in a marinade of chopped kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, rice vinegar, palm sugar, fish sauce and a little chili garlic sauce. The green papaya slaw was dressed and ready to go. I just had to grill the quail which took about three minutes. I brush the quail with a little olive oil. In grilling I had to be careful with the quail because the sugar from the marinade which helps color the skin when it caramelizes over the coals, can easily go too far and burn. The cilantro leaves had been picked during the afternoon. To assemble a small mound of green papaya slaw went down on the plate, topped with some crushed peanuts, then the quail and a few cilantro leaves. One hot item and a simple plate.

For the quail Greg suggested a Bardolino, a light fowl-friendly Italian red  — “Becco Rosso” Corte Gardoni 2010

Here are the veal cheeks, set on a small bed of ratatouille with a little corn cake. When I served the quail I had popped the corn cakes into a 350 degree toaster oven. The veal cheeks and ratatouille were hot and sitting happily in a 200 degree oven. I had a very concentrated reduction of the braising liquid that went into the microwave for a minute just before serving. I small spoon of that glazed the veal cheeks just before serving. A few flat leaf parsley leaves — pre-picked from their stems and stored between two damp layers of paper towel — added a touch of color. The veal cheeks were meltingly soft and carried the flavor of the coriander and fennel seed rub beautifully. The plate was 12″ in diameter and had a little “belly” for the food to sit. Nice.

In keeping with the light preparation of the veal cheeks, we served a light French cru BeaujolaisMorgon “Côte de Puy” Domaine de Robert. Perfect.

Our guests loved the cheeses, all produced within fifty miles of where we were sitting. Accompanying the cheeses were Metropolitan Bakery breads, lightly toasted, candied walnuts, a few flatbreads from DiBruno’s and a wonderful apricot butter that I made from local apricots.

For a wine Greg bypassed the obvious third red in favor or a light fortified white that he suggested would work wonderfully for both the cheese and dessert course. Of course, he was right. The wine was a Terres de Fagayra Maury Blanc 2009 from the Languedoc region of southern France. It was uncanny how Greg seemed to channel the menu and select really delightful and interesting wines, perfectly complimenting the food and adding immeasurably to our dining experience.

On our very first date I made lavender ice cream for Christina and it’s always been a favorite of hers. Dessert on a triangular plate included the cardamom-poached peaches, just-picked fat and juicy blackberries from Beechwood Orchards, a gooseberry split in half and, of course, the lavender ice cream. To add a touch of chocolate, I picked up Saturday from DiBruno’s chocolate-covered figs — an unnecessary addition, but what the heck!

The Party’s Over

We certainly had lots of food and wine, but the portions were all quite small and the dinner itself paced over about three plus hours. And here’s the very best part. Having six people to your home (three couples) who you have never met is like a blind date in which you skip the part about having coffee first and go straight to a long evening with no graceful exit if the chemistry isn’t right. Well, the chemistry was as good as the food and wine. Our guests were warm, interesting and engaged. When all was said and done, six strangers who came to our home for dinner in support of a good cause left as our friends.

Election Postscript
I am devoting much of my time between now and November 6th to the Obama Campaign. I am what is called an Obama Fellow — a nice title for “very serious volunteer.” I have some time and made the decision that when I wake up on November 7th I want to feel as though I did all that I could to re-elect President Obama. While I do not agree with everything he has done, I believe the choice is simple and binary — Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. Obama needs 270 electoral votes to be re-elected. Pennsylvania is one of a dozen critical battleground states that will determine the outcome of the election. With 20 votes, Pennsylvania has more electoral votes than any of the battleground states other than Florida which has 29. It is difficult to see a path to winning for Obama without winning Pennsylvania.

My focus is the area of Philadelphia called Center City West — where I have lived and worked for more than forty years. I know many blog readers live in Center City West and/or know people who do. The campaign needs volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering in Center City West or know of others, you can email me at steve@athomebysteveposes.com. Otherwise, go to barackobama.com.

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On the Table: The Farm Stands of Long Island’s South Fork

This is the companion post to On the Road: Farm Stands of Long Island’s South Fork. It is best viewed at the blog site. If you are not viewing it there, click on the title above.

Nearly every year for more than a decade, I cook for my brother’s birthday. This usually occurs over Labor Day weekend as his birthday is September 3rd.

My brother Fred is four years my senior. Fred lives in Tribeca with Nancy, his wife and my sister-in-law. They have a summer home in Remsenberg. Remsenberg is near Westhampton, the closest of the Hamptons to New York. One year, as the house was undergoing renovation, guest accommodations were trailers on the lawn with little in the way of kitchen. Noah and his friend slept in the cabin of the boat docked adjacent to the house. I grilled a lot that year. We enjoyed dinner on a 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood over saw horses. Usually at Fred and Nancy’s I have a great kitchen to work in and lots of slicing and dicing help provided. I always arrive to a generous bowl filled with chopped garlic. Generally, Nancy “procures” from food lists provided — often with the help of my nephew Jake.

Given this summer’s farm stand journeys, it made sense to incorporate a visit to the neighboring South Fork of Long Island for my shopping. Earlier in the summer I visited Fred and Nancy’s Long Island home with my friend Pascal and his daughter Maelle. On that occasion I visited the North Fork. There are On the Road and On the Table posts on that visit.

The North Fork had a very different character than the South Fork. Clearly, there are fewer affluent shoppers on the North Fork — it is not the chic summer paradise of the South Fork. The land is less valuable and the farms bigger — relying less on just selling at the farm stand and more on hitting the road to metropolitan farmers’ markets. With land less expensive, there are many more wineries on the North Fork than South.

While the focus of Fred’s birthday is a birthday dinner, inevitably there are other meals to be prepared for the gathered family and occasional friends. Typically the “arrival” dinner is cooked lobsters — supplemented with grilled shrimp, corn-on-the-cob and sliced tomatoes. Dessert is a low-fat yogurt “ice cream” cake — always plenty of fresh sliced fruit and berries and a selection of cookies from Olish’s. My role in this meal is modest with responsibilities pretty much limited to enjoying my lobster.

Friday’s Lunch

Ginger & mint lemonade
Mafaldine (pasta) with lobster, shrimp and fresh tomato sauce
Garlic-grilled ciabatta

I made a simple pasta sauce from a load of farm stand plum tomatoes and thin-sliced garlic — into which I folded left-over lobster — yes, there was left-over lobster! — and shrimp. This was tossed with my favorite pasta shape – Mafaldine — a wide crenellated noodle.

To make the Ginger-Mint Lemonade, I made a simple syrup flavored with lots of fresh mint. I combined this with fresh lemon juice, a fresh concentrated ginger tea sold at several South Fork farm stands, water and ice. There are recipes in At Home for Four Seasons of Lemonade including Minted Lemonade and another recipe for Ginger Syrup. You can combine these to make your own Ginger-Mint Lemonade. As my mother would always say, the key to making lemonade is to balance the sweet and sour – plenty of both without either overwhelming.

