We are delighted to welcome one of our pre-approved Full Service Caterers for the Santa Ynez Inn, award-winning Pure Joy Catering‘s CEO and Founder Lynette La Mere to our BLOG as our guest today. Ms. LaMere is especially known for her absolute passion for her ingredients, menus and events and is seen at the local farmer’s markets every week carefully choosing everything personally for her client’s special celebrations. We are delighted to have her share some of her secrets and a couple of great recipes here from her kitchen to yours. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!
Who needs a caterer?! You can whip up great holiday cocktail fare in just minutes.
Smaller; more intimate events really can be so simple to pull together you won’t need a professional, even during the holiday rush. First off, I’d suggest keeping it minimal; a few great things to eat, maybe some cheeses, wines or a specialty cocktail and you’re set, don’t feel obligated to over purchase or offer a full bar & a restaurant experience.
A lovely alternative to the classic cocktail party; a wine and cheese themed mixer can be elevated with a few simple twists and creates an opportunity to sample some new wines and an excuse to buy some exotic cheeses.
As Pierre Androuet, author of The Complete Encyclopedia of French Cheese said; “These twin fruits of the earth were made for one another.” A great approach is to choose to represent a single region as cheese is ideally partnered best with wine produced near the cheese’s home. You could serve Sancerre wines with Crottin de Chavignol, Chianti with Pecorino Toscano or a strong Spanish Rioja with Cabralas Blue, Manchego or the Cabralas Blue Cheese Tart recipe here. Or stay with a local theme, serving a selection of the cheeses at our Farmer’s Market with a few spectacular local wines.
For a variety of cheeses, look for a balance of flavor intensity. For this type of party it is best to avoid what James Beard refers to as “nasty little cubes” or – God forbid – deli style slices. I would also steer away from Danish blue cheese and smoked cheeses. Perfect choices with most wines are Parmigiano Reggiano (try the Lemony Parmesan Artichoke Bottoms recipe), very fresh Mozzarella tossed with roasted peppers, olive oil and a fennel seeds, Pecorino; dreamy drizzled with honey, Talleggio, Fontina from Italy, Chevre, Montrachet, Tomme, Gruyere, Triple Crème Brie, Dutch Gouda, English or domestic cheddar, domestic aged or fresh goat cheese and Monterey Jack. Plan on 3 to 6 ounces per guest and allow the cheeses about an hour to come to room temperature and accompany with fresh baked breads & locally harvested pears, apple and grapes from Farmer’s Market.
Black and Blue Torte
Any empty quart container can be used as a mold for this inverted torte, if you’ve got one of those fluted jello or charlotte tins great, otherwise use an empty sour cream tub or bowl. Leave the cheeses out of the refrigerator so they come to room temperature to make the blending effortless.
1 1 /2 lb. cream cheese
1 /4 lb. gorgonzola
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. salt
1 1 /4 cup black walnuts, toasted & chopped very coarse
In stand up mixer w/ paddle attachment – or with a firm hand – blend all but the nuts. Line your mold / container with plastic wrap and pour in half of the walnuts, with a blunt spreading knife press in about a two inch layer of the cheese mixture, followed by the rest of the walnuts. Be sure the walnuts are going all the way to the edges, so they show. Top it off with the rest of the cheese mixture. When ready to serve just invert the mold onto a platter & pull off the plastic wrap, surround with crackers, sliced baguette, some whole black walnuts and fruit.
Lemon Parmesan Artichoke Bottoms
On this one I’ve got to say canned artichoke bottoms are the way to go as apposed to fresh ones or you’ll be in the kitchen cursing me all day. That said, you must get Maria’s brand artichoke bottoms, the others are too tough. These are great with cocktails and you can make them a day ahead and pop them in the oven when you like.
5 cans Maria’s brand artichoke bottoms (not hearts)
3 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 /4 lb. (1.5 cups) grated parmesan (not the salty powdered kind)
1 /2 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 packed tsp. of lemon zest
1 /4 tsp. pepper
1 /4 cup toasted pine nuts & minced fresh parsley
Drain the artichoke bottoms, pat them dry and trim bottoms of them so they sit level & are tender. Spray a cookie sheet or baking pan with vegetable oil. Blend the ingredients together in a bowl. Sit the bottoms on the cookie sheet and season them with salt & pepper then fill them, top each one with 3 toasted pine nuts. You can cover and hold them at this point or bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, till golden on top. Sprinkle with minced parsley.
Shrimp with Cilantro Lime Dip
Makes about 3 cups
This is a very delicious dip for shrimp or grilled skewers chicken or beef.
