A Special Bridal Shower Menu for Ryan

This menu is perfect for a buffet. No need to do all the appetizers but if you have the time, why not. Grab a few of your girlfriends and have a cooking party like Beth and I do!


Beth is more than a good friend; she is my cooking partner.  When she is helping me cook, she creates a perfect mise en place of ingredients for me so all I have to do is make the dish, like a real chef.  You see, she went to culinary school and knows this stuff.  This is a big gift, since most times it is harder to delegate jobs in the kitchen than to just do them yourself.  Beth naturally knows what needs to be done and if she does not, she knows exactly what to ask to complete the task at hand.  “What’s the menu?”, “where can I be of most help?” and “how big should the dice be?” are our favorite kitchen conversations.  We both know the kitchen edicate; if I am in her kitchen, she is boss and if Beth is in mine, I am.                     

It is impossible to count how many meals we have cooked together.  We have raised our children together during summers in Tahoe when our husbands were at home holding court.  We would cook together for our seven children, our girlfriends, and their children before our nightly bear walk.  We’ve hosted our family members’ birthdays, holiday celebrations, graduations,  horse shoe tournaments, and housewarmings.  We are now faced with a gaggle of wedding related celebrations for  family members and close friends, starting with my nephew Nick and now Beth’s oldest daughter, Ryan.                     


Ryan is marrying Tim, and of course, we are all estastic.  As soon as Beth called me to announce Ryan and Tim’s engagement, I emailed Ryan to say I wanted to do the engagement party.                     


The party was a huge success and the menu was wonderful.  Ryan’s grandmother, Barbara, said it was one of the best parties she has ever been to.  Now THAT is a compliment!  I had hoped to blog the four-course menu including a lobster risotto with marscapone and peppered filet with horseradish cream but the party occured in my lost spring when I missed out on writing any posts.                     

My husband  has known Eric, Beth’s husband, since they were in second grade.  David actually came over to Beth and Eric’s home with his friend John when Beth was in labor with Ryan.  They were looking for a fun time in Reno while Beth was hoping to get the whole labor thing over with.  The next day they all celebrated the new arrival, David and John with less money in their pocket.  I met Ryan soon after my husband and I met in college and am  lucky enough to become part of their village, or a posse as Beth’s husband calls it.  You know it takes a village/posse to raise a family and I am lucky to be part of theirs.                     

When Beth said she would be doing the food for the bridal showers the sisters were giving Ryan, I made sure to be her sous.  “Okay,” Beth said, “we better get going on deciding the menu then.”  Here is what we came up with:                      


A Special Middle Eastern Menu for Ryan’s
Bourbon and Boudoir
July 9, 2011                     

With Mint Julips and Conversation                     

Red Pepper Feta, Baba Ganoush and Olive-Tuna Tapenade
with Toasted Lavash Chips                     

Spring Vegetables with a Moroccan Rouille                     

Charmoula Ahi Tartar on Homemade Potato Chips                     

Amuse Bouche                     

Tomato Gazpacho Shooters                     

Dinner Buffet                     

Grilled Cornish Game Hens in a Sumac and Lemon Marinade
with a Date Salsa                     

Paprika Spiked Beef Tenderloin with Eggplant in a Star Anise-Cumin Coconut Broth                     

Turmeric Scented Couscous with Garbanzo Beans and Grilled Zucchini                     

Moroccan Carrots with Raisins                     

Balkan Crab Salad with Walnut and Lemon Mayonnaise                     

Fennel and Orange Salad with Kalamata Olives                     


Chocolate Mousse Torte with Raspberry Sauce and Fresh Raspberries     

(Click on the hyperlink to view the recipe)                  


Beth knew she wanted to make her sumac and lemon marinated game hens with date relish and I applauded her for the choice.  That recipe has  become one of my favorites and even Beth approves of the changes I made to the original recipe (see recipe for details).  With the Middle Eastern theme developing it was easy to choose the appetizers.                     


One of our go-to appetizers for any cuisine are the trio of dips here: Roased Red Pepper Feta, Baba Ganoush and Hummus.  For a Middle Eastern buffet, these dips are completely in theme.                     


While the Olive-Tuna Tapenade is more Italian than Middle Eastern, I doubt anyone is noticing.                     


My traditional Ahi Tuna Tartar is definitely Asian so I added Joyce Goldstien’s version of a Charmoula Vinaigrette to the tuna and topped the tartar on a waffle cut potato chip instead of a wonton chip for a more Middle Eastern flair.  They were a huge hit.                     


Beth believes she has single handedly brought the vegetable platter back into fashion and I tend to agree, at least within our group of friends.  What sets off our platter is seasoning each blanched vegetable with salt and a touch of olive oil to make them shine and enhance their flavor.  She normally serves the vegetables with a taragon aoili but to make it a bit more Mediterranean, we made a Rouille instead.  Who needs vegetables for this dish; all Beth’s sister Angie needed to enjoy the rouille was a spoon.                     


To add a little festive touch we passed around our amuse bouche: Gazpacho Shooters with Mini Croutons.  Beth and I took my traditional Spanish tomato gazpacho, placed the soup in a tall shot glass, added mini croutons and served them with a little spoon.  The spoon is really not necessary but most of us wanted to get every last drop and be lady-like about it.                     