Saturday’s Lunch

Chicken tacos with sweet peppers
Heirloom tomato salsa
Arugula
Roasted “peanut” potatoes
Pickled cucumbers

The chicken was left-over from our previous dinner with salsa from the larder of ingredients I purchase from farm stands. I love tacos — the soft variety. They are easy to make, fun to eat and very under-used by the home entertainer. Arugula was incorporated into the taco.

The potatoes were the hit of lunch. I found these peppers toward the end of my South Fork tour at Balsam Farm. When I say I found them, it’s not like I was looking for them. Such are the pleasures of shopping at farm stands — sans shopping list. I had never before seen such tiny potatoes — Yukon golds. They are not officially named “peanut” potatoes, but guests mistook them for peanuts. They were simply cooked with lots of chopped garlic, a light coating of olive and a finish of sea salt – lots of sea salt. Crisp of the outside and creamy on the inside.

Saturday’s Birthday Dinner
As guests gathered we served Bellinis with local peach nectar

Hors d’ouvres on the Kitchen Counter


Montauk tuna tartare – spoons make for an elegant platform for an hors d’oeuvres. Here the tuna is diced with a little red onion with a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper. On top is unsweetened whipped cream accented with a little wasabi and topped with chives.


Pickled okra — I used the basic “Quick Pickles” recipe that is featured in the At Home blog athomebysteveposes.wordpress.com/recipes/.


Roasted tomatoes with fresh mozzarella & basil on crostini


Radishes and cherry tomatoes with sea salt.  Fresh, cold, crisp radishes are the perfect light summer hors d’oeuvres. It helps if the radishes are slightly moist so the salt can adhere. Recently at a wonderful dinner in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia Christina and I were served a pair of elegant radish wedges with a little “line” of pink sea salt at the peak of the wedge as a little amuse bouche meal starter. I have incorporated plattered wedges into my hors d’oeuvres repertoire.

Hors d’oeuvres in the kitchen were followed by a seated dinner in the dining room served on incredible “China.”

The first course was my translation of the soup prepared the previous weekend at Blooming Hill Farm by David Gould of Roman’s Restaurant in Brooklyn. Look for a coming post about Blooming Hill Farm.

Squash Soup
Red rice, corn & zucchini
Squash blossoms & Padron peppers

Our entree
Grilled Montauk swordfish with roasted garlic aioli and tomato relish
Grilled peppers & eggplant
Corn cakes with jalapeno

I loved the plates though, in general, I like food against a simple, patternless background. In retrospect I should have gathered the food closer together.

And dessert.

Blackberry sorbet
Honey-grilled doughnut peaches & raspberries
Farm stand zucchini bread & chocolate chip cookies

Behind the Scenes

Making Corn Cakes See Corn Cake Recipe on At Home blog Recipe Library

Sweet red peppers and scallions add color to the blanched and shaved corn and diced jalapeno add a little kick.

The vegetables were combined with a basic pancake batter of all-purpose flour, eggs, milk and baking powder.

I used a 1/4 cup measure and cooked pancakes in olive oil.

You need to regulate the heat so the pancakes brown evenly. Too much heat causes the edges to darken too much before the interior surface browns. Once the batter is set on top, you can flip the pancakes.

Brown the second side.

As the pancakes will be re-heated in the oven, they may darken a bit more. The pancakes went from the pan to a rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towel to absorb residue grease.  I re-heated the pancakes uncovered — after removing the paper towels — for about 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven just before serving. Pancakes can also be held in a 200 degree oven once they are hot for another 20-30 minutes — lightly covered — but not sealed in — with a sheet of aluminum foil to prevent from drying out. If you seal the pancakes in foil they will steam and lose their outer layer of slight crispness.

Grilling Peppers
By Labor Day Weekend, farm stands and bursting with a rainbow of peppers of various shapes, sizes and degrees of sweetness and heat. As with the rest of the Labor Day menu, the choice of grilled peppers grew out of what looked most appealing at the stands.

These were some of the peppers at Green Thumb.

Grilling peppers is very simple. Start by slitting peppers lengthwise and removing stem, seeds and membrane. Lightly coat with olive oil. Here I also added some chopped garlic. Your goal is to lightly char the peppers while getting them soft and pliable. If you cook them at too high a heat they char too much on the exterior without softening on the inside. Conversely, if you cook them too slowly — at too low a heat — they will soften without charring. I start the peppers with the skin side up. This allows the peppers to begin softening without risking over-charring the showy side of the pepper.

Once peppers start softening and the edges in contact with the grill char, turn the peppers. Continue cooking as the skin blisters and chars and peppers continue to soften. Not all varieties of peppers cook at the same rate so you need to pay attention.

One of the joys of grilling peppers — and the adjacent eggplant — is simply being outdoors in the cool Labor Day breeze and lengthening shadows of late afternoon with nothing to do but nurture your grilling peppers along.

The soup was one of those “complicated-but-worth-the-effort” affairs. Here are the components ready to go. The squash soup in the large pot — made from a long “stewing” of three kinds of yellow squash, onion and a corn stock. Added to each soup bowl just before serving is a saute of corn, zucchini and a cooked red rice. The recipe for this soup will follow the upcoming post about Blooming Hill Farm and the farm dinner.

Here the bowls are laid out on the kitchen island. Turning out the soup quickly takes a second pair of hands.  The mix of corn, zucchini and red rice goes into the bowl first. The soup is next. On top goes the squash blossoms and satueed Padron pepper. The soup is “finished” with a drizzle of very good olive oil. In the background are the dinner plates with the roasted garlic aioli, lemon wedges and grilled peppers and eggplant ready.

Making Blackberry Sorbet

There were luscious and plumb blackberries at the farm stands and sorbet seemed like the right light note to finish Saturday night’s dinner. Sorbet is simple to make. A lightly cooked the blackberries in a syrup. The hardest part is getting rid of the seeds by passing the cooked berries through a fine strainer.

At my home in Philadelphia I use a Cuisinart ice cream maker that has a built-in compressor. Here, Fred and Nancy happened to have two never-used Cuisinart ice cream makers that require overnight freezing of the chamber that provides the chilling of the sorbet as it turns. I was surprised how effectively these worked — actually making sorbet much more quickly than the one that I use at home. They are quite reasonably priced — less than $50 — and would make a very good holiday gift  — along with At Home with its large section on ice creams and sorbets including a Mastering Ice Creams recipe.

So that was this Labor Day Weekend. Cooking is an act of love. Giving the gift of cooking is unlike any other gift that you can give.

The Farm Stand Series — Coming to the end of the Road
This series about farm stands and farmers’ markets is coming to the end of the road with just a few more posts in the pipeline.

