Timeless

30 08 2011

It’s amazing to think that no matter how old you are, food is always a part of your life.  Everybody has to eat.  People gather around food all over the world to bond, celebrate, catch-up, share remorse and make memories.  In certain cultures, life  revolves around food gatherings.  Last night I was reminded of this.  It warmed my heart and made me realize why I love what I do and how it does make a difference to some people.

I was given Sylvia’s number over a month ago.  A client of mine told me her mother’s friend was looking for a caterer.  I gave Sylvia a ring the next day and the sweetest woman answered the phone.  Her soft and gentle voice was a focused on the task at hand: feeding her family for her son’s birthday party.  She explained,” I am getting bids from several caterers in the city for my grandchildren. They are throwing a big party for their father.  They are so busy with their lives, I told them I would do the research for them.”  I could feel Sylvia’s sense of purpose over the phone.  It literally softened my heart to think that an older woman was taking on the role of a party planner.  We spoke for a good 20 minutes and I told her I’d call her back with a price quote.

When I called Sylvia back, the dynamic on the phone was a bit different.  It took her a moment to get situated as she found a pen, paper and asked me to speak slowly.  She explained that she was getting older but her brain was very sharp.  When I told Sylvia my catering fees and suggested some appetizers for the party, she was overjoyed.  She cautioned me that the party would have to be “Kosher-style” and asked me if I knew what that meant.  I told her I was Jewish and mentioned that I had several friends that keep Kosher.  This put Sylvia over the edge.  The questions came pouring out, “Where are you from?  What is your favorite Jewish food?   Do you eat Nova lox? Who is your rabbi? Are you single?

I decided from that moment on, I loved Sylvia.  She was absolutely shameless, without being insulting.  Sylvia declared, “You will cater this party.  I can’t wait for you to speak to my granddaughter!”  The next line out of her mouth took the cake.  “Now Kasey, you have to understand as a 60 year old, my family really loves food, so your food must be great.  Also, my granddaughter is very busy.  She is a doctor and has a baby.  But I assure you she is a wonderful host.”  I paused for a few seconds, smiled from ear to ear, took a breath, and confessed to Sylvia that I was not 60 years old.  She did not understand.  She said, ” Well how old are you then.  You seem too professional to be younger than 60?”  I told her I was 30.  Sylvia became utterly flustered.  She just couldn’t believe I was as young as her granddaughter. I thanked her and immediately asked,” Well how old are you Sylvia?”  She answered, ” Dear, I am 92 years old live in a nursing home.  You need to speak louder.”

That was probably the best party planning moment of my life.  My client thought I was thirty years older than my age and I thought she was thirty years younger.  I guess, it really didn’t matter.  We both came together around the topic of food with passion, focus and joy.

The highlight of the event last night was meeting this amazing matriarch.  Sylvia walked into the party and everyone stopped speaking.  Regardless of the fact that she was 4ft, tall and had a fabulous white hairdo, you could feel that Sylvia was the most respected person in the family.  She came right up to me with her granddaughter and introduced herself.  We embraced with a huge hug and she whispered in my ear, “Kasey, so lovely to meet you.  You really pulled it off darling.”

Minutes later her granddaughter came over to me smiling.  She said Sylvia wanted a detailed description of what I looked like.  She was blind as a bat and just wanted to make sure I was not “12 years old”.

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Simple Summer Delight

11 07 2011

I have to admit, I am not the biggest fan of baking.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat desserts but I just don’t like the process of following a recipe to make them.  When it comes to cooking, I love to be creative with the process.  I don’t think I own a full set of measuring cups, which I should, because I just hate to be measure so precisely.  My favorite thing about cooking is using my hands to cut, season and feel when the food I am cooking needs more flavor.  My creative process involves imagining ingredients that I think will work together,  cooking them and adding seasoning to make the flavors blend.  I usually let the food tell me what it needs.

When it comes to desserts, the flour and butter sure don’t speak to me in the same way.  Baking is all about precision which is not my forte.  I love simple desserts with ripe seasonal ingredients and a rustic presentations……Apricot-Rhubarb Cobbler, delicious Red Velbet Cupcakes with lots of frosting and moist cake, home-made Pistachio Ice-Cream, a simple high-quality Chocolate Cake with vanilla whipped cream or seasonal berries.  What can I say, I like what I like?

When I am asked to bake for a catered party or private dinner, I go with recipes that are simple, delicious and most of all consistent. It’s a bad feeling when you are not sure if your dessert is going to “work-out”.  In my business, people expect everything to not only work out, but to wow them.  I recently came across a wonderful summer recipe for “Cinnamon Strawberry Shortcake” that I wanted to share it with you.  This is a recipe you should make the day of your party.  The best part is that you don’t have to worry about it coming out.  I can guarantee you that it will.  Just yesterday, I made the cake for 45 guests and it was a home run!

Cinnamon Strawberry Shortcake

(Serves Eight)

Shortcake:

2 cups, AP Flour
2 tsp., Baking Powder
1/3 cup, Sugar
1/4 tsp., Ground Nutmeg
1/4 tsp., Ground Cinnamon
1/3 cup, Butter, cut in cubes
1 egg, Beaten well
2-4 Tbs, Whole Milk
 
(TO BRUSH ON TOP OF THE CAKE)
2-3 Tbs., Butter (melted)
1 egg (beaten well)
 
 
Macerated Strawberries
3 cups, Fresh Strawberries, stemmed and cut in quarters
2 Tbs. Powdered Sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or Vanilla Bean
 
Fresh Whipped Cream
1 cup, Heavy Cream
3/4 Tbs., Powdered Sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or Vanilla Bean
 (Putting the mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for half an hour will give you successful whipped cream every time)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425. Mix the strawberries with the vanilla and sugar in a bowl or ziplock bag and set aside. 
 
Grease a round, 9-inch square pan and set aside. In a large Kitchen Aid bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. Blend in the butter and egg and mix well. Add enough milk to make a moist, slightly sticky dough. Start with 2 Tsp. and add more as needed.
 
Sprinkle a generous amount of flour on your countertop, place the dough on top, and roll the dough gently into a 9-inch round. (you can use a roller or your hands for a more rustic look)  Place the round into the cake pan. (dont worry if it isn’t a perfect fit) Combine the melted butter and egg and brush the top of the cake generously with this mixture. Bake at 425 for 13-15 minutes, until the top is caramelized. Remove from the pan, let the cakes cool.
 
Right before service, make the fresh whipped cream by beating the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla in a Kitchen Aid with a whisk attachment or a mixing bowl with a whisk until it reaches your desired consistency.
 
To assemble, use a knife to score around the edges of the cake to pop it out of the pan.  Cut the cake in 8 even pieces.  Add a large spoonful of strawberries and strawberry juice on each piece of cake.  Top with a large dollop of fresh whipped cream. Serve and enjoy!