31 May 2010

Good Food Gatherings: in the Beginning...(Menu #1-#4)

So many of you have asked about what we cook every week – whether we’re hosting a small gathering, family dinner/brunch or an impromptu dinner party.

Overall, our focus is simply good food (#goodfood) ~ straightforward recipes allowing us to take advantage of the best flavors of the season.  We also like to allow for flexibility ~ to be creative, to deal with last-minute mishaps, or to permit us the short-cuts sometimes necessary (if only to maintain sanity).  Lastly, we're planners (or try to be ;-) so we set out a plan for the menus each week to stay focused and take advantage  of limited time and opportunity to get to the market.

Unless it’s a more formal gathering, our basic menus have three parts – a Starter, Main Course, and a Side.  This leaves us some flexibility in our meal planning.  Salad, for example, can work as a Starter or a Side depending on the Main Course.  We don’t plan for dessert for each menu, but rather have a few special desserts that we might work into the plan for the week (if we’ve baked a cake for instance).

We only plan 3-4 menus each week – we like an evening for leftovers, or a night to order pizza (love the bake-at-home version from HomeMade Pizza Company!) or dining out.

Our secret source for mouthwatering menus?  Truth be told, we get inspired by the delectable recipes from many different sources – cookbooks, blogs, cooking shows, restaurants and publications.  We listed many favorites in Best of the Web – 10 Recipe Resources, Sources of Foodie Inspiration (and Recipe Raves!), and Who Do You Really Need in the Kitchen.

Look for those recipes that emphasize fresh, seasonal ingredients ~ straightforward preparation (don't usually have 2+ hours to spend making a meal!!) ~ and interesting flavor combinations from different cuisine.  These are key to a recipe RAVE!  

Enough background ~ here's the plan for Good Food Gatherings this week:

GoodFood Menu #1
Starter:  Vegetable Crudites with Garbanzo Green Garlic Hummus (In Erika’s Kitchen)
Side:  Saffron Pasta Salad (101 Cookbooks)
~ for the hummus, you can substitute if need be.  We love the flavors she has introduced but go ahead and play to suit your own tastes (and what's available!).
~ for the Tuna, we choose to grill rather than sear.
~ for the Olive Tapenade Vinaigrette, we have used chopped kalamata olives only for a less intense taste.  If you opt to use the olives, adding 1-2 TB of capers (rinsed well) is interesting.

GoodFood Menu #2
Starter:  Daikon Radish Slaw Spring Rolls (Chef David Lawrence on Good Bite)
Main:  My Favorite Simple Roasted Chicken (Thomas Keller on Epicurious) with Asian Dipping Sauce (All Recipes)
Side:  Rice Noodles with Cilantro (Fine Cooking)
~ for the Daikon Slaw, it's also tasty served simply as a slaw without the roll wrappers!
~ just follow the VERY SIMPLE roasting instructions for the Chicken (no pan sauce).
~ for the Asian Dipping Sauce, and for the Rice Noodles, we love to add Chili Garlic Paste to revv up the flavor.  You can play with adding brown sugar or other citrus flavors such as orange zest to suit your tastes.
~ for this menu, we do not include the shrimp in the Rice Noodles recipe, but substitute 1 cup of grated carrots and 1 medium cucumber, seeded and chopped.

GoodFood Menu #3
Side: Thyme-Scented Grains (Food & Wine)
~ don't get intimidated by the salad - working with baby artichokes is not as difficult as you may think and Fine Cooking's Test Kitchen offers a GREAT guide - How to Clean and Trim Artichokes.
~ for the salad, feel free to substitute whatever fresh greens catch your eye though the recipe calls for arugula.  The lemon vinaigrette is a favorite and dresses up most any pick of greens.
~ we find elk at our local market, but you can substitute bison or even regular beef if you choose.
~ the Thyme-Scented Grains recipe works well with Brown Rice, Farro and even Barley.  We make enough to freeze some to have on hand (just-in-case!).

GoodFood Menu #4
Side:  Beet, Watercress and Fennel Salad with Creamy Pink Peppercorn Vinaigrette (The Local Beet and Little Locavore blogger, Melissa Graham)
~ This crostini recipe also works well with Green Garlic or Spring Onions.
~ Feel free to use either Salmon steaks or filets.
~ The Pink Peppercorn Vinaigrette will become an instant favorite ;-)

Ciao Bello Lemon Zest Sorbet sprinkled with fresh mint and a drizzle of Limoncello
Triple Layer Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (Bon Appetit)

Rhubarb Compote (Food and Style) over Ciao Bello Strawberry Sorbet 

~ Fresh sliced Champagne Mangoes sprinkled with crushed Amarettini, garnished with lime wedges.

Happy Entertaining!

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