Two Nova Scotia Farmers’ Markets — Lunenburg and Halifax
Christina and spent a wonderful late September week in Nova Scotia that included visits to two very different farmers’ markets. The first was Lunenburg, a small town near where we stayed for the week. The second was the very large urban market of Halifax — the oldest continuous functioning farmers’ market, dating from 1750. Lunenburg, in particular, provided not just a warm and welcoming experience, but food for thought about farmers’ markets that I will share in the final post of the series.

Blooming Hill Farm
Blooming Hill Farm was the best farm stand visit of the entire summer. This post will focus on that visit the the farm stand dinner that I attended.

Reflections on a Summer’s Journey
This post will be a combination “Best of” as well as thoughts on how farm stands and farmers’ markets might be even better.

The Thanksgiving Series
Beginning in the next few days will be a series of posts sharing with you my process of planning for and hosting this year’s family Thanksgiving.

Happy Halloween!


Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Filed under Entertaining at Home, Family and Friends, On the Table

On the Table: Farm Stands of New York’s Hudson River Valley

This post is the follow-on to my On the Road: Farm Stands of Hudson River Valley. Usually these On the Table posts follow more quickly, but summer’s over and the needs of Frog Commissary and getting ready to promote At Home through the coming holiday season have made it harder to find writing time. Posts are best viewed on the blog site. If you are not viewing this post there, just click on the title above. On the blog site you can also access all back posts — nearly 200, and the blog library of more than 100 recipes.

My home away from home for my Hudson River Valley trip was the home of my brother-in-law Larry. Larry, who is also our Frog Commissary Director of Operations, still has a home in Tuxedo, NY, where he lives when not at our The Franklin institute headquarters with his wife Susan and daughter Sarah. Our plan was to meet Saturday morning to continue shopping at a few of Larry’s well-cultivated Hudson River Valley haunts. We would begin cooking together Saturday afternoon and evening in preparation for Larry’s Sunday birthday lunch.

You don’t get to pick your brother-in-law, but if I did, I’d pick Larry. We share several passions that include both loving Christina — my wife and Larry’s sister…and food. Larry is a wonderful cook and actually more a “foodie” than me. I do it and eat it whereas Larry does both those things, and also studies it. If I was the Slumdog and was down to my last “phone a friend” for my million and the subject was food, I’d call Larry! Included in At Home’s recipes are several recipes from a select group of friends and family and include Larry’s Sausage Stuffing.

After passable meal dinner in Beacon at the end of my Friday excursion and an uneventful night’s sleep in a blissfully unremarkable hotel — the name of which I cannot recall, I headed south to rendezvous with Larry. Larry’s plan was to take me to Blooming Hill Farm and Fleisher’s Meats.

This unremarkable sign by the side of the road in Blooming Grove was something akin to a faded photocopy on a pole near the Louvre announcing “Mona Lisa –> this way.” Larry had mentioned Guy Jones, the social activist and pioneering farmer behind Blooming Hill Farm. But nothing had prepared me for what was by far the finest farm stand of my long summer of farm stands. I will not write much about Blooming Hill here. My visit to Blooming Hill, and the farm dinner we attended Saturday evening, will be the second to last post in my On the Road Farm Stands Series within the next few weeks.

Blooming Hill is the first farm stand that I visited that included a small commercial kitchen and wood burning oven. Larry’s wife Susan joined us for an outdoor breakfast that included sourdough pancakes with peaches, plum sauce and yogurt, a broccoli & cheddar omelette with home fries, panini with ricotta, grilled zucchini, cherry tomatoes & caramelized onion and a frittata. Pretty good way to start the day.

For Larry’s birthday I had Padron peppers shipped from California as they are such a treat. I had never seen them at any of the hundreds of farm stands and farmers’ markets that I visited this summer so California it was. But there they were at Blooming Hill. These Padron peppers would be an accent in the squash soup we had that evening at Blooming Hill’s monthly farm dinner that we decided to join. Each month Guy invites a chef to prepare a multi-course vegetarian dinner. Saturday evening David Gould from Brooklyn’s Roman’s restaurant was preparing dinner. Gould’s squash soup was the culinary highlight of the summer. The next weekend I would make this squash soup for my brother Fred’s birthday after my South Fork of Long Island trip. I will feature my rendition of Gould’s soup for you in a recipe post paired with my Blooming Hill post.

Next it was off to Fleisher’s Meats in Kingston, NY. That’s not Fleisher’s Meats in Kingston pictured above. Rather that is Fleisher’s Meats in Brooklyn, NY circa 1901. The early 20th century Fleisher’s was opened by Wolf Fleisher. The 21st century Fleisher’s was opened by Josh and Jessica Applestone in 2004. Josh is Wolf’s great grandson. Those more foodie than me — like Larry — know that Fleisher’s is a 2010 Martha Stewart Tastemaker. Josh writes The Butcher Blog for Saveur Magaizine. As far as Josh knows, his modern day Fleisher’s is the only butcher shop that sells only local grass-fed and organic meats and poultry. Their business is both retail and wholesale to well-regarded locavare restaurants. On the retail side they also deliver to New York City.

Larry and I decided we wanted to grill, but something more interesting…and less expensive than the highly marbled aged sirloin steaks. Barbecue was more what we had in mind which is not really grilling. Some really fat beef short ribs caught my attention and so we had our meat for tomorrow’s lunch. This choice would present a problem as it was now well into the afternoon and we were far north of Tuxedo and we had decided to go to the Blooming Hill farm dinner that night and…I had to first braise these big suckers and make a barbecue sauce from the braising liquid…all before we headed to dinner. So much for one relaxed hour!!! We added a pound of ground beef and bacon — how could we resist something as decadent sounding as ground beef and bacon. To be clear, that’s ground beef with ground bacon mixed in. These sinful future little burgers would become our hors d’oeuvres sliders.

The need to by-pass a serious traffic accident southbound on the New York Thruway caused us to scurry through back roads back to Tuxedo. Pictured above is the combination of my Friday farm stand purchases and our purchases from our Saturday “supplemental” shopping. Between Saturday afternoon and Sunday, with time-out for our farm dinner, this was transformed into Larry’s Sunday birthday lunch. Christina, her mother Ginny and other brother Mike rushed up from Philadelphia early to join us for the Blooming Hill farm dinner and, of course, for Larry’s birthday.

Our narrow apartment kitchen at home is perfectly efficient and built for one. It does not lend itself to in-kitchen snacking, drinking and schmoozing. Larry and Susan’s kitchen, on the other hand, is the epicenter of their home entertaining. Our mostly room temperature hors d’oeuvres were laid out on the kitchen counter. They included counter-clockwise from center:  the wonderful Spanish white anchovies — Boquerones, that are an entertaining staple at Larry and Susan’s table, lightly roasted little tomatoes with fresh mozzarella on crostini, grilled flat beans, sautéed Padron peppers (the one’s flown in from California), pickles, grilled sweet peppers and the ground beef and bacon sliders — ketchup on the side.

