Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Hors d’oeuvres

Here's my December column from the Petaluma Post:

Have you been asked to bring an hors d’oeuvre to a friend’s party, or are you planning a houseful of family?  This year I put together a collection of recipes to help with your party plans.  I specialize in catering but know that it is not right for every event.  Maybe you are just having a couple of friends over or you want a few minutes in the kitchen to play.  This set is created for the busy person to be able to make without dedicating the a big piece of the day to the kitchen.

Pesto Pine Nut and Parmesan Pin Wheel
These pinwheels are one of our most popular hors d’oeuvres.  They are great to do ahead of time; you can roll and freeze for up to 30 days.  Another great combination for this time a year is to substitute cranberry and blue cheese!

vegetarian and kid friendly - Yields 36
3 sheets puff pastry
1 c thick pesto
1 c grated parmesan cheese
1 c pine nuts
1 egg

Lay puff pastry out to thaw
Combine pesto, pine nuts and parmesan to create a paste
Divide and spread between the three sheets, leaving 1” lip
Whisk egg with 2 T water, brush on lip of puff pastry
Roll pesto inside sealing at the lip
Place in freezer 2-3 hours to firm up, wrap and store up to 3 weeks
Remove from freezer allow to soften 10-15 minutes till you can slice without smashing
Place on baking sheet, 2-3” apart
Bake at 350 till golden brown

Yam Rounds with Hummus and Caponata
These are a recent addition to our menus.  Yam rounds are a great stepping off point for a gluten free hors d’oeuvres and can be vegan too!

Vegan – Yields 36
2 lbs garnet yams, approx 1” in diameter
2 T olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 C prepared Hummus or Chèvre
1 C prepared Caponata or Tapenade
Wash yams, leave skins on
Cut ¼” thick sliced
Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper
Lay out single layer on a cookie sheet
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, turn and bake approx. 10 more minutes
They should be golden brown but tender
Allow to cool
Top with 1 t Hummus or Chèvre
Finish with ½ t Caponata or Tapenade

Fudge Puff Tarts
This is a great quick sweet bite that you can keep handy to make anytime

Special equipment: 2 mini cup cake pans
2 sheets puff pastry
1 c sweet and condensed milk
1 c chocolate chips
2 T butter

Cut puff pastry into 1½” squares
Press lightly into cup cake pans
Melt butter, stir in chocolate chips till melted, add in sweet and condensed milk
Place approx. 1 T per tart
Bake 350 for 20-25 minutes till golden

Spiced Candied Nuts
These are too good to keep the extra around the house.  Fortunately they make a great gift with the addition of a little packaging.

Serves 10 to 12
1 lbs any kind of nuts
2 C sugar
2 C water
1 T cumin
2 t salt
2 t paprika

Bring water and sugar to a boil
Add nuts, bring to a boil and boil for 7-10 minutes
Drain completely
Place nuts in a bowl add in seasonings (you can get creative)
Toss to mix
Lay out on a lightly oiled cookie sheet
Bake 15-20 minutes till golden and crunchy, stirring a couple of times

Olive Cheese Pull Apart Bread
1 Bag of Fresh Pizza Dough, approx. 12 oz
1 c olive tapenade or roasted red peppers
1 c pizza blend cheese

Allow pizza dough to warm to room temperature
Place on lightly floured surface
Gently press to approx. ½” thick
Dust to remove excess flour
Use a pizza wheel or bench scraper cut dough into ¾” pieces or smaller
Place in mixing bowl with toppings
Toss lightly
Place in baking containers, mini muffin, muffin, bundt or loaf pan
Allow to rise 45 minutes
Brush top lightly with butter before baking
Bake appropriate to container (12-15 min for mini, or 35-45 min for loaf)

Rosemary Roasted Grape Focaccia with Blue
1 Bag of Fresh Pizza Dough , approx. 12 oz
1 c crumbled cheese, blue, feta or chèvre
1 large sprig rosemary
  c grapes cut in half
¼ c olive oil
Salt and pepper

Allow pizza dough to warm to room temperature
Very lightly oil a baking sheet
Turn pizza dough out on to baking sheet
Gently work till it covers the entire sheet
Allow to raise 45 minutes lightly covered
Using your fingers dock the dough lightly
Toss grapes with rosemary and olive oil
Sprinkle generously over dough
Finish with crumbled cheese and salt and pepper
Bake 15-20 minutes till golden


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Fruitcake - The Good the Bad and the Door Stop

Yes we are talking fruitcake, but you don’t need to be afraid.  There is such a thing as a good fruit cake.

