Category Archives: Experiments

The Buffet Experiment

Whether it be for a wedding, a coming baby, formal announcements, or just for the hell of it food is always the binding element of any decent size gathering. I’m working out a menu for my friends next big gathering. There’s no date yet we’re just putting together the menu so we’ll have this out of the way when it comes time to put together a budget and actually get down to the real work. Here are some ideas that I pulled from allrecipes.com and from the largest cookbook I own, Bay Books Ultimate Kitchen Companion.  Dividing the food up between tables based on how it’s served or, hot/cold etc. makes the most sense, and having the food on separate tables makes the space more easily configurable to accommodate varying numbers of guests. As a rule, one serving line per thirty people will keep the lines moving quickly and the serving trays looking fuller longer. Additionally, one beverage table per thirty guests will ease beverage service considerably.

Cold Table:

Dips and Dippers:

Trays:

  • Cheese Tray
  • Deli Meats Tray

Canapés:

  • Salmon and Chive Canapé [UKC p.102]
    Red salmon, cream cheese, scallions, and pecans.
  • Herb and Cheese Canapé [UKC p.99]
    Crushed garlic, fresh thyme tarragon and parsley. Cream cheese and chives.
  • Cheese and Fruit Canapé [UKC p.103]
    Dried cranberries, apricots and figs. Scallions, parsley, and sun-dried tomatoes. Cream cheese and pistachio nuts.

Custom Sandwich Bar:

Toppings:

Breads:

  • Baguette
  • Bagel Minis
  • Pita
  • Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
  • Artisan Multi-Grain

Meats:

  • Ham
  • Turkey
  • Salami
  • Bacon

Veggies:

  • Mixed Greens
  • Romaine
  • Tomato
  • Cucumber
  • Red Pepper
  • Grilled Eggplant

Cheeses:

  • Swiss
  • Pepper Jack
  • Cheddar
  • Goats

Hot Bar:

  • Little Smokies Wrapped with Prosciutto
  • Zucchini Boats [UKC .p132]
    Grilled Zucchini boats filled with tomato, onion and parsley with salami and cheddar cheese.
  • Mini quiches
    http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Easy-Mini-Quiche/Detail.aspx

    • Goats Cheese and Sun-dried Tomato [UKC p.174]
    • Carmelized onion, Bacon and Apple [UKC p.174]
    • Cream Herb [UKC p.175]
  • Mini Pizza
    • Brie and Pear [UKC p.154]
      Brie flavored with basil, cilantro and parsley topped with fresh pear slices.
    • Vegetable
    • Ham and Pineapple
    • Meat Lovers

Standardized Sandwich Bar:

  • Mediterranean Squares [UKC p.149]
    Delicate Focaccia squares filled with a zesty vegetable tapenade and cheddar cheeses.
  • Vegetable Triangle Minis
    Assoted sliced vegetables, white bread, hummus or veg dip.
  • Club Triangle Minis
    3 Layer club sandwich with white and whole grain breads.
  • Mini pita pockets
    Stuff them with just about anything
  • Mini Spicy Burgers [UKC p.164]
    Miniature zesty burgers with ginger and mango chutney on warm naan.
  • Twists: [UKC p.182-3]
    Thyme, Cheese, Prosciutto, Asparagus etc. Puff Pastry cut into thin strips and twisted around just about anything before baking

Obviously this list is missing deserts, which I (albeit incorrectly) almost automatically associate with baking. Baking and I are a nasty combination that always results in disaster. It makes sense that I avoid it.

Experiment: Pastry Filling

I still have yet to make this into a pastry, but it is delicious as a spread on a sandwich. This spread/filling was inspired by my desire to make something similar to Samosa. I don’t yet know what I will do with it, but it certainly does refrigerate well!

Asemble the following:

  • 16 Oz black beans, cooked and drained
  • 1/2 C white rice, cooked
  • 1 medium red potato, finely cubed
  • 1 c French’s fried onion
  • 1 cl garlic finely minced
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Crushed Red pepper
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Do this with it:

  • Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet.
  • Sauté garlic and potato until golden brown, drain and allow to cool.
  • In medium mixing bowl combine rice, beans, fried onion, potato and garlic. Mash until evenly combined.

Gluten Free Forty Days: Day Two

Going through my cooking notebooks can sometimes be torture.  More often than not, I’ll forget to write in a crucial ingredient or technique. Re-creating a dish can become an arduous cycle of test-fail-trash-start over. It’s a pain; throwing away food is expensive and wasteful. On the other hand, every so often I come across a couple of pages of notes that are thorough enough that I can make a cohesive recipe out of it, so it can be easily re-created. It also happens that this recipe is completely gluten free, making it perfect for GF40.

Day two of GF40 is all about this hearty gluten free lasagna, made without uncommon pastas or ingredients that are expensive or hard to find. I made this delicious rendition of lasagna several months ago, after being inspired by a similar recipe I found online. I used Shitake mushrooms in substitution of ground meat, which provide a rich woody flavor. The zucchini gives the dish a smoky overtone that is well complemented by the creaminess of the eggplant and the feta. I hope you enjoy this lasagna explosion as much as I did!