Coach’s Note: This meal is not something I would suggest you try at home with limited time. My plan was a leisurely Saturday afternoon and evening of cooking and good wine. We would do some finishing Sunday after spending time with the Sunday New York Times. This is not how it worked out. I had not planned for the long excursion north or the Thruway traffic south and certainly not the last minute decision to attend the farm dinner. Preparing all this was hurried, harried and stressful. Everything I advise against. As Sunday noon approached, having been at it without rest for some hours, I was repeatedly asked by a family member I will not identify, “When are we having lunch?” It was as if a party of seven wanted to know when there table would be ready. Not the most relaxed cooking I have done — akin to a particularly hard night I remember at City Bites cooking on the line many years ago. This was the price I paid for going to Blooming Hill for dinner…and I’d do it again!

I made the these quick pickles Sunday morning — inspired by the pickles served Saturday night at Blooming Hill, using fennel flower and heirloom garlic from Blooming Hill. There is a blog recipe for Quick Pickles in the blog’s recipe index.

This was late August and I encountered all manner and color of small tomatoes. Even though there was to be an heirloom tomato salad with lunch, you can’t have too many late August tomatoes.

These broad beans were blanched, tossed with garlic and olive oil and lightly grilled and finished with flaky sea salt. There is a recipe for Grilled Green Beans in At Home.

Here’s a bowl of sautéed Padron peppers. I have also written a post about these peppers. I am having a dilemma about cooking these peppers. First, it always seems to take longer for them to puff up, lightly brown and shrivel than I expect and I have to remind myself to be patient. Second, I like them with some garlic, but you can’t add the garlic in the beginning because the garlic would burn, but when I add garlic at the end, it immediately browns and sticks together. While these clumps of browned garlic taste wonderful, garlic does not effectively infuse the oil and peppers. I could cook some garlic in oil and remove the garlic before I cook the pepper, but that feels like more trouble than it is worth. I just received two pounds of Padron peppers — probably the last of the California season. I will try again. My plan this time will be to take the cooked peppers off the heat, allow the oil to cool down a bit and toss garlic into the peppers while the oil is not so hot as to immediately brown the garlic but still hot enough that the garlic cooks, mellows and infuses the peppers. Cooking is an art…though I know there is a science behind this technique issue.

Late August is also pepper bonanza time and since the grill was stoked, we grilled rather than roasted these beauties.

As Larry grilled our little ground beef and ground bacon sliders outside, I grilled the our potato flour slider rolls inside on a grill pan. Grilling rolls — especially soft burger rolls makes them so much better. Making medium rare burgers requires a grill-cook’s attention so it’s handy to have a partner to handle the roll toasting.

Following our hors d’oeuvres grazing in the kitchen, we sat down in the dining room to a plattered, family-style lunch. Most everything was at room temperature. Above are beautiful red and yellow beets that were simply roasted while sealed in foil – essentially steamed in their own moisture, peeled, sliced and dressed with diced red onion, chives, red wine vinegar and olive oil.

I collected a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes on my Hudson River Valley farm stand jaunt. This platter is a bit more crowded than I recommended in my post about plattering heirloom tomatoes.

This photo does not do justice to our barbecue beef short ribs. They were big — but in my rush to get them done Saturday afternoon before our farm dinner I did not let them cook long enough and they were a bit tough. That was a shame as Fleisher’s meat had a wonderful flavor. But it’s just a meal and hardly the end of the world. I’ll make them better next time.

Our grilled corn was inspired by corn that I had at Greensgrow’s Farmers’ Market in Kensington. The corn is slathered in a mix of butter, mayonnaise, lime juice, red pepper flakes, ancho chili powder and salt. Delicious!

Dessert included great Hudson River Valley cheeses.

And Hudson River Valley fruit that included an heirloom melon, raspberries, the best red grapes I ever tasted and fennel and honey grilled apricots, plums and white doughnut peaches. I infused the fennel flowers by heating the mix of honey and fennel flowers in the microwave before basting the fruit with honey and a little olive oil. I also grilled the fruit on a grill pan rather than the outdoor grill. On the grill pan you do not have to worry about the fruit falling through the grill grates.

Behind the Scenes

This is my brother-in-law Larry at his grill working on the corn. Naturally, Larry only uses hardwood charcoal.

Corn slather precariously balanced on the deck railing. (Note to self: Get Larry a good grill side table for his next birthday!)

The beef short ribs were fully cooked as all ribs are before glazing. In the background are the small sweet yellow peppers.

Here’s the barbecue sauce precariously balanced on the deck’s railing. (See Note to self above.)

Here’s a Photo Montage Making Pickles

Key pickle ingredients — little Kirby cucumbers, fennel flower and garlic.

Part of the farm stand adventure is that I never know what I will end up making when it’s all over. It’s like buying lots of puzzle pieces and when I’m all done, figuring out how to put the puzzle together. This is sort of like when they give those Iron Chefs ingredients and tell them to start cooking…quickly. Except my way has far better scenary, more fresh air and usually less stress. Also, the food is usually pretty good.

When I started my Hudson River Valley farm stand tour, I had no plan to make pickles — though I am a big fan of pickles of all sorts. But somewhere along the line I saw these tiny Kirby cucumbers — about the size of a big thumb. They just sort of called out to me. Likewise the garlic. Adjacent to the path leading down the hill to Blooming Hill’s farm market was a wide plot of fennel flowers — also for sale in the market. I am a big fan of fennel. The Guy Jones served pickles at the farm dinner as an hors ‘doeuvres.

I started by cutting garlic into slivers and after giving the cucumbers a quick scrub, cutting them in half.

I made an infused brine with white vinegar (depending on the pickle you can use other vinegars), sugar, salt — but not too much salt, some black peppercorns and coriander seed, garlic and fennel flower. This steeps over very low heat for about 15-20 minutes. It could be longer but as we know, I was in a rush.

When the brine has picked up the flavors, I increase the heat until the brine approaches a boil. I off the heat and add the cucumbers or pour the hot brine over the cucumbers — either way. Once it cools, I transfer to the refrigerator. We ate most of them a few hours later, but they can happily sit in the refrigerator for a month. They loose a bit of crispness, but are still great. Serve chilled.

Lightly Roasting Cherry Tomatoes

Cut tomatoes in half and combine with thin slivers of garlic and thin-sliced red onion. Lightly coat with good olive oil and roast in 350 degree oven until tomatoes just begin to soften and “melt” – maybe 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Add salt and pepper.

A Short Course in Braising Short Ribs of Beef. For a complete explanation about braising, there is a two-page “Mastering Braises” on Page 228 of At Home.

Make sure the short ribs are well-dried. I use paper towel.