Fruit cake is an international dish with almost every country having their own variety.  In the Bahamas it is soaked in rum and has pineapple in it, the Germans have what they call "stolen" which is a dryer fruit cake that does not store well, the Italians have "panetone" which is similar to brioche, and the list goes on and on.  With different cultures and times attributing different uses, superstitions, and popularity to it.  Fruit cake is still often used as a wedding cake in both England and Australia; it was the original grooms cake, it was sent home with the guests as a journey bread that they could eat on the long ride home.  It is also said that if a girl puts a piece of grooms cake under her pillow she will dream of her future groom.  During the Victorian era, no proper tea time, any time of the year, would be complete without fruit cake.  Others saved the fruit cake to eat in the Spring, the last of the previous years harvest, as good luck for the new crops.  And it goes on and on.

The fruit cake that most usually feared, degraded or launched from special cannons is a recipe from England.  A very dense spiced cake that is made with candied fruit and nuts and stored for months.  The idea of the cake was that it could be made during the summer months when fruit was available and stored till the cold winter months to have a special treat.  The sugar preserves both the fruit and the cake, making it ideal for this.  Soaking in alcohol can give it a shelf life of years.  But what went wrong?  Why is it reviled by so many, but loved by so many others?  Over the years the use of out dated products, such as suet instead of butter, didn't account for changing tastes; other products changing, such as candied fruit (fruit simply dried and boiled in sugar) becoming the scary neon colored stuff it is today.  All this, plus a lot jokes over the years, gave fruit cake a very bad reputation, but fruit cake lovers will tell you there are plenty of recipes that make wonderful fruit cake. 

Mr PSC thinks fruitcake is okay, but loves my Mom's recipe.  My family has a great fruit cake recipe that mom found years ago.  Gone are the bright red candied cherries and pounds of dried citrons.  Instead there are lots of nuts and dried fruit, which is really closer to some of the more ancient recipes.  Our drying methods give us a much better quality of dried fruit than you could get in the middle ages when candied fruit cake was introduced.  Beside that long shelf life is irrelevant to us.

Batter (classic pound cake)
1 pound butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup molasses
12 eggs
1 pound  flour
1 tsp salt

Cream the butter with the brown sugar, add molasses, then beat in eggs and finish with  flour and salt.
Notice the Fruit/Nut to Batter ratio
Just enough batter to hold it together
Fruits and Nuts (approximately 16 cups)
1 pound blanched almonds- chopped (about 3 cups)
½ pound  pecans (about 2 cups)
¼ pound  walnuts (about 1 cup)
2 pounds golden raisins
1 pound dried currants
1 pound dried apricots (chopped)
2 pounds dried cranberries
1 cup dried or candied pineapple
½ cup brandy (or rum, or whiskey, or any full bodied spirit)
1 cup apricot jam

Fold the fruits and nuts into batter, it will barely hold all of them.  Then pour it into a well greased or papered loaf pans, I recommend mini pans if you have them.

Bake at 275 degree for 25 minutes in the mini pans, or for 1 hour in full size loaf pans, until a tooth pick comes out clean. Turn cakes out on to a cooking rack, then turn right side up.

While the cakes are still warm, melt the apricot jam with the brandy, and brush over cakes, repeat every 10 minutes till all the glaze is absorbed.

Allow to finish cooling, then wrap and store in an air tight container.
Yields 4 - 2.5 lbs. loaves (4x9)


Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Menu 2011

Here's our special Christmas dinner menu for this year, you can also find it and the ala-cart verson on our website at

Herb Roasted Turkey $190
 Honey Glazed Spiral Ham $208
 Herb Rubbed Prime Rib $223

Choice of 3 Sides
Gorgonzola Stuffed Pears with Pecans
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Prosciutto and Pignoli
White Cheddar Scalloped Red Potatoes
Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes with Roasted Garlic
Cranberry Pecan Stuffing

Accompanied with
Arugula with Almonds & Sherry Vinaigrette
Roasted Winter Fruit Compote
Mushroom Gravy or Turkey Gravy
Dinner Rolls

Choice of One Dessert
Cranberry Apple Streusel Pie
Chocolate Decadence Torte with Raspberry Sauce
Individual Pumpkin Pie Puffs (8 per order)
Assorted Petite Pastries and Cookies

Please have your order in by
Noon on Monday, December 19th
Order pick up is December 24th before 2pm
All orders will be picked up cold. Heating instructions included.