While I loved Beth’s idea of the cornish game hens with the date relish, I was a bit hesitant about grilling fifteen birds last minute for a buffet.  “Eric will do it early in the day and we will just reheat them,” Beth said confidently.  The idea of reheating already perfectly barbequed birds did not sound right to me, but I was wrong.  Eric cooked those birds until they were “just a bit” underdone.  He handed me his perfectly underdone hens and said, “Pop them in the oven at 450 degrees for 5 minutes, no longer,” and was then off to play golf to avoid his soon-to-be estrogen infused home.  The hens came out of the oven with the skin crisp and the meat succulent.  Eric’s barbeque skills rose a few knotches for me that day while I learned a new make-ahead technique that is truly perfect for a large group.                     


The reason why I love this dish so much is the date relish.  Like Angie, I do not need the chicken to enjoy this condiment–just give me a spoon.  This original recipe calls for parsley and pine nuts but I substituted cilantro and walnuts.  Not only did that addition make it more Middle Eastern, it gave the relish more flavor.  Try it either way, just try it.                     


Next we needed to find some sort of tagine that would go with our sides and compliment the chicken entree.  What about the Paprika Spiked Beef Tenderloin with Eggplant from my “Out of my Comfort Zone” post ??  This dish is full of exotic flavors including ginger, lime, toasted cumin, star anise, paprika and coconut milk.  This traditional Puerto Rican recipe gets a nuevo twist from Eric Rupert: he uses lightly seared filet mignon instead of stewed meat which gives this dish a sophisticated feel while still being homey.  “But the dish is not Middle Eastern,” Beth said.  “No one will notice!” I retaliated.  And I was right–all we got were compliments.                     


The game hen recipe came with a dish of quinoa with garbanzo beans and grilled zucchini which both Beth and I love and make often, yet Ryan is not a big quinoa lover.  It occurred to me that we could make that dish and replace the grain with my wonderful steamed couscous that Charles Perry taught me.  I thought we could bring in the flavor of the tumeric-scented broth by adding onions sauteed with olive oil and the spices but Beth had a better idea.  Why not make a spiced infused broth and use that in place of the water for steaming the couscous?  Brilliant!!  We threw in some grilled onions for good measure and had a wonderful side to soak up the sauce for the meat and marry with the chicken and date salsa.                     


With the farmer’s market brimming with all types of carrots, Charles Perry’s Moroccan Carrots with Raisin and Parsley would be an easy yet scrumptious vegetable side.  Charles cooked his carrots whole then sliced them to the appropriate size but steaming them already sliced is definitely easier.  Make sure to save the raisin-plumping liquid since reducing the raisin water to a glaze and adding it to the vinegar creates the perfect sweet and sour combination.   You can click here to read my Charles Perry Post and learn more about him.              


All we need now is a salad and fish dish to round out the assortment of dishes we already have for the buffett.  I started searching through Joyce Goldstein’s Mediterranean cookbooks for ideas.  This crab salad recipe struck my fancy since it not only included salad and fish but asparagus and steamed potatoes, which added another starch and vegetable to our table.  This crab salad with lemon and walnut aoili intreged me further because I love a mayonnaise made with walnut oil and extra lemon.  I also knew I would love the crunch of the toasted walnuts.  I made this dish as a trial for my husband’s birthday and both Beth and I gave it a big thumbs up.  I changed the recipe around a bit, dressing the individual vegetables with a bit of the aoili thinned with a few tablespoons of lemon juice.  The finished salad with potatoes on one side, the asparagus on the other, the watercress in the middle topped with the cucumber studded crab salad and toasted walnuts was truly a thing of beauty, worthy of any buffet table.                     


I would have been happy to stop there but Beth knew the menu needed a bit of fresh fruit as a palate cleaner.  This salad was originally sliced oranges with olives simply dressed with reduced orange juice and olive oil but Beth added the fennel to give the dish a bit of an anise crunch.  It was a great compliment to the overall menu, beautiful color contrast to the other dishes, easy to make and delicious.  You are right again, Beth.                     


What could be better than ending the meal with a bit of light and fluffy chocolate with a crunchy chocolate cookie crust topped with cool whipped cream?  This chocolate mousse torte is always good for a crowd because it can easily feed sixteen.  This dessert can even be made a few days ahead and I have been known to made the cake a few weeks ahead and freeze it well wrapped without the whipped cream.   


Beth is not only a good friend and cooking partner but knows how to treat a friend right.  When we are in Tahoe we meet at our pond at 5 pm for a little rest and relaxation and she always comes with a cocktail for me.  We play cribbage and this summer I let her win to make sure she keeps those cocktails coming.  Carrying two cocktails, her beach bag and chair have been a bit difficult so she has taken to leaving her chair at the pond, hidden in the bushes.  This year, we got an email from our Tahoe neighborhood association the day we got home asking the homeowners to take their paraphenaila home from our community pond at the end of the day.  I immediately emailed her, letting her know we were busted. “No worries,” she said, “now that you are gone I can easily carry all of my goodies to the pond, since I am only bringing one cocktail,” and sent me a pictures to prove it.  But what are we going to do next year?  Maybe we should find a better hiding place.         



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