Wedge Salad Appetizers

IMG_5938Appetizers are a mainstay of holiday parties, lots of cheese, phyllo, puff pastry, tarts, crackers and meats.  If we’re lucky there are bowls of olives & pickles, and some raw veg to balance things out.  I think that adding a cold crisp salad is a perfect foil for the rest of the menu.

Recently I was invited to a party that was to embrace the 50’s & 60’s. Most of my time in those periods, was toddling around in nappies, skinning my knees while learning to ride a bike, watching my mom go crazy for the Beatles, and my sister becoming a hippy.

My only true memory of foods of that time was when mom & dad would have Bridge night.  A group of 8 or 12 neighbours would play once a month, rotating houses.  I well remember getting up early the next day and scavenging through the living room, eating leftover AD mints, black olives, gherkins, and the ultimate, broiled spam & cheese on open dinner rolls.  Mom would grate spam, and cheddar (not even Velveeta), mix with mayonnaise (never Miracle Whip) and then spread this on top of dinner rolls.  Broiled just until the cheese melted and the spam sputtered, they were absolutely decadent.

Okay, so my tastes have changed somewhat from when I was eight.

The Wedge Salad was an ever-present menu item for the 50’s & 60’s.  It lost favour when Romaine started edging it out in the 70’s, and open leaf lettuces with vinaigrette started to take over.  The lowly iceberg lettuce has always remained on the produce shelves because it has some amazing qualities.  First off, no other lettuce can replace its crispness.  It holds up well to tossing, and works well with other lettuces to give your salad some lift.  It also seems that the iceberg lettuce of today, is more open and green than the ones of even 20 years ago, which is great.

The lettuce is what makes this appetizer fresh & crispy, and a wonderful addition to an appetizer buffet.  The recipe is followed with notes on plating a basic Wedge Salad, if you want to go traditional. Continue reading

Parmesan & Bacon Strata with Spinach

IMG_4890This is my very favourite Strata.  To be honest I’ve never been a fan of Stratas in general. Ones I’ve had in the past tend to have too much cheese, too much sausage, and left me feeling overfull.  To fix this, I thought it best to figure out the right ratio of bread, egg, & milk.  Once that was figured out, I started to build it up with just enough ingredients to give it a full flavour.  I’m happy to serve this for any breakfast / brunch event, and it disappears quickly.

The bread, egg, & milk ratio (1# bread to 3 cups milk and 10 eggs) can be accented with either savoury or sweet ingredients; just use your imagination.  For instance, add some vanilla and maple syrup to the egg mixture, and tuck in some thin apple slices and pieces of cream cheese.  This will give you a lovely, French toast type Strata.  Be inventive! Continue reading

Cream Scones

IMG_2738 When made following the basic recipe, these make excellent shortcakes.  Using any summer berry topping, and fresh whipped cream, it’s an easy way to feed a crowd.

With the cheese or bacon options, they make a great bread for serving alongside a hearty bowl of soup or a crisp winter salad.  Dress them up with white chocolate & lemon or cocoa for making a shortcake style dessert that will be remembered.

The trick to this recipe is that there isn’t any fat to be cut into the dry mix.  All the fat you need to make them light and fluffy is in the cream.  This recipe is really quick to make, with great results, and can be doubled easily.  The recipe shown is for Paprika-Cheese.

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Cassoulet (Ann’s North American version)

IMG_2244Cassoulet is the original pork and beans.  Each region in France seems to have their version, goose or duck and whichever sausage the region is known for.  My first taste of cassoulet was from Oyama Sausage.  It had confit of duck, their own sausage, and such a light tomato sauce.  We had it for Christmas lunch, and for many years since it’s been our family’s tradition to have Cassoulet at Christmas.

It is a great dish for large groups of people, as it is easily doubled and tripled.  It rebounds, from being frozen, beautifully, and can be made up to 3 days ahead, just hold off with the crumb topping until you’re ready to bake it.  All that’s needed is a crunchy green winter salad, some rustic bread, and big, bold red wine.  I served it for a 65th birthday last year, and saw many folks going back for thirds!  Not that I haven’t done it myself. Continue reading