I got married a week ago. Instead of the usual fears -commitment, weather, stepkids' sabotage - I spent the weeks leading up to the event wondering if I was capable of cooking a meal for 50 hungry people. Just days before the Sunday afternoon wedding, friends were still trying to dissuade me from going through with it....
No, I'd never cooked food for that many people. No, I had never been asked to cook an entire meal 36 hours in advance.
As an added challenge, the meal had be to prepared to the highest kosher standards (for the rabbis and their wives) using primarily sustainable ingredients (for me).
So, two weeks before the wedding, I had my kitchen kashered (another post in the making...) and set to work creating a menu.
The goal was to find yummy food that could be prepared ahead of time, would keep well, taste good and not be too time consuming.
Smoked White Fish, Sable, Salmon, Peppered Bluefish
served with 7-grain, rye, and pumpernickel
capers, caper berries, pickled red onions, cornichon, crème-fraiche, fresh dill
Roasted Gold and Red Beets
with Creamy Pear-Horseradish Vinaigrette
Haricots Verts sprinkled with Lavender Sel de Mer
Orzo with Shell Peas, Capers and Smoked Salt
Rocket and Parmesan Salad
Labneh, Zatar and Pita
Cheddar and Gouda Cheeses
Berries and Cream
The hardest and biggest time-suck were the roasted blanched almonds. Prior to taking this on, I had no idea one was even capable of removing the skin from an almond. Now that I have, I can understand why store bought blanched almonds are worth their weight in gold. I first submerged the almonds in boiling water inside a strainer that I then submerged in cold water for 2 minutes each. I was then able to easily remove the skin from a third of the almonds (the rest were too stubborn to part with their skin), setting them aside in the freezer. I repeated these steps a number of times until I had a about 3 pounds of skinless almonds. The next step was to toss them with salt and herbs (I chose sage and thyme but the sky's the limit) and roast them for about 10 minutes. When they were hot out of the oven, I tossed them with wonderful young Sicilian olive oil. While doing each of these steps, I wondered how it is that I could spend so much time on a nut. A nut that a guest might grab from a bowl and munch on without giving it a moment's thought. In the end, though, these almonds caught people mid-munch and made them stop and wonder what it is they were eating and what made it taste so good. I decided my obsessive compulsive 3-day almonds were worth every late night minute of toil.
The biggest impact with the least effort, on the other hand, was surely the pickled onions. This was also a first for me. They took less than 5 minutes and made everyone so happy! For those, just slice a red onion and simmer it in a pot with red wine vinegar, a bit of salt, pepper and sugar for a few minutes.
Much to my too tired to worry about it state of mind, the meal was a success! The people looked satiated, they looked happy and most of the serving platters were left with very little.