Here’s sliced red onion, garlic and a quart of flame-roasted plum tomatoes from McEnroe organic farms. My plan was to make the barbecue sauce with the beef’s braising liquid.

In olive oil, brown short ribs well on all sides. Don’t rush this. The ribs were left un-floured as they were ultimately going to be removed from the braising liquid and glazed with barbecue sauce.

Remove short ribs and add onions and garlic and cook until they begin to wilt.

Add back short ribs on top.

Spread around the tomatoes – breaking them in your hands as you go. Add some thyme, a few bay leaves and some red wine.

Lightly cover — but don’t seal. You do not want the braise to steam, but to gently cook in a moist aromatic environment. Place in 225 degree oven for about 3 to 4 hours or until beef is very tender and nearly falling off the bone. This is what I did not do long enough.

Here’s the cooked short ribs.

To make the barbecue sauce, remove bay leaves and add remaining juice from flame-roasted tomatoes, brown sugar and a touch of molasses, balanced with some cider vinegar, as you want this to be slightly sour rather than sweet. Simmer slowly until very thick.

Puree in blender and add back to pot to adjust thickness and seasoning including sweet-sour balance. Add salt and pepper and as much hot sauce as you like. I use Siracha – a Thai hot sauce that has plenty of heat without the sour element present in most American hot sauces.

And of course, the birthday cake.

Susan baked a wonderful layered chocolate mousse cake decorated by edible flowers crafted by daughter Sarah.

There are lots of ways we could have celebrated Larry’s birthday that were easier. Certainly skipping the Blooming Hill farm dinner would have been a big step in that direction. Certainly I could have done a simpler menu and that’s something I need to work on. I have a tendency to get carried away – to be a Home Entertaining Over-achiever. We could have gone out to a restaurant. That certainly would have been easier…and noisier and more expensive. It is hard to image a nicer, more personal and memorable birthday than the one we had with Larry in his home.

Happy Birthday Larry.


Next Saturday at the Bryn Mawr Farmers’ Market.
I am honored to be appearing next Saturday, October 23rd at the Bryn Mawr Farmers’ Market. I will be doing a series of short “mini-classes” each half hour. In between “classes” I am happy to answer your questions about home entertaining. At Home will be available for sale and I would be happy to inscribe your copy. At Home is a perfect holiday gift so start thinking about your list and stock up.Check here for details.


Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
On Saturday, October 23rd at 6:30 PM I will be among a long list of guests with whom you can sit at Mt. Airy USA’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Benefit. I’d love to sit with you.

Get Your Knives Sharpened at Kitchen Kapers and Contribute to Ronald McDonald House
Sharp knives are essential kitchen tools. As good as modern day knives are, they do not hold an edge indefinitely. And a honing steel can not sharpen a dull knife. A honing steel can only keep a sharp knife sharp. I guarantee that if you got your knives sharpened, it would make your prep work easier and more enjoyable. Kitchen Kapers, the local kitchenware chain, is offering in-store knife sharpening on Friday, October 29th and Saturday, October 30th. See details as to day and time at your neighborhood store. Plus, your knife sharpening will benefit the Ronald McDonald House — where Frog Commissary Catering usually spends Thanksgiving and Christmas, courtesy of a generous House benefactor.

Coming Posts
On the Road and On the Table: The Farm Stands of Long Island’s South Fork. Look for these post next week.
On the Road: Nova Scotia Farmers’ Markets – Lunenburg and Halifax.
On the Road: Blooming Hill Farm My visit to Blooming Hill’s farm market and the Saturday evening farm dinner.
The final installment of the Farm Stand Series will be reflections on and highlights of my summer’s farm stand journey and thoughts on how to make the farm stand and farmers’ market experience even better.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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On the Table: Farm Stands of Lancaster County

Posts are always best viewed on the blog site. If you are not viewing the post there, just click on the title above.

On the Road: Farm Stands of Lancaster County became On the Table for an early Sunday evening family dinner for five. Sunday home entertaining has the distinct advantage over Saturday in that it gives you an extra weekend day to spread your tasks. By doing several things on Saturday, there is less to do on Sunday.

Sunday Dinner Menu
Tomato Barn Hot Salsa with Nacho Chips
Lemon Verbena Iced Tea

Dinner
First Course
Heirloom Tomato Salad

Entree
Grilled Paillard of Chicken with Garlic, Cilantro & Lime
Grilled Eggplant & Banana Peppers
Arugula

Corn & Pepper Salad
Beet & Red Onion Salad
Wax Bean Salad

Dessert
Lemon Verbena Sorbet
Nectarines and Golden Raspberries
Market Day Canele – from Rittenhouse Square Farmers’ Market

Dinner began as a buffet.

But with only five of us, we opted to serve dinner family style at the table. The heirloom tomato salad became a first course. We served an inexpensive Pink Truck California Rose with dinner.

I learned flower arranging from Peter von Starck when I was a busboy at La Panetiere in the early 70’s. Here is seventeen dollars worth of farm stand flowers from the Rittenhouse Square Farmers’ Market turned into a lovely flower arrangement for dinner and days after. There is a wonderful two-page spread in At Home on “Simplified Flower Arranging” that I highly recommend.  Flower arranging involves technique that is quite straightforward. It all starts by building a “web” or armature of stems. Once you get the hang of it, you can easily make your own “florist-worthy” arrangements.

A simple hors d’oeuvres of prepared Tomato Barn hot salsa with store-bought nacho corn chips.

Dinner began with an heirloom tomato salad — from nature’s paintbox comes one of summer’s glorious tastes. Tomorrow’s post will be Assembling and Plattering an Heirloom Tomato Salad.

Our dinner’s centerpiece were Grilled Paillards of Chicken marinated in garlic, cilantro and lime topped with a little arugula and served with grilled baby eggplant and mildly hot banana peppers. (I just love that mix of sweet and hot!)

A simple corn salad with sweet red peppers, jalapenos, corn, red onion and dressed with a bit of red wine vinegar and olive oil.

A simple beet salad of boiled beets, peeled and sliced with just red onion and a but of red wine vinegar and olive oil.

Blanched yellow beans, lots of thin-sliced torpedo red onions plus scallions for more color.

Dessert was a Lemon Verbena sorbet with tree-ripened nectarines cut into small pieces, combined with golden raspberries and a little sugar — all allowed to sit a few hours to macerate and adorned with a Market Day Canele. The lemon verbena sorbet is very simple to make though requires an ice cream maker. The recipe for this sorbet will be posted on Saturday.

Market Day Canale — available in the small size pictured here and a larger size — are a sort of baked caramel-custard. Ingredients are whole milk, eggs, sugar, flour, rum, butter, Tahitian vanilla and orange zest. Market Day’s Canale are available at area Farmers’ Markets including Calark Park, Fitler Square, Rittenhouse Square and Headhouse Square. Metropolitan Bakery also sells wonderful canele.

