Tag Archives: rosemary

Family Catering

Croque-en-Bouches with Mixed Berry and Crème de Cassis Sundae

A couple months ago, my mom told me that she had offered to cater a party for my grandma as a birthday gift and that I was invited to be her catering partner. The catering “service” would include brainstorming, preparing, plating, and serving a five-course, gourmet menu to eight hungry and self-claimed foodie guests. I was 100% on board.

So as soon as I got back home from my end-of-the-spring-semester activities, my mom and I started to prepare for the event. We worked on developing a few dish ideas by looking through all of our recipes from books, Word documents, online bookmarked pages, and collaged cutouts from magazines. We discussed and debated, and about a zillion ideas later, finally put them together into a cohesive and appetizing menu. A shopping list was written and a few days before D-day we began the incredibly long (and tiring) process that was the cooking.

However much time and energy it might have taken, the final result was well worth the effort that it took to develop the menu and then make it a reality—with a few exceptions of course. The gazpacho and avocado mousse with two Parmesan crisps was a much-enjoyed appetizer, but the tomato and avocado lollipops served alongside it, for example, were more of a failed experiment in molecular gastronomy than anything else. Visually, they were perfect, but their rubbery texture and imbalance between the flavorless avocado and acidic tomato was definitely a turnoff. At least we had the delicious and popular pancetta-wrapped fig skewers (stuffed with goat cheese and drizzled with honey) and grilled eggplant dip served with rosemary flat bread to wash it down. Not to mention the paired rosé, whites, and port that my dad served throughout the meal.

Eggplant and Pepper Dip

Food successes and failures aside, the best part about this catering event was, oddly enough, everything but the taste of the food. I loved watching people decipher the menus we’d printed out when we brought out the mini croque-en-bouches and mixed berry sundaes, or listen to the “oohs” and “ahs” and diplomatic “very interestings” in reaction to tasty or not-so-great dishes. It was a time- and energy-consuming endeavor, and I am so glad that everything turned out well (or almost). But more so than that, it was amazing to experience the meal coming together and to then present and share it with my grandma and her closest friends and relatives.


Fourth Time’s the Charm

Red Wine Jelly with Blue Cheese and Rosemary

I’ve been trying to make red wine jelly for quite some time now, and I am happy to say that after three failed attempts, I’ve finally reached success. After several batches of viscous wine syrup that was sometimes filled with crystallized sugar or had a weird, lumpy texture, I’ve made a real, sweet but still acidic red wine jelly that is indeed gelatinous. It feels good to finally be able to enjoy the fruits of that labor and not throw yet another bottle’s worth of ungodly syrup down the drain.

I’m not sure why wine jelly has become such an obsession. Maybe it started when I saw goat cheese toasts topped with a dollop of fig jam? While fig jam is now pretty trendy (and, when you think about, not all that exotic) I hadn’t ever really seen it before, and I loved the idea of serving something sweet with something classically savory. Add on the idea of moving to Mendoza, South America’s “International Wine Capital,” for Spring 2013 study abroad and you’ve got yourself a full-fledged obsession with wine under its unconventional forms.

Now that I’ve tasted the successful version of red wine jelly on top of a blue-cheese toast, I realize that the struggle in making it was all worth the effort. The flavor is pretty subtle, but with a proper cheese-to-jelly ratio, this red wine jelly makes for a delicious and elegant appetizer. And it isn’t that bad spread onto a buttered blueberry or herb biscuit or simple slice of baguette either.

Red Wine Jelly


  • 1 bottle red wine (I used a Malbec, but I think a Merlot would be good too)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons agar-agar

In a large pot, bring the wine and sugar to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Five minutes before the jelly is ready, add the agar-agar and stir. Pour into clean jars and close lids tightly. Flip each jar upside down to sterilize, and about 5 minutes later flip them right side up. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Refrigerate after opening.