Entice with Spice: A Holiday Party

holiday table

Last week I catered a dinner for ten, as a fundraiser for our local Soroptimists supporting women and girls in education and business development. We called it “Entice with Spice” and this was our menu.

Entice with Spice

I am not a caterer, but it was the brainchild of Wendy McGuire, former owner of Ganosh Gourmet (ganosh = gnosh, ganache + ganesh because Wendy is truly multicultural in kitchen and in life). Wendy promised to help, and I put my trust in her, even as she trusted me to take the lead in offering a rich experience of spices.

appetizer table

We began with appetizers by the fireside and a chat about Ayurveda, focusing then on food and spicing for your body type, the medicinal value of spices, sampling the six tastes, and some of the best spices for each dosha. Intricately enticed, the guests moved to the dinner table where we served a sumptuously spiced meal to delight every sense.

appetizer tray

greens

endive bar

collageappetizer

Having just met Erin Gleeson at The Front Porch when she came in for a book signing and taste samplings (Thank you Sally!), I was inspired to borrow those same drinks and appetizers served. It lent perfect holiday color, while aligning with the “Indian Raj” theme that delighted our gin- and scotch-loving guests with twists on their usual.

gin fizz

pear

apricot canape

Here are the recipes:

Drinks (inspired by Erin Gleeson of The Forest Feast)

Rosemary Gin Fizz

Hot Pear Toddies

Appetizers (also inspired by Erin Gleeson)

Endive Bar

Spicy Pecans and Pepitas

Apricot Goat Cheese Bites

Ginger Miso Soup

braised squash and cranberry arugula salad

digestive drink

Dinner

Ginger Miso Consommé

Fish Molee  with Spinach Saag and Sesame Speckled Basmati

Braised Squash and Cranberry Arugula Salad with a Citrus Dressing

Digestive Tonic (fresh mint and lemon infused bitters)

Dessert

Chocolate Pâté

Nutmeg Lassi

Plates of Indian Treats

chocolate pate

dessert table

I think they liked it. They were kind enough to write.

“Wow, we’re still basking in the warm glow of what surely ranks up there as one of the most interesting, beautiful, original and downright DELICIOUS evenings ever! Thank you both so very much for including us – it was perfect in every single way!”

“It was wonderful!!! We fully enjoyed the evening and our guests have been raving about what fun it all was. The next day I babysat two of our granddaughters came over for the day and they loved seeing the party things. Thank you again for donating this lovely experience for Soroptimists.”

Our beautiful hostess

Big thanks to our hostess Gail for her generous gift to Soroptimists, and a big thanks to Coronado Soroptimists for all you do to support our communities, and for the Ruby Award that gave launch to our Sophia Camp.

I send out immense gratitude to Wendy who offered her kitchen when our house burned just as the three days of prep began, and whose patience, expertise and heart really made this the magical night that it was.

Thank you Shannon Jones for these gorgeous photographs. Thank you Sally for the invitation to meet Erin, and for all the ways you inspire me, and thanks to all of you who bring beauty, nourishment and love to our world. To me, beauty, friendship and delight is the best medicine of all.

Forest Feast


If you would like Erin’s Forest Feast Recipebook, please leave a comment below. I will pick a name randomly and send it out next week. How do you celebrate this season of light? 

Happy Holy Days. I wish you all love, joy and peace. 

 

Brioche Stuffing With Chestnuts and Figs

Photo by Michael Nagle for The New York Times

This Sunday we are going to celebrate the opening of our friend’s new Yoga Studio in Old Town Temecula. The studio will be called “Sacred Journey” after the sacred journey of healing our friend experienced in Yoga Teacher Training.

As it is a Potluck, I am bringing a dish that seems to make, foodwise, a sacred journey of its own from Thanksgiving to Christmas. As a “Stuffing,” it keeps Thanksgiving alive ~ after all, why should Thanksgiving, with its aromatic feast and endless gratitude, have to end? But with its redolent chestnuts and figs, it introduces us to the flavors of Christmas.

In London, where I lived for so many years, the dim, foggy streets not only came alive with holiday lights in December but with that distinct old world aroma of chestnuts roasting on an open fire.   Years prior, I lived in Italy, where figs were our cherished Christmas presents.  So this is a recipe that captures my heart as it recalls flavors and dishes and times and places and dear friends from the sacred journey of my own life.

My sister sent me this recipe from the New York Times. I used ghee instead of butter, added golden raisin and upped the amount of figs to a full cup. My family has asked me to make it for Christmas dinner, when I will also add 2/3 cup of cranberries for that great seasonal color and the tart that goes pop in the mouth, as well as 1/3 cup hazelnut pieces for an occasional crunch.

If you don’t eat eggs, use an egg substitute from your local grocer, or look under “Blogroll” on the right for the link to the Vegan Society’s web page for egg alternatives that are easy to make at home.

Thanks to Jennifer and to the NYT, and most of all to Daniel Humm, Executive Chef at Eleven Madison Park, for sharing your recipe.

Brioche Stuffing with Chestnuts and Figs

Chestnuts
Chestnuts

1/2 loaf of brioche
1/2 cup ghee
1/2 cup celery, medium fine dice
1/2 cup fennel, medium fine dice
1/4 cup Fiji apple, medium fine dice
1 cup onion, medium fine dice
1 pound Vegetarian Sausage, finely diced
2/3 cup Glazed Chestnuts, medium fine dice
2/3 cup dried figs, medium fine dice
1/3 cup reduced (syrupy) vegetable stock
2 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon salt
2 eggs
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh sage leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh marjoram leaves, chopped
1 pinch garam masala (or allspice)
2 teaspoons ground pepper

Dice brioche into a medium–fine dice and allow to dry in a low oven or overnight at room temperature. Once dry, you will have about 2 cups total.

Melt 1/4 cup ghee in a sauté pan. Sweat the celery, fennel, apple and onion until translucent and soft. (“Sweating” vegetables means slowly cooking them over low heat until soft but not brown.)

In a second sauté pan, melt the remaining ghee and cook sausage gently. Combine the butter and sausage with the diced brioche, celery and onion mixture, chestnuts, figs, reduced stock and stock in a large bowl and toss gently. Season with salt to taste. Gently add eggs and toss to combine. Finish with chopped herbs, spices and pepper.

About to go in ~
About to go in ~

Bake in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish at 350 for 40 minutes or until browned and hot throughout.

~

Enjoy!