Behind the scenes.

To facilitate the absorbing of the brushed olive oil and grilling, I made a cross-hatching of slits in the eggplant.

Using my ever-trusty grill pan, the eggplant start with flesh side down. When well marked, they are turned.

There is a recipe for in At Home for Charred Chicken Paillards with Citrus-Cilantro Salad on Page 192 that is a variation of this farm stand dinner. I use a knife I bought in Kyoto many years ago, but any sharp slicing knife will work. The key is sharp.

By cutting chicken breasts into thin “paillards” you expose much more of the chicken’s surface to the wonders of the grill compared to simply grilling whole breasts and slicing. In addition, the thin-sliced breast absorbs more of the marinade’s flavor — an altogether superior way to grill chicken breasts. You begin by making lateral slices of the breast. Then, place these slices on parchment paper — plastic wrap also works — leaving space between slices. Cover with an additional sheet of parchment paper and lightly pound with a meat pounder or bottom of a small pot to further flatten slices. Take care not to pound so hard that the paillards fall apart.

Here are the pounded paillards. These are transferred to a bowl with a marinade of garlic, cilantro, fresh lime juice, olive oil and salt and pepper.

They grill quickly. Turn as you see the edges turn opaque. My objective was to serve them just warm so I was content to grill them in small batches in my little grill pan.

Do Ahead Strategy

I have said again and again, home entertaining is more a matter of aspiration, planning, spreading tasks over time and organization than any culinary skills. Here everything is ready to go. The chicken is marinated and ready to grill by the stove, the grilled eggplant and sweet and hot pepper grilled earlier in the day, heirloom tomatoes sliced and ready to platter (see tomorrow’s post on Assembling and Plattering an Heirloom Tomato Salad), the corn salad, yellow beans and beets ready to bowl, iced tea made and arugula at the ready. It’s not rocket science.

The only item served warm were the grilled chicken paillards. The platter was ready with the room temperature elements with the arugula for topping adjacent. Everything else was plattered and bowled and in the dining room.

Do Ahead Prep If you leave everything to the last minute you only have a minute to do everything.
The key to relaxed and enjoyable home entertaining is to spread your tasks over time.  Here was the schedule for this dinner.

Thursday evening

Prepared corn salad except for dressing. It sat happily in the refrigerator through Sunday and by blanching corn that I had bought only several hours earlier, I captured the corn’s full sweetness.
Boiled, peeled and sliced beets
Blanched yellow string beans
Prepared base for lemon verbena sorbet

Friday
Froze lemon verbena sorbet

Saturday
Bought and chilled wine
Bought canele
Prepared chicken paillards
Finished beet salad
Bought and arranged flowers

Sunday — early
Marinated chicken
Cut and grilled eggplant and peppers
Dressed corn salad
Added onions and scallions to yellow bean salad and dressed
Cut nectarines and macerated with golden raspberries
Cut tomatoes for heirloom tomato salad
Cut lime wedges
Made lemon verbena iced tea
Pulled all platters and bowls
Set table

Sunday

Shortly before guests arrived
Salsa and chips out on coffee table
Platter and bowled everything and put out on buffet — except for chicken
Plattered heirloom tomato salad — See tomorrow’s post for how to do this
Open wine

Just before sitting down to dinner
Grilled chicken paillards and plattered
Transferred sorbet from freezer to refrigerator to temper (soften) before serving

It was a relaxed Sunday and easy dinner. Not because the dinner was so simple, but because I spread my tasks — tasks that I enjoy if I don’t feel under pressure — over time. Reminder that At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking and Entertaining is loaded with tips and strategies to make home entertaining easier. For more information.

Coming
Friday: Assembling and Plattering a Heirloom Tomato Salad
Saturday: Lemon Verbena Sorbet Recipe
Next week’s On the Road begins a series of posts focused on Philadelphia’s major neighborhood farmers’ markets. Also ahead are trips to New York’s Hudson River Valley and Long Island’s South Fork.

To access all At Home’s Blog Recipes, click here.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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On the Table: Farm Stands of the North Fork, L.I.

Reminder that if you are not viewing post at the blog site, it looks best there. To get to the blog site, just click on title. The blog site also gives you easy access to explore past blogs as well as the blog recipe library.

Dinner was at the Remsenberg, Long Island, home of my brother and sister-in-law. Remsenberg is about 10 minutes from the Riverhead “entrance” to the North Fork. I went there for a few days with my friend and At Home illustrator Pascal Lemaitre and his 7-year old daughter Maelle. The evening’s breeze had blown away the heat and humidity of the day so we had our Farm Stands of the North Fork dinner outside. It was my plan to divide our meal into “appetizers” and “dinner.” But it got late and we decided to enjoy everything at once on platters, “family style.”

With the exception of the shishito peppers that I picked up in Bordentown, New Jersey on the way to Long Island, and the nacho chips, everything came from my North Fork drive. As is always the case, I don’t exactly know what I will make when I start the drive. What I find leads me to a menu. The ability to use a big, outdoor grill — rather than just my trusty indoor grill pan — played a big role in determining my menu.

Our North Fork Farm Stand Menu
Garlic Sauteed Shishito Peppers
Tomatilla Salsa with Nacho Chips
My Mother’s Eggplant Salad
Sliced Pan-Seared Long Island Duck Breast
Brick-grilled Miloski’s Poultry Farm Chicken
Heirloom Tomato and Husk Tomato Salad on Leaf Lettuce
Grilled Ciabatta Bread
Creamy Roasted Corn, Sweet Pepper and Romano Bean Salad
Grilled “Fairy Tale” Eggplant and Baby Squash

Dessert
Grilled figs with Catapano Dairy Farm honey-lavender goat cheese
Cantaloupe

These are the wonderful small figs that I found.

Garlic Sauteed Shishito Peppers
These peppers came from a Bordentown, NJ farm. They simply require a quick saute in olive oil, toss in a little garlic at the end, turn on to platter and add lots of sea salt. See an upcoming post about Shishito peppers.

Tomatilla Salsa with Nacho Chips
Not the best photo. I love the sour acidity of a green salsa. Simply remove the husk from tomatilla, cut into food processor-friendly sized pieces and process until nearly a puree but still a bit chunky. Add garlic, a little jalapeno, red onion, lime juice, olive oil and lots of cilantro.

My Mother’s Eggplant Salad
The recipe for this is on page 79 in At Home. In making this, I took advantage of the grill to cook the eggplant rather than the oven as called for in recipe. Once eggplant is cooked it is scraped away from peel, coarsely chopped and combined with green pepper, scallion, garlic, lemon zest, olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper. I substituted red pepper and red onion for the green pepper and scallion.

