Monday, August 17, 2009

Brianna's Graduation Party

Hi friends! Sorry for the long absence! It's been a hectic couple of months, what with graduating from Fordham, moving to an apartment in the East Village, and starting "real life". I finally feel like I'm settled in, though, and I'm excited to start posting new recipes again! Actually, this past weekend, my roommate's parents threw her a graduation party in Quincy, Massachusetts... and they asked me to cater it! Of course I was happy to plan the menu and prepare the feast, and I had lots of help from my roommate, her mom, and friends and neighbors. I was a little nervous to cook for so many people (I believe there were over 40 people at the party), but everything turned out pretty well and everyone had a great time!

I decided to go with kebabs as the main dish for the party, since they're easy to prepare and pretty fun to eat. As for the type of cuisine, recently I've been pretty obsessed with the idea of Asian/Latin American fusion, so I tried to stick to that. So, the week before the party, I planned a rough menu and sent my roommate's mom a list of the groceries and supplies that we would need. The day before the party, my roommate, her boyfriend, and I drove up to Quincy. We arrived pretty late, but I was so excited that I couldn't get to sleep! On the morning of the party, we woke up early to start preparing. I had even planned the order in which everything should be made, so as to avoid chaos at the last minute. We started with the marinades, dressings, and sauces for the various dishes. Then came the rice dish, followed by assembling the kebabs, and finally putting together the different appetizers and salads. We fired up the grill, put the kebabs on, and soon everyone was enjoying the feast and partying the night away!

Here are the recipes from the party (keep in mind that all these recipes serve 40+ people!!):

Guacamole is usually always a hit at any party, and sure enough, at Brianna's graduation party, it disappeared even before all of the guests had arrived. I should have doubled the recipe!

5 avocados
1 red onion
2 tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lime
salt and pepper, to taste

Finely dice the onions and tomatoes. Halve the avocados, remove the pits, and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Mash with a fork to desired consistency (I like to leave some big chunks of avocado in my guacamole, but some might prefer a smoother, creamier guac). Add the diced onions and tomatoes, along with the cilantro and garlic. Add the juice of 1 lime and season with salt and pepper. Serve with tortilla chips.

Mexican Bruschetta
This appetizer was a hit, too! A twist on the classic Italian bruschetta, this version includes cilantro (instead of parsley), melted cheese, and red pepper flakes.

10 tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 white onions
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil
2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar, monterrey jack, or any combination), or more, if you like
3 baguettes

Set the oven to broil. Finely dice the onions and tomatoes. Combine with garlic, cilantro, and red pepper flakes. Drizzle mixture with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Cut baguettes in half, lengthwise. Broil in the oven for up to 2 minutes, just until the bread is toasted on the outside. Remove from the oven. Using a slotted spoon (so that you don't drown the baguettes in tomato juice), scoop the tomato mixture onto the baguettes. Sprinkle with cheese and put back under the broiler, just until the cheese melts. Remove from the oven and slice into individual servings.

Orzo pasta salad with lime cilantro dressing

2 boxes orzo pasta
3 cans garbanzo beans
5 red or green bell peppers, or a combination

For the pasta salad: Cook orzo according to directions on the box. Dice the bell peppers and combine with cooked orzo. Rinse the garbanzo beans and add to the mixture.

5 limes
4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon dijon, wholegrain, or horseradish mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

For the dressing: Juice the limes. Add the cilantro and mustard and mix well. Drizzle in the olive oil while whisking the mixture, forming a creamy dressing. Add sugar and season with salt and pepper. Dress the salad just before serving.

Avocado, spinach, and quinoa salad with miso ginger dressing

6 avocados
1 bag spinach
1 box quinoa
1 red onion
2 cans black beans
1 bunch scallions

For the salad: Cook the quinoa according to the directions on the package. Empty the bag of spinach into a large serving bowl. Rinse the black beans and add to the spinach. Add the quinoa to the bowl. Halve and pit the avocados. Score each halve into slices, then scoop out the flesh into the bowl. Dice the red onion and chop the scallions, adding those to the bowl as well.

1.5 tablespoons white miso paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon minced ginger

For the dressing: Scoop the miso paste into a large measuring cup. Add the soy sauce and rice vinegar and mix well. Add the sesame oil and mix, then add the ginger. Taste the dressing - if it is too salty, add a little more vinegar and a little more sesame oil. Dress the salad at the last minute, just before serving.

Garlic Saffron Rice

10 cups basmati rice
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 large pinch saffron
2 white onions
olive oil
salt, to taste

Rince the rice under cold water in a large sieve and drain well; set aside. Dice the onions. In a large pot over medium-high heat, saute the onions in olive oil. When the onions begin to soften, add the minced garlic. Saute until fragrant, then add the saffron and a nice sprinkle of salt. Add the rice and saute until the grains are slightly translucent. Add 20 cups water*, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer until cooked through. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

*Take a look at the directions on the package for the basmati rice. If the directions say, for example, that to cook 1 cup rice you need 2.5 cups water, adjust the proportions in the above recipe accordingly.

Steak Kebabs

8lbs tri tip or top round steak
assortment of veggies, such as bell peppers, white mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and onions
wooden skewers, pre-soaked for at least 30 minutes
miso ginger dressing (recipe above)
10 cloves garlic, minced

Cut everything into kebab-sized pieces. Add the minced garlic to the dressing (you will have to at least double the recipe for the dressing if you are using this much meat) and marinate the steak in the dressing for at least 1 hour. Assemble the skewers, alternating between veggies and meat. Grill over medium high heat.

Chicken Kebabs

8lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
4 tablespoons peanut butter
4 tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
wooden skewers, also pre-soaked

Mix the peanut butter and water in a bowl until it forms a sauce-like consistency. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil. Cut the chicken into kebab-sized pieces. Assemble the kebabs and grill over medium high heat until chicken is cooked through. Just before removing the kebabs from the grill, spoon or brush some peanut sauce on every kebab.

Tofu Kebabs

4 packages tofu
assortment of veggies
salt and pepper
olive oil
wooden skewers, also pre-soaked

Cut everything into kebab-sized pieces. Assemble the skewers, alternating between veggies and tofu, season everything with salt and pepper, and brush each kebab with olive oil. Grill over medium high heat until nice grill marks appear on the tofu and veggies. Serve with peanut sauce or miso ginger dressing (recipes above).

Fruit kebabs with raspberry sauce and vegan chocolate sauce

My roommate Brianna is vegan, so for this dessert, instead of using regular chocolate to make the chocolate sauce, I substituted vegan chocolate. Simple enough, and everyone was able to enjoy it!

assortment of fruit that will hold when grilled, such as pineapple, strawberries, and firm peaches
wooden skewers, pre-soaked
1 bag vegan chocolate chips
1/2 cup soy milk or soy creamer
1 cup raspberry jam
1 small box of raspberries

Cut the fruit into kebab-sized pieces. Assemble the kebabs, alternating fruits. Grill over medium heat, just until there are light grill marks on most of the fruit. Meanwhile, combine the chocolate chips and soy milk and melt, either in a double boiler or a makeshift one. In a different pot, combine the raspberry jam and the raspberries and heat until the jam melts down to a sauce. Serve the fruit kebabs with the sauces on the side.