Mad Men Party

It was my friend Terence’s birthday recently and a fabulous Mad Men party was thrown in his honor by his lady who in turn hired me to cater it. I was excited to do a retro menu and what a hit it was.

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orange elderflower jello shots

Jello used to be a hit back in the days. I made a updated version which is just a fancied up jello shot with orange juice, vodka, elderflower liquer and bitters. I served them up in candy cups and strewn with edible flowers for decoration.

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Green Bean & Sungold Tomato Salad with Mustard Seeds, Marjoram

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If a salad could convey summer, this salad must be it. Barely cooked green beans and sungold tomatoes tossed in a red wine vinaigrette. Seasoned and flecked with crunchy toasted mustard seeds and fresh marjoram with its intoxicating scent. A wonderful combination of flavors and texture. Juicy and crunchy, sweet and herbal, tart and nutty. Sure, it’s almost Halloween, but rest assured this being LA you probably can still make a summer’s salad to satisfy your vegetable needs.

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Crispy Beluga Lentils, Sungold Tomatoes, Chevre Mousse

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Channeling Cobras & Matadors’ sauteed green lentils I made a crispy black lentil and sungold tomato salad with goat cheese mousse. I fried the black lentils in about a half inch of olive oil and threw in sliced serrano ham and scallion at the end. I drained it on a paper towel, salted it and tossed with sungold tomato halves just with a light drizzle of red wine vinegar. The creamy tangy goat cheese mousse was a perfect match to the salad which had a lot going on but oh so harmonious. I served toasted baguette slices to that the items could be scooped up together and devoured.

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A Summer Dinner

I made dinner for a few friends the past weekend at my friend Ellen’s place which she has renovated with an awesome kitchen. It houses an island over 16 feet long with its own sink, wine fridge, shelves for cookbooks and a microwave, and tons of very organized storage area for all the kitchen tools and tableware. And the best of all a six burner Viking stove and french door Viking fridge. As you can imagine I was super excited to be cooking in this kitchen. Could I possibly have more surface area to work on? I think not.

Here was my summer menu:
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Vadouvan Gougeres

These look like typical gougeres but I added a spoonful of vadouvan to the batter. They came out golden, puffed up and with a hint of earthy curry.

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Heirloom Tomato with Goat Cheese, Pistachio, Cilantro

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You know I be hitting up heirloom tomatoes again this season. Hell yeah! Summer is always a happy time for me because of heirloom tomatoes. While I eat most of it just straight up with salt sometimes I can put down a proper salad and do the tomatoes justice. I sliced the tomatoes and fanned it out on a plate and seasoned it with salt. I crumbled over some tangy goat cheese and scattered over some raw pistachio, cilantro and jalapeno for a lil kick. I squeezed lime juice over the whole deal and a drizzled extra virgin olive oil to finish along with freshly cracked black pepper. Deliciousness!

Check out some of my old heirloom tomato salads HERE.

Raw Purple Asparagus & Cannellini Salad with Mint

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When I laid my eyes on the beautiful hued purple asparagus I knew I had to make something with it. As the weather got warmer I had salad increasingly more on my mind. I sliced the thick purple asparagus stalks thinly on a bias and tossed it with cannellini beans, sweet onion, mint chiffonade, lemon juice and olive oil. How simple is that for a summery dinner? The beans provide enough oomph that the salad can serve as a entree perhaps with a tear of crusty bread to accompany it. Purple asparagus are sweeter than green ones and having it raw retained a juicy refreshing crunch that complemented the creamy beans. Everyone who’s had this salad has loved it so far including me.

Fava Bean Salad with Feta, Hazelnuts, Sumac

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Oh fava beans. Such deliciousness but such hassle. It must be shelled and skinned. Then you get to the the richly green beans. I separate them by three size grouping – small, medium and large. I always have a little trouble with this part because some of the beans seem to be medium and large, or in between. Medium large. But if I start making subgroups it may be a slippery slope. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up cooking each bean one by one! 

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Separating the beans by size helps in the cooking process so that each batch of beans will cook in about the same amount of time. This will eliminate some prospects of having beans that are way over cooked (the teeny ones) and ones that may still have a taste of starchiness (the large ones). It seems like one more step of hassle but after you’ve shelled and skinned your fava beans you probably want to take care that they cook properly. Don’t want to waste all the hassle now.

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The handful of pods gave up just enough beans for one person. That’ll be me. So after all that hasslin’ and cookin’ carefully in salted boiling water I was able to make my green, summery, delicious fava bean salad with feta, hazelnuts & sumac. I dressed it with a combination of lemon juice, Champagne vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. I love contrasting flavors and textures in salad – nutty crunchy hazelnuts, bright tender fava beans, salty feta cut into little cubes. The hassle was definitely worth it. But then again I’ve only cooked fava beans once this season.

Raw Tuscan Kale Salad with Walnuts, Pecorino

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I kept hearing about raw kale in salads so I decided to try out for myself. I sliced up very thinly a bundle of destemmed Tuscan kale (also known as cavolo nero, dinosaur kale and Lacinato). I dressed it with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil and added pungent salty pecorino and nutty warm toasted walnuts. This salad really surprised me. It was delicious, hearty and satisfying. Also mentally satisfying knowing that I was getting all this nutritious greens in me.