Monday, October 20, 2008

Light-hearted Locavore CATERING Company....

Top: my niece and nephew eating pumpkin cognac cheese cake and snappy ginger cookies
Bottom: Henry Owsley, Craig Avedisian, Carla Van de Walle holding my nephew, Casey Van de Walle, Jim Van de Walle, Sandra Van de Walle holding my niece's hand, Wendy Van de Walle, Lexi Van de Walle, Camille

After graduating from Peter Kump Cooking School in 2000, I never aspired to work in a restaurant kitchen. The hours are cruel and the physical labor a pain in the back (and knees, and shoulders, and neck!!). Well, so is catering for a party! But, making Hors D’oeuvres for Mom's party was really fun and worth it especially since I went all out on the tasty (some local) food. It took me nearly a week.

Last night, we hosted about 35 friends and family for a party to celebrate the gorgeous oil painting that we commissioned of my mother painted by IRENE HECHT (it's on the wall in the above photo).

After claiming the painting as my own for six months, Henry and I decided it would be great to not only host a shindig but to surprise Mom and give the painting to her so that she (and her friends) can more readily enjoy it at HER apartment.

I will say we out did ourselves, thanks to the catering help from Mom and Camille and all of Jackie's hard work and Henry's incredibly generous nature. We made so many wonderful dishes (and Martha Stewart'a Hors D’oeuvres cookbook gave me some much needed guidance as I usually do dinner parties not cocktails). Friends and family knew to bring desserts (as you may know by now, I am not really a dessert maker) and some yummy ones indeed:
  • Greek-style Spanikopita Triangles made with fillo dough pastry from KRONOS Products which makes paper thin sheets that are easy to work with and do not stick together. KRONOS is a Chicago company, but I find their pastry is better than the locally made brands -- Greek or otherwise. I used Catapano feta cheese from Long Island, local eggs, organic butter, store bought but hand-packed pot cheese and b-rrr frozen spinach (I just couldn't face finding, washing, cooking and chopping locally grown spinach -- and, in the spirit of being "lighthearted", I wanted to avoid a time consuming treasure hunt since it's a little late in the season to find spinach in the markets in the Northeast).
  • Home-made toasted and local French Bread Crostini's, served with Vermont Maple Syrup glazed and roasted JURGIELEWICZ FARM FREE RANGE DUCK BREAST (South Shore of Long Island), topped with the jams made by Paumanok Preserves that I got at the Garden of Eve Garlic Festival a few weeks ago (I smeared the Duck Walk Vineyards Pinot Meunier Wine Jelly on the buttered crostini and topped it with a small piece of succulent duck then "dolloped" it with Spiced Plum Jam to add a hint of cinnamon and allspice and plummy fruit. (Mom kept blocking the waitress from serving the guests so she could get more and more of these -- pat myself on the back -- treats).
  • Shrimp cocktail and cocktail sauce ala Citarella
  • Homemade onion jam made with thinly sliced onions and simmered for an hour with a whole bottle of red wine (a cooking wine under $10 that is also local was not available so I used an Italian wine) served on top of tiny pate a choux pastries that Mom and I made ahead. Pate a choux (aka "shoe paste") is a puffed pastry similar to what you'd make profiteroles with just tinier (I used a pastry bag to pipe 100 little itsy bitty pastries -- so cute).
  • Cajun Country Hot and Cheesey Crab Dip served on top of homemade pita toasts seasoned with cayenne and garlic. Local only if you're in Louisiana!
  • Spiced Bombay cashews seasoned with cumin, coriander and CAYENNE! Homemade.
  • Coach Farm (New York) goat cheeses, imported brie, dried apricots and more....
  • Locally grown apples, pears, grapes
  • and, Quaresimali cookies which are basically a kind of biscotti from BROOKLYN'S Villabate Bakery -- Deborah Jacobs brought these goodies (see more on the history of Quaresimalis below)
  • Juliana's (my five year old niece) homemade and snappy Ginger Cookies and a delicious pumpkin cognac cheesecake
  • White wine, Martinelli's sparkling apple cider

Paumanok Preserves
PO Box 632
Center Moriches NY

Coach Farm
Goat Farmers
105 Mill Hill Road
Pine Plains, NY


JURGIELEWICZ FARM Center Moriches, NY 1-800-LI-DUCKS (they don't have a website) You can buy Jurgielewicz Brand at Fresh Direct and other fine stores and read more about Jurgielewicz and the challenges of being one of the last duck farms in Long Island (down from their peak in 1940s when LI produced over 6 million ducks per year)

New York Times,
"Long Island Duck Farms Struggle with Water Regulation", February 25, 2008

Villabate Pasticceria & Bakery
7117 Eighteenth Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11204

History of the Quaresimali (Lenten Cookie)
During Lent, Romans used to eat the Quaresimali, which is the Italian word for Lent and a kind of biscotti cookie, made with leavened dough, sugar, pine nuts (or almonds) and raisins and, like biscotti, twice baked to get the hard, crispy texture and noisy crunch. On the first Friday of March, the story goes, boys used to give the Quaresimali sweets to their girlfriends (and sometimes with a ring inside!). Historically, Lenten rules were stricter than they are now and the forty day period was a time of austerity and abstinence (which must have been difficult for all the food loving Italians in the South). The hardened (but sweet) cookies offered a welcome relief during Lent and were permitted because they contained no fat (certainly better for your waist).

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