Sunday, July 17, 2011

Nuts in Every Dish

Oh my, I haven't blogged for awhile - probably because I have been trying to lose some weight by eating lots of salads which are good but not exciting. This weekend we hosted another UU Silent Auction dinner titled "Nuts In Every Dish" with a caution that people with nut allergies should not bid on the dinner. The nut theme was inspired by a cookbook that Mother purchased which is all about cooking with nuts. I forgot to borrow it last time I visited but my trusted cookbooks from which to choose and  served up plenty of recipes.
The menu:
  • ·        Horchata (a Mexican drink made with ground rice and almonds mixed with water, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla)
  • ·        Cinnamon Almonds (purchased)
  • ·        Toasted Pecan Fruit Spread and Crackers
First Course
  • ·        Carrot Soup with Toasted Pecans
  • ·        Salad of Baby Spinach with Candied Walnuts and Sliced Strawberries
  • ·        Pistachio Turkey Ballottine with Madeira Sauce
  • ·        Jeweled Rice with Pistachios
  • ·        Butternut Squash Lasagna with Hazelnuts (made with brown rice noodles)
  • Green Beans with Slivered Almonds
Palate Cleanser
  • ·        Cantaloupe Almond Granita
  • ·        Chocolate & Hazelnut Meringue Cake
  • ·        Hazelnut Liqueur

I researched nuts on Wikipedia and found out that there is a big difference between the botanical definition of a nut and the culinary definition of a nut.  If you are curious look it up!  Most culinary nuts are really seeds in the botanical definition.  And, as many of us all know, peanut is a legume!

I was very excited to find the recipe for the Turkey Ballottine (defined as a fish or fowl boned, stuffed, rolled and roasted, thank you Gourmet Cookbooks) because it is much like a favorite Julia Child recipe that was in a cookbook that I gave away years ago without copying the single recipe I should have kept (word to the wise - before getting rid of a little used cookbook do make copies of the best recipes).  You would think that I would have loved all of the recipes in the cookbook but my personal take on Julia Child is that if anything can be made more complicated Julia will do it that way.  I don’t shy away from complicated recipes but Julia made her own gelatin from cow’s hooves…  I rest my case. 

The Cantaloupe and Almond Granita was almost a failure because it had frozen solid. Fortunately I discovered the problem right before guests arrived so I left the dish out and it gradually thawed to a semi-firm slush by the time it was next up on the menu.  It was a close call for getting served at all - thank heavens I consulted the menu as I began to lay out the dessert)

Dessert was a glorious finale - dense, flour-less chocolate cake topped with meringue with hazelnuts and bittersweet chocolate bits, a favorite recipe from a past issue of Martha Stewart's Living.
One of our guests suggested that if I was ever laid-off work I could always become a caterer. I don't think so! The dinner took two days to prepare because almost every dish took at least a couple of hours to assemble before cooking and the ingredients were not inexpensive so this dinner would probably not be a money maker for me as a caterer but it was a money maker for our favorite charity and we had a great time – chef and guests.

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