Sliced pan-seared Long Island Duck Breast
The boneless duck breast was marinated in Dansom plum juice and honey. Just before pan-searing in oil, I dried the breast well. It takes about 3-4 minutes per side to cook medium rare. As with all meats and poultry, allow five to ten minutes for it to sit before slicing. This was conceived to be a little appetizer, but joined the dinner when we decided to enjoy everything at once at the table. It was served simply and unadorned and a huge hit.

Brick-grilled Miloski’s Poultry Farm Chicken
Pascal and I had eaten swordfish and soft shells the prior two nights so I passed on seafood. Miloski’s was a little off my tour path so Pascal, Maelle and I drove there the morning of our dinner. People sometime think chicken is a little pedestrian for entertaining. But a good roasted or grilled chicken can be a treat. My notion was to brick-grill the chicken which means using a weight on top. This gets explained and shown later in this post.

Heirloom Tomato and Husk Tomato Salad on Leaf Lettuce
Last evening Christina, Larry, my brother-in-law and I had a “tomato tasting.” It is easy to get caught up in the “heirloom” hype. I wanted to compare excellent, vine ripe “Jersey tomatoes” with a variety of more expensive “heirloom” tomatoes. They all were simply dressed with olive oil and salt and pepper. Of the six varieties we tasted, with the exception of one, the heirloom tomatoes had far better flavor and a nice balance of acid and sweet than the Jersey tomatoes and totally worth the price difference. Life is short and though it sometimes feels like this hot and humid summer will never end, before you know it, summer — and farm stand heirloom tomatoes — will be just a memory. Seize the day! Go get some heirloom tomatoes this weekend and share them with friends and family.

Grilled Ciabatta Bread
Ciabatta has a good crust and spongy texture that makes it an ideal grilling bread. Grilling bread makes for an easy embellishment to a summer’s meal. See yesterday’s post on Grilled Bread.

Creamy Roasted Corn, Sweet Pepper and Romano Bean Salad
Caught up in the “roasted corn” offered at North Fork Farm Stands, I decided to do a roasted corn salad. In addition, as raw peppers do not agree with Pascal’s constitution, I decided to roast the red peppers I would typically add to a corn salad for color. I had some Roman beans left-over from the prior night’s dinner. And that’s how this salad ended up on the menu. If I was doing it again, I would stick with simply blanched corn. I think roasting robs the corn of its essential sweetness. On it’s own and simply on the cob, roasting transforms the sweetness of corn into a sweet nuttiness. But it got lost in the complicated salad. Its dressing was a fresh, olive oil based mayonnaise, though you can certainly use a good store-brand.

Grilled Variegated “Fairy Tale” Eggplant and Baby Squash
These little beauties simply got split, brushed with olive oil and grilled. Raw eggplant is unpleasant so it is important to be sure eggplant gets fully grilled including the thicker, meatier end. You can tell when eggplant is fully cooked when you have the skin-side down and you can see the eggplant flesh on top slightly “bubbling” and pushing up.

Grilled figs with Catapano Dairy Farm honey-lavender goat cheese
Cantaloupe

There certainly were lots of fresh-baked farm stand pies that would have made a great dessert — especially slightly warmed in the oven and served with good vanilla ice cream. But after a big meal, something lighter and simpler worked better. Along with the duck breast, these perfectly ripe figs — split, lightly brushed with honey and olive oil and grilled and served with a simple fresh goat cheese, were dinner stand-outs. Here Maelle tries to control her impulse to consume all of the figs herself! Because the figs were so tiny, I grilled them indoors in a grill pan. The grates of an outdoor gill would have been too small for these little wonders.

Some behind the scenes looks

Grilling eggplant for My Mother’s Eggplant Dip and peppers for the Roasted Corn, Pepper and Romano Bean Salad.

Grill-roasting corn for the corn salad.

Grilling Fairy Tale eggplant and baby squash — everything get split in half and brushed with garlic-scented olive oil.

Making the Brick-grilled Chicken from Mikowski’s Poultry Farm

Ingredients included two chickens, two limes, dried farm stand chilies, garlic and cilantro.

I removed the backbone enabling me to butterfly chicken.

I used both the lime rind and lime juice to marinate chicken as well as lots of chopped garlic, diced dried chiles, lots of cilantro and salt and pepper.

The chicken marinated for about six hours. Overnight would have been fine.

The chickens were placed on the grill over moderate heat and weighted down with a large piece of slate found by my brother when I assigned him to locate a substitute for bricks which we did not have. The slate flattens the chicken and increases its contact with the grill. A single large weight was a challenge to handle requiring two substantial grilling tongs.

Nicely grilled on top…

..and bottom.

Finally cut up into friendly sized pieces and ready to platter.

Do Ahead Strategy
As I contend each time, this is a dinner you could do and with some planning and getting a few things done days ahead, you can get one relaxed hour…and more before guests arrive. And you can certainly pick and choose and do a less elaborate dinner.

Up to 3 days ahead
Complete all shopping except corn
Make Tomatilla Salsa
Make My Mother’s Eggplant Salad
Chop garlic

Day before
Buy corn
Split and marinate chicken
Rinse lettuce
Roast corn and peppers, blanch Romano beans and make corn salad
Marinate duck breast
Slice melon
Trim stems and halve figs
Pull and label bowls and platters
Set table
Refrigerate wine or beer

Day of up to five hours before guests arrive
Grill fairy take eggplant and squash
Split and grill figs
Slice tomatoes, onions and platter tomato salad – cover and refrigerate

As dinner approaches
Sear and slice duck breast
Grill chicken, cut into pieces and platter
Grill bread
Dress tomatoes
Platter everything not already plattered
Put everything out

Last minute
Saute shishito peppers

Enjoy and be proud!!

In the Coming Weeks — On the Road and On the Table
A Trio of Philadelphia Neighborhood Farmers’ Markets – Clark Park, Rittenhouse Square and Headhouse Square
Farm Stands of Lancaster County, PA
Farm Stands of Hudson Valley, NY
A Backyard in Moorestown, NJ
Farm Stands of The South Fork of Long Island, NY

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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On the Table: Farm Stands of Northern Chester & Montgomery Counties, PA

At dinner’s end, with guests gone and a tired me sitting on the couch, Christina nicely extolled a wonderful dinner. While I appreciated her compliments, I expressed that this dinner was not a culinary triumph that required any great skill. I asserted, as I often do, that preparing a nice meal is more a matter of aspiration and planning than it is any great skill. You could have prepared this dinner.

Here is the slightly ridiculous haul from my drive through Northern Chester & Montgomery Counties. My farm stand shopping is a matter of faith. I have faith that when I get home I will find good uses for all that I have purchased over the week.

