Catering for 20 – Ahhh, Now We’re Talking

Sometimes it’s such a relief to cook for the same number I cook for all summer long.  It must sound funny, but it’s actually LESS thinking for me.  I don’t have to hold back on amounts like I do when cooking for the family or testing recipes and even then half the time I end up with twice as much as I need!  This job came a while ago, but no matter, it has some of my favorites, one of which is oft requested on the Riggin, Artichoke and Roasted Red Pepper Dip.  When I take these platters of bubbly, crusty, cheesy flavor out of my wood stove on the boat and bring them on deck to a crowd of hungry sailors, they NEVER come back empty.  I’ve taken to setting some aside for the crew so that they get a bite as well.

food for a crowd

Artichoke and Roasted Red Pepper Dip

dip for crudite

Could the color of these veggies be any prettier?  That’s White Bean and Roasted Garlic Dip for the vegans.

dip for crudites

More dip, cause we all gotta have our veggies!

easy appetizers for a crowd

Roasted Mushroom Pate en Croute – another one that never comes back empty.  For me, this is one that I have to say to myself, “Step awaaay from the food.  Awaaaay.”

appetizers for a crowd

This one is my favorite because it’s so pretty.  Sesame Soy Udon noodles are wrapped around forks and served on a bed of shaved bright purple cabbage.  Guests just take one or two forks for their plates.

appetizers for a crowd

Delicata Squash and Goat Cheese Tartlets – kinda pop in your mouth goodness.

Playing in my winter kitchen

Cook the Book: Sundried Tomato Spread

Sun-Dried Tomato Spread  

1 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil (not the kind you have to reconstitute), drained
1/4  cup packed fresh Italian parsley
1/4  cup packed fresh basil
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup grated fresh Romano cheese
1/2 head roasted garlic
Fresh pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all of the ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor and pulse them until they are completely mixed. Turn on the processor and add the olive oil in a steady stream just until the mixture gets loose enough to roll and turn over (rather than being bound up). Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.  Overnight is even better.  Serve with Crostini (page 50).

Makes approximately 2 cups

Cook the Book – Herb-Cheese Bread

Herb-Cheese Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons shortening
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sour milk
2/3 cup grated cheddar cheese
2/3 cup cottage cheese
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon dried dill
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried tarragon
½ teaspoon dried oregano

Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease one loaf pan. In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Make a well, then add the remaining ingredients and stir until just mixed. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 55 minutes.

Makes 1 loaf

Cook the Book – Lentil & Sun-Dried Tomato Salad

Lentil and Sun-Dried Tomato Salad

I like French lentils for this recipe as they are tastier and they don’t get mushy as fast.

2 cups lentils
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
1 1/2 cups peeled and diced cucumber
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Juice of one lemon
Goat or feta cheese for garnish (optional)

Cook the lentils in salted, boiling water until done, about 25 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Combine the lentils with the remaining ingredients (except the cheese). Garnish with crumbled cheese and serve.

Serves 6-8

From: At Home, At Sea: Recipes from the Maine Windjammer J&E Riggin

Easy Turkey Meals – Happy Thanksgiving to ALL

The house is filled with the hum of conversation and bursts of laughter in the family room, the windows are a little steamy in the corners and kitchen is filled to bursting with food preparation and the smells of dishes that haven’t been enjoyed since last Thanksgiving.  I stop for a moment in my whisking and soak in the sounds of my family ensconced in a day together, connecting, reminiscing and sharing – a meal, time, space – together.

This is the day I look forward to having next week and I wish the same for you all.  Over the years I’ve posted many recipes that might be helpful on Thanksgiving Day – Turkey Confit is perfect for a smaller gathering, as is Turkey Galantine (a breast rolled and stuffed), Turkey Stock is a helpful recipe after the main event and Breaking Down a Whole Turkey is a skill that every cook could have up their sleeve.  I hope that one or more of these recipes helps in bringing you and yours together over good food and a table burgeoning with care.


Be well, my friends, and grateful for it all,

Stuffing Recipes – To go with your Thanksgiving Day meal

Stuffing is my absolute favorite part of Thanksgiving Dinner, forget the turkey, forget the gravy or the cranberry sauce, if I don’t have my stuffing, I’m feeling a little bereft.  These are a few of my favorites that have run in previous years in columns or in the Riggin‘s Windjammer e-newsletters. If you’d like to sign up for the monthy newsletters, go to the bottom of the Riggin‘s site or use this link.

