Buenos Aires – Many moons ago, I had a catering company. My friend Lee, whom I met in cooking school, and I, had this idea for a sort of deli and catering company (oh, and, Happy Birthday Lee! It’s his 50-something’th birthday today). We incorporated – Somewhere Else Catering Inc. – in fact, technically, I guess we still are incorporated, although maybe those things expire eventually. We found a space to operate out of, and then found out that the building’s owner had rented the space to three different companies, taken their security deposits and first month’s rent, signed contracts, told everyone the same move-in day, and then disappeared. It also turned out he wasn’t the building owner, but the former tenant. He and his daughter were eventually tracked down in Florida and we got at least a portion of our money back. The point, somewhere in there, is that we learned very quickly how to operate a catering company out of our respective apartments, one in Manhattan and one on Long Island, just to make it easier. Catering doesn’t hold the best of memories for me. At the very least, I learned things I just plain don’t like to do – like hors d’oeuvres at cocktail parties, or for that matter, any kind of standup sort of party. I like cooking dinner.
All this leads, in a quite roundabout manner, to receiving an e-mail a few days ago from one of our recent Casa SaltShaker guests, asking if I’d be willing to cater a lunch for her. My first thought was opening up “the casa” one afternoon to host the lunch. But she wanted it held at someone else’s apartment, and it was only for three people. Catering… it brought visions to my mind. But, it was a sitdown meal, and as we exchanged a couple of e-mails, all she really needed was me to prepare the food, which she wanted to be servable cold or room temperature, bring it to the person’s apartment, show her anything she needed to do to finish it, and leave. I had nothing else planned for Monday evening other than catching up on episodes of The West Wing (I’d never seen it before and someone recommended it highly, I’m really enjoying it!), a perfect time to prepare for lunch yesterday. So why not?
She’d been here for the encierro dinner and had really enjoyed the piquillo pepper soup. For lunch, we decided to lighten it up a bit, but stay in the same vein. I went with a cold roasted pepper and garlic soup – very simply a mix of two oven roasted red peppers, a rocotto, and a head of garlic (90 minutes at 200°F), a bit of chopped pancetta, and about a quart and a half of herb stock – all simmered together for about half an hour and then pureed and strained. Finished it off with a half cup of light sour cream. I delivered it in a couple of containers along with a packet of fresh chopped chives to sprinkle on top. Skipping the main course a moment, she asked if I’d duplicate the manchego cheese tart from the same dinner – easy enough, I just made a smaller one, cutting all the ingredients to 2/3 of the recipe I have on the page for that dinner. I still had one more small jar of the limquat marmalade, so the topping was already taken care of.
Returning to the main course, we’d decided on a chilled seafood salad. If you’ve never read my paean to Green Goddess dressing, the real stuff, not the bottled, personally I think it’s worth your time to click the link and read it. I went with the winning version that I covered in the article, sans the food coloring, which does nothing other than make the dressing a vivid green color. I partially hollowed out and seeded large tomatoes and filled them with the dressing, along with some celery sticks stripped of their strings (just use a peeler on the outside “skin”), a few sliced radishes, some red oak leaf lettuce as a base, and a trio of seafood. The shrimp were sauteed in olive oil, basil, sea salt, and mild paprika; the mussels in Indian black salt, parsley, and mustard seeds; and the squid rings in sea salt, rosemary, and sour mango powder. I won’t make any claims for amazing plating – I went simple – something easy to plastic wrap and then transport.
It does give me some ideas for maybe offering a weekly lunch here at the Casa, however… I’m gearing up for expanding to 2-3 days a week starting in August. We’ve started to get calls from the Bacanal article, and some folk missed that it was just Fridays, and are interested in other nights. As Arte Johnson would have said…. verrrrrry interrresting…