Here was my mostly Northern Chester & Montgomery County Menu:

Hors d’oeuvres
Roast marinated sweet & hot peppers with grilled bread
Deviled eggs
Soppressetta from DiBruno’s
Cerviche of diver scallops with coriander

Dinner
Cold Beet Soup with Cucumbers, Sour Cream & Dill

Tomato & Red Leaf Lettuce Salad

Grilled Shiso-marinated Swordfish
Creamy Corn Salad
Grilled Wax Beans

Cherry Grove Farm Toma Primavera

Peach Sorbet with Blackberries & Doughnut Peaches

Dinner began at 7 PM with the Blanc de Blanc Champagne from J.Maki’s Chester County winery. Everyone agreed it was excellent by any standard — not just excellent for being a local champagne.

Light hors d’oeuvres included roast, marinated sweet and hot pepper, deviled eggs and a DiBruno’s house-made soppressetta. The deviled eggs includes mayonnaise, mustard, a tiny dice or cornichon, fresh chives and topped with sweet smoked Spanish paprika. Frankly, the roasted peppers were a pain to peel — but they were possibly the unexpected hit of the evening. I bought them at a stand in a residential street from a “backyard” farmer whose mode of transport was a golf cart rather than a tractor. The peppers were arrayed in little plastic baskets like we use to serve burgers at Frog Burger — $1 a basket, one red sweet and one hot green. But they were very thin-skinned peppers that were difficult to peel after I charred them in the broiler. I cut them into short, thin strips and tossed them in olive oil and garlic. They were served with grilled bread — something a bit different from fully crisp crostini. I plan to post a “How to Make Grilled Bread” Tip in the next week or so. DiBruno’s house-made dried sausages are a go-to easy hors d’oeuvres addition.

Another very easy hors d’oeuvres are sliced diver scallops — also know as dry scallops because they are not packed in that awful white liquid that lesser quality scallops can be packed. They are simply thin-sliced and “dressed” about a half hour before guests arrive with lime juice, olive oil, chives and crushed toasted coriander seed — plus a little sea salt and pepper. There is a similar recipe on page 149 of At Home using pink peppercorns.

Unlike recent weeks when dinner was served family style on the table — that is, on platters where guests helped themselves, this menu was a plated dinner.

This cold beet soup is the third cold soup I have done this month. As frequently noted, I am a fan of soups as meal starters. They are easy, do ahead and lend themselves to dressing up. Here, the soup is dressed up with a small dice of cucumber, a dollop of sour cream and fresh dill. To make the soup, I just peeled the beets, cut into similar-sized chunks, cooked in a corn stock with onion and garlic, pureed in a blender and flavored with red wine vinegar. Look for the recipe tomorrow.

The cold soup co-opted the first course that would likely included tomatoes so I added a small tomato salad to the menu. I picked up some beautiful red accented lettuce from the Z Farm stand on Rittenhouse Square in the morning. The tomatoes and sweet onion came from my trip as did the basil. So, this is just the lettuce, two slices of tomato, topped with small yellow pear and orange tomatoes — cut into half as even the smallest tomatoes should be — dressed with a little balsamic, very good olive oil, Maldon sea salt and fresh ground black pepper and topped with a basil chiffonade. Everything was ready to go to be plated well before guests arrived.

I had grilled fresh swordfish earlier in the week for Christina and she lobbied to have it again for our guests. Given my failure to locate duck or lamb or pork on my drive, I went for the swordfish. It was marinated in a little garlic, shredded shiso — a minty, grassy herb that I got from Z Farm and olive oil. It was grilled in my grill pan — good as any you would get off a backyard grill. Served with a properly trimmed lemon wedge. There is a similar recipe on page 198 in At Home. I decided to grill the yellow wax beans. Just lightly tossed in olive oil and grill. Here a grill pan is much better than an open grill as there is no place for the beans to fall. The grilling adds a dimension to the otherwise very simple beans. See At Home page 307 for Grilled Green Beans. And what’s the purpose of a summer’s dinner but for an excuse to eat corn. Here it’s shaved with just a little sweet red pepper for color and purple scallion. What was unusual about this corn salad is that I had some leftover home-made mayonnaise from the deviled eggs and felt that the plate could use something creamy so I dressed the corn salad in the mayonnaise. It was sweet and creamy with a little bite from the scallion. One does not frequently see a corn salad with a creamy dressing.

We served the J.Maki Viognier with dinner. Like the champagne, it was also excellent. If you are not familiar with Viognier’s — a varietal grape that typically not bone dry and with tropical fruit overtones. At Home owners check-out the wine chart on page 32.

Rather than a full blown and filling cheese course added to an already ample meal, I served just a little bit of a Toma Primavera from Lawrenceville, NJ’s Cherry Grove Farm. I would put this cheese up there with the world’s best cheeses. It is available at the Rittenhouse Square Farmer’s Market. It’s served with a little grilled bread.

Weaver’s peaches were ripe, sweet, spectacular and easy to handle freestones. I made a peach sorbet by simply pureeing a mix or yellow and white peaches — skin and all – them passing the puree through a strainer to remove the larger pieces of skin — adding a ginger-scented simple syrup and then freezing in my ice cream freezer. It is important to “temper” sorbet or ice cream before serving. That means removing it from the freezer so it has a chance to soften somewhat. The peach sorbet was served with a grilled half of a yellow doughnut peach. I used an apple corer to get the pit out while accenting the “doughnut.” These were brushed with honey from Jack’s Farm Stand of two weeks ago and olive oil and grilled. Blackberries provided a color and slightly sour counterpoint.

Prep and Service Strategy
I always counsel that the ideal is to begin planning a weekend dinner at least the weekend before and spread your tasks over time. My current schedule isn’t allowing me to do this, but here’s how I would approach this meal if I were you. The sorbet and roast marinated peppers the weekend before. (Be careful not to eat those wonderful peppers during the week!)  The cold beet soup early in the week. You can also make deviled eggs mid-week though I would not stuff them until Friday or Saturday. Shop on Thursday for everything else except the swordfish and scallops. On Friday, grill bread and store in air-tight bag, dice cucumbers and chop dill for soup, slice onions for tomato salad, rinse lettuce and store in damp towel, blanch yellow beans, make corn salad, chop garlic for swordfish marinade, make lemon wedges and remove pits from doughnut peaches. Friday also set the table and chill wine.

That leaves for Saturday during the day, slice scallops, marinate swordfish, grill yellow beans, slice small tomatoes and make basil chiffonade. Grill doughnut peaches. Place hors d’oeuvres on platters or bowls. Make sure you give yourself one relaxed hour before guests arrive. If you follow this schedule that will be easy.

To turn-out dinner: dress scallops, bowl and garnish soup, arrange and dress tomato salad, grill swordfish and plate entree, cut cheese and plate with grilled bread, plate sorbet with doughnut peach and peach sorbet.

I am not suggesting this is no effort. Nor am I suggesting you try to repeat this exact meal — though I believe you could. What I am suggesting is that by planning ahead and spreading out your tasks, this can all be fun and not a chore — including the shopping.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Filed under Entertaining at Home, Menus, On the Table