Golden Northern Cornbread
Sausage & Apple Stuffing
Bacon, Rosemary & Cornbread Stuffing
Cranberry, Pecan & Sage Stuffing
Wild Rice, Pear and Cranberry Stuffing

Go crazy, make two recipes!

German Chocolate Cake – Maine Ingredient

This rich cake is saved from being cloyingly sweet by the bittersweet chocolate ganache and the pecans which both add a slight layer of tang or acidity that combines to big time advantage with the sweet frosting.  It ran with a Homemade Macaroni and Cheese recipe in the Portland Press Herald last Wednesday.

German Chocolate Cake
The box recipe that my mom and grandma always used to make was never attractive to me as a child.  With the addition of a layer of ganache, however, the balance of bitter and sweet in the chocolate make this a dessert my daughters love.  Me too!  I used the traditional recipe for the frosting, but instead of standing over the stove for 12 to 15 minutes stirring constantly, I put the frosting over a double boiler and only stir occasionally.  It takes longer, closer to 30 minutes for the mixture to thicken.  The ganache is straight from Christopher Kimball’s The Dessert Bible.  It’s perfect just the way it is and needs not even a little tweaking.

German chocolate actually has less cacao, what gives chocolate its distinctive flavor, than semi sweet or bittersweet at 46%, 54% and 67% respectively.  This then the reason that the cakes are lighter in color and chocolate flavor.  (And also why the layer of ganache makes this cake so much better.)

4 ounces German chocolate, 4 squares, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces or smaller
1/2 cup fresh, hot coffee
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, plus a little more for the pan
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter two 9-inch round cake pans.  In a small bowl, combine the chocolate and coffee and cover.  Stir after 5 minutes to make sure the chocolate has melted.  Cool.  Cream the butter and sugar together and then add the eggs one at a time.  Add the cooled chocolate.  Sift the flour over the creamed mixture alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla.  Mix until just combined.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a tooth pick comes clean when inserted into the center of the cake.   Let cool in the pan.

1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
8 ounces German or bittersweet chocolate, 8 squares, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces or smaller

In a small saucepan, bring the cream, butter and syrup to a strong simmer.  Add the chocolate and cover for 5 minutes.  Stir to be sure the chocolate has fully melted.  Then cool to a point where it will set on the cake, but is still spreadable.

Coconut Frosting:
1, 12oz. can evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup butter, one stick
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cup toasted coconut
1 cup toasted pecans

Place all ingredients except coconut and pecans in the top of a double boiler, keeping at least 1-inch of simmering water in the lower pan.  Stir occasionally until the mixture thickens considerably.  Add the coconut and cool in the refrigerator until it will spread, but set well on the cake.

Assemble the Cake:
Place a dollop of ganache on a flat, round platter or upturned round baking dish.  (This is if you don’t have a cake turn table.)  Flip one of the cakes top side down into the middle of the platter.  Spread half of the ganache and then repeat with the second cake, again top side down.  Spread the coconut frosting on the top and sides of the cake.  With your hands, press the pecans into the sides of the cake, picking up what doesn’t stick and repeating until the entire side is covered.

Cook the Book – Apple Crisp

Some of my favorite shipboard memories are of times when we are at anchor, the awning is up, the decks are cleared and dinner is over. Jon and I are able to sit and look out over the harbor and watch the sunset with our passengers as we enjoy our after dinner coffee and dessert.

Apple Crisp from At Home At Sea

Apple Crisp

12 tart apples
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400°. Peel, core, and slice the apples into 1/4-inch wedges; toss them with the rest of the filling ingredients and spread them evenly in an ungreased 9 x 13-inch pan. In a separate bowl, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is coarsely blended.  Mix the sugar and salt into the topping; mixture should be crumbly. Place the topping on top of the apple mixture and bake for 45 minutes or until the top is browned and the liquid in the apples is dark.

Makes 15 servings

(c) Annie Mahle
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Cook the Book – Banana Salsa

This is a great topping to go with grilled salmon, tuna, pork or chicken.  It’s really important to make this salsa just before you seve it. It will sit for maybe half an hour, but is better is served immediately. It’s also important to finely dice the peppers and onions because they don’t have time to marinate.

Banana Salsa

2 bananas (firm, but rip), diced
2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
1 tablespoon eachfinely diced red and green pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teapoon honey
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
juice of one lime
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste; use sparingly

Gently toss all ingredients together; season with salt and pepper. Serve ontop of your choice of grilled meat, seafood, or chicken.

Makes 4-6 servings