Lasagna On Portobello:

Assemble the following:

  • Shitake Mushrooms, fine chop
  • Roasted Zucchini
  • Roasted Eggplant
  • Fresh Scallion, finely chopped
  • Fresh Parsley, julienned
  • Garlic, finely minced
  • Feta Cheese Crumbles
  • Fire Roasted Roma Tomato Marinara (Kitchen Essentials)
  • Large, Fresh Portobello Mushroom Caps , cleaned, stems removed
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh Ground Sea Salt and Black Pepper, to taste
  • Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

Do this with it:

  • Preheat oven to 375° F
  • Heat a few TBSP olive oil and sauté garlic. When golden, reduce heat to very low and add scallion and parsley, cook until parsley has wilted.
  • Add Marinara. Heat slowly.
  • Add Shitake mushrooms, cook briefly until mushrooms are reduced.
  • Remove from heat and to separate container, allow to cool
  • In baking dish greased with Olive Oil place Portobello Caps hollow sides up.
  • Create layers of Feta, marinara, vegetables and parmesan.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Bake in preheated oven for fifteen to twenty minutes.

For tips on roasting Zucchini

For tips on roasting Eggplant

Fire Roasted Roma Tomato Marinara Recipe

Notes and Abstract:

  • Roast the eggplant until it is still slightly firm. Roasting too much will yield a mushy eggplant, which does have it’s uses just not in this preparation. If you’re using a large eggplant, pull one half from the oven while it’s still semi-firm. Let the other half roast fully, then toss it in a blender or food processor with some fresh minced garlic for a great puree that can be used to cream up mashed potatoes, embolden a soup, or any number of things. The puree will store well for a few days, but I wouldn’t recommend freezing it.
  • Be sure the Portobello caps are very clean and dry. Briefly bathe them in slightly salty water and pat dry with a towel. For more room for more layers use a paring knife to carefully score the underside of the cap in a diagonal pattern, and remove the ribs gently with a spoon. Be careful not to scoop too much out, just remove the ribs.
  • If you aren’t a vegetarian, forget the shitake mushrooms. Use some high quality ground beef or poultry. Better yet, get a decent cut of steak and slice it into thin strips and cook in the marinara until rare. It will cook through to done in the oven, or if you like your steak less done, add it as a layer all by itself.
  • The Marinara can be made into different things by virtue of the fact that it takes on the flavor of the spices used in it. For this recipe use your favorite fresh Italian or Mediterranean herbs in the marinara.

Gluten Free Forty Days: Day One

A friend of mine is giving up gluten for Lent. My younger brother was diagnosed with Celiac Sprue when he was 18 months old, more than twenty years ago. Anyone who’s ever lived with someone restricted to a gluten free diet knows how hard it can be to find interesting and varied meal choices, and how frustrating this can be. It does take some extra work, a lot of patience and a lot of label reading, but I promise it can be done. It can even be done on a strict budget, my mother proved this.

Over the next forty days I will be posting at least one gluten free meal a day. Theme here on The Reckless Culinarian has been Vegetarian since mid-September. Not all of the recipes in the Gluten Free 40 will be vegetarian, in fact a great many of them will not be.

Day one of the GF40 is kicked off with a hearty casserole dinner by G.F. Veg at Wheatless and Meatless.  Pair this with your favorite veggies, or a side salad and you have a healthy, filling meal. If I weren’t a vegetarian I would most likely add some fresh, grass-fed ground beef to the casserole. Since I am, I would load this sucker down with portobello and shitake mushrooms. Either way, I’ve tried a great many recipes from Wheatless and Meatless and I can personally attest that it always tastes great!

Day One:

http://www.wheatlessandmeatless.com/2010/01/gluten-free-vegetarian-fiesta-casserole.html

Missing Tahini Hummus Rolls

I’ve decided to join my friend Jennifer in cutting meat out of my diet. Don’t get me wrong I love meat, I just wanted to give this a try and see how it felt. While she may be trying to become a vegetarian, I am not. I’m not about to give up Ham and Turkey for Thanksgiving, which looms right around the corner. I just figured it would be interesting to see how a meat-free diet affected the way I felt and also what interesting recipes I could come up with without using meat. This is day one. These hummus rolls are super tasty and have plenty of flavor and protein. Of course this can be made with store bought hummus, but I like to make everything from scratch. It’s been a while since I posted anything, and I no longer have a camera so you’ll just have to use your imagination

Assemble the following:
1 Can (16 oz.) Garbanzo Beans (chick peas)
1 very finely minced clove garlic
1/4 Cup coarse chopped pine nuts.
Boston Leaf Lettuce Leaves, whole rinsed
Black Olives, coarsely chopped
Carrot Shreds, coarsely chopped
Olive Oil
Coarse ground Black Pepper
Sea Salt, very little
1/4 cup water (maybe)

Do this with it:
Drain and rinse garbanzo beans.
Toss beans with pepper and salt to taste, set aside.
Saute garlic in a small pan with olive oil, very briefly. Do not allow to caramelize.
Combine cooled garlic and olive oil with garbanzo beans in a blender or food processor.
Blend at high speed, streaming in olive oil as needed to achieve smooth texture characteristic of hummus.
Remove to storage container and season with more black pepper to taste.

Spread two or three tablespoons hummus across lettuce.
Add olives and carrot shreds.
Roll in a spiral fashion, securing the roll with a toothpick.
Chill for a minimum of one hour and serve.

Traditional hummus calls for Tahini, alas I have none. It tastes just fine without it though, you can add all sorts of seasonings to your taste, although I wouldn’t go overboard on the number. I’ve done this before with fresh rosemary and it’s oh so good, you just have to be sure to very finely chop the rosemary. Another alternative to tahini would be sesame oil, but I was going for Mediterranean flavor here.