Cool foods for warm outdoor parties - East Valley Tribune: At Home

Cool foods for warm outdoor parties

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Posted: Saturday, April 29, 2006 7:19 am | Updated: 2:34 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Throwing a party is challenge enough for most people. Throwing a party on the patio just ups that challenge.

Besides seating and serving issues, there’s weather and wind to factor in as well as, at this time of year, heat and bugs.

To get the best advice, the Tribune went to chef Laura Slama, who, as owner of the Tempe-based catering company Celebrated Cuisine, throws parties for a living.

“What I would always consider is, first, I would want to match the food with the weather,” says Slama.

If, for example, it is full summer, serve cool foods that hold up to the heat and won’t turn quickly (no mayo), she says.

She also keeps the dinner’s theme in mind and picks recipes accordingly. An Italian summer dinner could include her recipe for Roasted Pepper and Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade. As a bonus, the tapenade and the crustiness could be made ahead for a quick assembly before the party.

Next, Slama asks guests for dietary considerations. The goal is to make sure everyone can have something on their plate.

And whatever the menu, it shouldn’t require the hostess to miss her own party. Look for dishes with components that can be made ahead or that don’t require lots of last-minute fuss, such as her Spicy Black Bean Cakes with Avocado Crema.

“Create a menu where you don’t have to be constantly in the kitchen,” she says. “My most frustrating parties are those where I felt like the caterer.”

Slama urges party hosts and hostesses to not attempt untried recipes — something we all do because, well, let’s face it, who wants to put in the time and expense of a fancy dish without anyone to admire it?

Slama says her own pitfall when planning a patio party at home — as opposed to those she caters — is she just makes too much food.

Finally, every would-be host or hostess should ask themselves the following: “What do I feel like making? What do I want to eat?” says Slama, adding that she spends most of her time preparing menus to please other people, so her own party should be something she likes.

SPICY BLACK BEAN CAKES WITH AVOCADO CREMA

Yield: About 20 cakes

3 (15-ounce) cans of black beans, drained 2 eggs, divided 3 cups panko, divided (panko is a bread crumb commonly used in Japanese cooking) 1 medium red bell pepper, diced small 1 /2 medium poblano pepper, seeded and diced small 4 green onions, chopped 1 /2 cup cilantro, minced 2 large cloves garlic, minced 1 teaspoon chili powder 1 /2 tablespoon cumin 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 /2 tablespoon kosher salt 1 /2 teaspoon onion powder 1 /2 teaspoon black pepper Vegetable oil as needed 1 /2 cup crema (Mexican sour cream) 1 avocado, diced or scooped Tortilla chips (the flat, round type)

Procedure: 1. Purée half the black beans with eggs in a processor until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl. 2. Stir in remaining beans, half of panko and the next 11 ingredients. Shape mixture into 1-ounce cakes (bite size). Cook one to test for taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. Transfer cakes to a baking sheet. Dredge black bean cakes on both sides with remaining panko. Chill. 3. Heat oil over medium heat. Cook cakes until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Transfer to parchment-lined sheet trays; cool completely. 4. To serve, heat in a 425-degree oven drizzled with vegetable oil. Place each on a tortilla chip. Drizzle with crema and garnish with either diced or scooped avocado.

Source: Chef Laura Slama, owner of Celebrated Cuisine, a Tempe catering company

ROASTED PEPPER AND SUN-DRIED TOMATO TAPENADE

Yield: About 20 pieces

Ficelle or baguette, thinly sliced and toasted (crostini) 1 large clove of garlic, chopped 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil 2 large red bell peppers, roasted 1 tablespoon capers, drained 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted Balsamic vinegar to taste Kosher salt to taste Extra virgin olive oil to taste Optional: Fresh basil chiffonade and drained capers for garnish

Procedure: 1. In a food processor, purée capers and pine nuts. Place in a small bowl and set aside. 2. In the same processor, pulse garlic, roasted peppers and tomatoes until coarsely chopped. Return caper/pine nut mixture to processor. Purée until smooth. Add enough olive oil to achieve a spreadable, but not runny, consistency. 3. Adjust seasonings with balsamic vinegar and kosher salt. 4. To assemble, spread roasted pepper and sun-dried tomato tapenade on crostini. Garnish with basil and capers.

Source: Chef Laura Slama, owner of Celebrated Cuisine, a Tempe catering company

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