For the dip;
1 cup sour cream
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 /2 bunch of fresh cilantro
2 jalapeño chilies
4 oz. lime juice
salt to taste
2 lb. 21/25 cooked shrimp
Fire roast the jalapeño chilies on a fork over the flame on your stove; just let it sizzle there till its got a lot of color, then flip it over and roast the other side. Pop them into a plastic bag & let them steam while you put the rest of the dip ingredients in a bowl. Peel most of the skin off the jalapeños, split them, remove the seeds and stem and chop them up. Add those to the bowl, stir and salt to taste.
Platter the shrimp and dip with the other half of that cilantro as garnish.
Makes one cup
Yes, yes, make your own, it just takes a few minutes and they will notice the difference. Tapenade is very good served with Tomato or Herb Foccacia.
4 cloves garlic, process first then add;
1 cup pitted olives (any kind you like)
2 T. lemon juice
1 T. fresh parsley
2 tsp. drained capers
1 1 /2 tsp. Dijon
1 /2 tsp. thyme
3 oz. olive oil
Blend into a coarse spread in your blender.
Pears with Brie
I like pistachios during the holidays for their cheerful color but any nut would be good. Deceivingly simple to make, this addictive combination of textures & taste will guarantee positive comments and recipe requests. They can be made the day before or in just a few minutes before guests arrive.
2 lb. sun dried pears
1 /4 lb. pistachios, chopped coarse (or toasted pine nuts)
1 lb. brie
The dried pears naturally offer a nice middle open area to fill with brie using a butter knife; I like to use the rind of the brie as well but they do look prettier if you just use the soft cheese and leave the rind out. Press the filled pears upside down into the chopped pistachios to adhere the nuts to the cheese and set them on an oven ready sheet pan. When you’d like to serve them just heat them in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes.
Cherry Tomato and Cabralas Squares
Yield 36 to 54 squares
If you’ve got twenty minutes to put this together & pop it in the oven it’s well worth the effort. These positively explode with flavor, and are beautiful, enticing little nibbles. Perfect with a good martini or Spanish wine. I use a 10x7x1” rectangular tart pan; any square pan of similar capacity with a removable bottom would do fine. They can be made up to a day on advance and hold nicely.
1 /2 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
6 oz. butter
3 Tbl. ice water
7 oz. Queso Cabralas (Spanish Blue Cheese) at room temp.
3 oz.butter at room temp.
1 /2 cup sour cream
1 /2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 pint of cherry tomatoes (yellow or red)
To make the crust, in a food processor process the corn meal alone for a minute. Add the flour, salt, and then the butter and pulse until pea size lumps; add the water and process until one large ball is formed. Press this into the pan and 1 inch up the sides and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prick the crust a few times with the tines of a fork, line with foil and fill with raw rice or pie weights and bake 10 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven. Remove the weights and foil and bake 5 minutes more.
To make the filling, beat room temperature cheese and butter together with a fork, add the sour cream and eggs, beat until blended. Fold in the basil and spread evenly into the crust. Press cherry tomato halves into the filling, cut side up in very even rows about 1 /2 an inch apart much like the stars in a flag. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature cut into small squares with one cherry tomato in each square.
Pure Joy Cosmos
One 60 oz. pitcher, 24 cocktails (recipe multiplies easily)
When wine alone just won’t do, here’s a super easy & impressive cocktail you can make in batches; perfect for holiday entertaining or setting up a self serve martini station (guests love shaking their own!). Make up one pitcher at a time or in a multiplied batch & just put as you like into a shaker with ice and strain into the honey drizzled martini glasses.
28 oz. vodka
9.5 oz. Limoncello (Italian lemon liqueur)
5 oz. lime juice
10.5 oz. white cranberry juice
7 oz. simple syrup
For the glass drizzle;
1 cup honey, tinted red
red or green swirled candy canes or maraschino cherries, garnish
Simple syrup is just equal amounts by volume of water and sugar boiled a few minutes until it’s clear. Let that cool and then measure the ingredients into the pitcher and stir. Put the honey in a squirt bottle or tint honey that’s already in a squirt bottle and drizzle it into martini glasses like the picture shown. Set those out along with a pitcher of martinis, a shaker and a bucket of ice with a scoop. A cup of green swirled candy canes or green maraschino cherries for holiday garnish.
Lynette La Mere is the proprietor and Executive Chef of Pure Joy Catering, Inc. (805) 963-5766 (www.PureJoyCatering.com) and a freelance writer who lives inSanta Barbara& vacations with her sons during the holidays.
This article originally appeared in FOOD & HOME MAGAZINE Cooking at Home Column
Winter issue, Who needs a caterer?! 2006 #5