Everyday: “ordinary and unremarkable”; “occurring each day”; “used on ordinary occasions”. Gourmet: “Food expert”; “Of special food”.
Everyday Gourmet – an oxymoron that will make sense as we explore food together.
I am not a gourmet chef. However, I love to cook and have managed to whip up great meals on a regular basis for many years. My goal is to assist and encourage you to add a little zest to your cooking – either for your family or special occasions with friends.
My Mom was a very organized person (the teacher!). She planned all lunches (my Dad was always home for lunch) and dinners with menus posted on the cupboard. She would clip the coupons for the weekly shopping, then plan her weekly menu from there. Many meals were the same or similar: Sunday roast beef or roast chicken, with leftovers as stew on Tuesdays. Although my mom was a good cook, we certainly did not have today’s variety of foods and recipes – rice was considered a little exotic and hard to cook!
I am not so organized. I will buy what is on sale in bulk and freeze for later use. Then fly by the seat of my pants to cook dinner, sometimes deciding at the last minute. However if you have the basics on hand and can substitute when needed, last minute meals are not a problem.
However, if you’re planning a special meal, one does need to be a little more organized. A few years ago, our New Year’s dinner came together without a hitch. But I did plan ahead and had everything ready.
Happy New Year’s Mess!
Smoked salmon with beet slices & horseradish sauce
Shrimp with spicy fruit sauce
Zucchini slices with feta, mint & chili sauce
Served with blood orange martinis
Served with Riesling or Champagne
Accompanied by drawn lemon butter, tarragon butter, and spicy butter
Served with Riesling or Champagne
Zucchini & arugula salad with lemon anchovy vinaigrette
Served with sparkling water
Garlic double baked potato
Served with Cabernet Sauvignon
Poppyseed angel food cake with grapefruit curd
Served with sparkling water
Dinner party for 6
As this menu consists of 6 courses, make each portion small. We started at about 4pm and were still sitting around the table at about 11pm. We toasted in the New Year, did a final cleanup and (some of us) made it to bed before midnight.
I served the starters separately. We were having a hot game of Sequence and the interval in between each was a great break.
Small pack of smoked salmon
1 large beet, cooked, thinly sliced, then marinated in lemon juice with dill (for a minimum of 2 hours – can be made the day ahead.
About ½ cup mayonnaise with 1–2 tsp horseradish.
Place a piece of rolled salmon on a slice of beet (bite size), adding a dollop of the horseradish mayo on top.
I served these on forks arranged on a platter – 2 per person
12 shrimp – stir-fried in 1 tbsp olive oil until just pink – add spicy fruit sauce1.
Served on small platter with hors d’oeuvres forks (or picks)
Zucchini Slices 2
Thinly slice 1 large zucchini lengthwise (need 12 slices)
On each slice put a dollop of chili sauce (commercial or homemade), a mint leaf and a small piece of feta cheese
Roll and secure with toothpick, and arrange on smaller platter.
After our starters and game (I am sure the women beat the men), we moved to the dining room.
4-6 spears of asparagus per person
1 squeeze lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
Shaved or grated Parmesan cheese (it’s best to use a block of Parmesan).
Asparagus can be steamed, stir-fried or grilled. You can serve this hot or prep ahead and serve at room temp. Place asparagus on plates and dress with a good squeeze of lemon juice and three times as much olive oil. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, then shave some Parmesan over the asparagus.
Before you sit down for the asparagus, put on the water to boil for the artichokes and lobster. (Have the pots full of water ready before your guests arrive – filling 2 or 3 large pots takes time.)
Serving artichokes alongside lobster is a great combination – both can be dipped in the drawn butter sauces.
6 artichokes (med or large): cut off the bottom stem and boil for about 15-20 minutes until soft when poked in the bottom.
6 1-lb. lobsters: boil in salted water for 15-20 minutes.
½ cup butter melted: add ½ cup lemon juice (warmed) and divide into 3 portions.
Add 2 tbsp fresh finely chopped tarragon to one portion (cilantro is another wonderful herb to use)
Add 1-2 tbsp of your favourite hot sauce to one portion
6 cups arugula
1 cup mixed yellow and green zucchini, julienned
Dressing: 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, 2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, 3 tbsp water, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard, 3 garlic cloves minced, 1 anchovy fillet, rinsed and chopped, 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil.
Arrange on each salad plate: the arugula with zucchini on top, drizzled with dressing and shaved cheese sprinkled on top
Choose 6 filet mignon steaks 4-6 oz. each with similar thickness. I cut each steak in half so that the portion was only 2-3 oz. You can wrap in bacon to keep steaks together and to give a similar thickness.
We happened to have 4 who liked med-rare and 2 that liked rare so we just grilled and split them. Or you can cut them before grilling depending on how everyone likes their steak.
3 medium-sized baked potatoes: bake until done then cut in half and remove flesh, leaving skin intact. Mash the flesh: add 1 cup milk, 2 cloves minced garlic, and ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese. Mix well – it should be creamy but still stiff. Stuff mixture back into potato skins. Bake at 350 for ½ hour until hot.
Serve ½ double-baked potato (or less) with steak.
These recipes can be found in the cookbook In The Sweet Kitchen, The Definitive Baker’s Companion, by Regan Daley. I highly recommend this wonderful cookbook for a great addition to your kitchen library. It is a wonderful resource with innovative recipes.
Mexican Fruity Hot Sauce
6 whole mangos, peeled and seeded
7 whole Kiwi fruit, peeled
7 whole habañero chile pepper, stemmed and seeded (for extra heat do not seed and add 2 scotch bonnet peppers)
juice of 4 whole limes (8 tbsp)
juice of 4 whole lemons (8 tbsp)
4 tbsp orange juice
1/3 cup vinegar, white
1 tsp salt
2 cups water
Remove stems from peppers and chop roughly: take the necessary precautions when handling hot peppers.
Add the chopped hot peppers to a large saucepan with water and salt. Slow boil for 15 minutes, then drain, saving 3/4 cup of the liquid. Puree in a blender the saved liquid and all the ingredients except the vinegar. Return to stock pot and simmer on medium low heat for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar till slightly cooled.
Hot pack in a sterilized jar: process in hot water bath for 15 minutes for pints. Refrigerate after opening.
1 I had my own spicy sauce already preserved from that season’s garden. Recipe at end of article.
2 Recipe from LCBO’s Food & Drink magazine – probably summer 2012 – recipe is not online
3 Pg 390; In The Sweet Kitchen, by Regan Daley; Random House Canada, 2012
4 Pg 569; In The Sweet Kitchen, by Regan Daley; Random House Canada, 2012