About two and a half weeks ago my brother’s friends Sarvi and Aaron contacted me about catering for their wedding party. It was supposed to be a more casual event held at a artsy and hip neighborhood bar/art gallery, providing guests with a light lunch. I enthusiastically took on the task with the help of my friend Ellen. So I began the menu planning keeping in mind that the food would have to be finger food so guests can eat easily while standing and drinking, the food would have to go with some nice wine, and of course something delicious.
Hummus, Muhammara & California Harissa with Fresh Baguette Slices
Marinated Feta & Olives with Rosemary & Lemon Zest
Bacon-wrapped, Parmesan-Stuffed Dates
Goat Cheese Mousse Tartlets with Candied Pepitas
Romesco Pulled Pork Canape with Pecorino Salsa Verde
Tuna Tartar with Pickled Red Onion & Chives (Ellen’s hor d’oeuvre)
Prosciutto di Parma, Buffalo Mozzarella, Basil & Wild Arugula Sandwich
Balsamic Roasted Onion, Sun-dried Tomato, Ricotta & Wild Arugula Sandwich
Hor d’oeuvres would work great for this event since they are finger food but the menu also needed other items to round it out. So I made a trio of dips – muhammara, California harissa and hummus. I made the hummus using Clifford A. Wright’s recipe by using dried chickpeas, not canned. This was the first time I made hummus from dried chickpeas and although a bit laborious due to the peeling of the beans the results were very delicious. As with many dishes made from scratch for the first time, you realize how much you’ve been missing out.
I used Paula Wolfert’s recipe for the muhammara which was so delicious! Muhammara is an eastern Mediterranean dip made from roasted red peppers, chili, walnuts and pomegranate molasses. The whole roasted serrano chili I added gave a real nice kick to it. Yup I added seeds and all since the recipe said add to taste. Nutty, sweet, savory and lightly spiced, this is definitely one of my favorite dips now.
The California harissa is Suzanne Goin’s recipe which I’ve used in so many different recipes and dishes. She is like the goddess of flavor combinations and the most flavorful rustic sauces. Just in this menu I used three of her sauces. Once you get a few of her recipes down the combinations are endless since the sauces are so versatile. But they are also delicious on their own with some fresh rustic bread.
I also made some marinated olives and feta and served them in this great elongated dish I picked up at Ross for only $6. Yeah, I am a discount dish junkie. It does pay off to keep your eyes open at these discount places because you can find quality stuff once in a while for very cheap – like $0.99 for a Le Creuset ramekins. Back to the food – I marinated the olives and feta in olive oil, rosemary, lightly crushed garlic just to infuse the oil, and lemon zest.
I’ve never met anyone who didn’t adore A.O.C.’s roasted dates, so I put them on the menu, and as expected people went crazy for them. Ellen made about 120 pieces of these and they were all gone. This is a super easy recipe so if you love A.O.C.’s dates or you love bacon or parmesan do make these at home. All you need are pitted dates, parmesan, and thinly sliced American bacon from the deli. Now stuff, wrap with half a slice of bacon, and roast at a high temp.
Romesco is one of my favorite condiments and I always turn to Suzanne Goin’s version (what can I say, she is awesome). Pork is another one of my favorite things, as a hunkin piece of meat and in all its cured, salted, smoked incarnations. Romesco is a great condiment for any meat but I thought pulled pork tossed with romesco would be meaty and delicious. Normally I would have made feta salsa verde to top the canape but since I already had the marinated feta I turned to pecorino romano.
I made the base from wonton skins which I greased and baked in mini muffin pans. I ran out of spray oil at about the 60th skin out of the 140 I needed to make. Doh! I thought just brushing on the oil would be the same but for these wonton shells spray oil is really the method of choice because it coats it a lot lighter. After baking all of em I brush off the excess flour on each wonton skin with a pastry brush, a step which I didn’t take the last time I made these shells which made them sorta floury.
The pulled pork was juicy and the romesco added such a great nutty chili flavor to it. Serious yum. I froze the chunk of leftover pork since I won’t have time to eat it this week. But a romesco pulled pork sandwich will surely rear its beautiful head sometime in the near future.
For my second hor d’oeuvre I turned to the always dependable and delicious goat cheese mousse which I’ve served many times since I came across Thomas Keller’s recipe which actually calls for beautiful parmesan crisp baskets. I knew it would be way too time consuming and insane to make 120 parmesan crisp baskets because of their delicate nature and the crazy speed required to form the baskets immediately after they come out of the oven. So instead phyllo dough was used to form the base. Ellen took over the duty of the phyllo shells, which would have been impossible for me to do with my oven being invaded by the baking of all the wontons, the roasting of the pulled pork, and the roasting of the balsamic onions for the sandwiches. I added my own touch to the goat cheese mousse by sprinkling candied pepitas (also Goin), which were made with butter, sugar, cinnamon, paprika, and cumin. I love the sweet and saltiness of the seeds, accented by warm spices.
I originally had cauliflower soup shooters on the menu but soon took it off because we weren’t able to find a good-sized disposable shot glasses and since the bar didn’t have a full kitchen and no servers were hired for the small event renting shot glasses for the event would prove some difficulties. In its place Ellen offered up her version of Emeril’s tuna tartar, flavored with shallots, dijon, olive oil, and wasabi creme fraiche. Pickled red onion was added for a nice crunch and tartness along with a garnish of chives. The tartar was served on sesame crackers.
To add some heft to the menu, we offered some delicious Italian sandwiches which we made with freshly baked Bay Cities bread. One had beautiful prosciutto di parma, creamy soft buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil and wild arugula from Maggie’s Farm. The vegetarian offering had roasted onion marinated in balsamic onion, sun-dried tomatoes, creamy ricotta, and likewise some peppery wild arugula.
All the guests were very happy with the food and more importantly Saarvi and Aaron were super happy. It was an honor to be hired for their special day considering they’ve only had my food a few times at my brother’s gatherings. It was a great time and the event was a breeze and with guests saying the food was “incredible”, “amazing” and “so delicious” it makes all the effort worth it. And thanks to Ellen for helping out with making the hundreds of pieces of the dates, phyllo shells and the tuna tartar!