Thursday, September 12, 2013

Birthday Luncheon

Corn Salad

Quinoa Salad
Grilled Vegetables

Grilled Mahi-Mahi

Grilled Mahi-Mahi and Tri-Tip topped with Chimichurri

Marie's Carrot Cake

Last Sunday I celebrated by 50th birthday. I wasn’t apprehensive about it or depressed that I had hit the half-century mark. It was another milestone. When my father turned 50 I remember saying to him, “Now you’re a half century old!” At first I wasn’t going to do anything about it, just celebrate with my family. But then I decided that this is indeed something to celebrate about. My baby brother passed away last December, and he was only 40. So I created a little menu and invited my family (sans my in-laws who are out of town) and my closest friends, and we got together for lunch.

This is what we had:

Chips – Just regular Ruffles potato chips. I almost always serve chips to tide people’s hunger over while waiting for all of the dishes to finish cooking. It’s easy to grab and satisfies the craving for salt and crunch when I’m hungry. Besides, I think of this as a treat as I don’t store this in my kitchen because of the calories.

Deviled Eggs – This is a dish I inherited from my mother-in-law. Call it a throwback from the 50s or 60s but I believe it lends an elegance to the buffet table. This is easy to make and oh-so-addictive. The day before your event boil eggs for about 10 minutes and cut in half. Place the whites in a rimmed platter and the yolks in a bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork or pastry cutter, add mayo, yellow mustard and white pepper. Mix until creamy and transfer to resealable plastic bag. Refrigerate overnight. To serve, place egg whites on a Deviled Egg tray, thick side pointing out (for ease of picking up). If you don’t have a Deviled Egg tray, place some shredded lettuce on a platter and lay egg whites on top. This will prevent the deviled eggs from sliding around. Snip off a piece of one of the bottom corners from the resealable plastic bag and pipe egg yolk mixture into the whites. Sprinkle paprika on every other egg.

Pedron Peppers – These are mild peppers I picked from my garden. Similar peppers are Cubanelles or Italian Frying Peppers. They are mild but once in a while you’ll get a spicy one. I liken eating these to playing roulette.

Roast Tomato Soup – One of the best things I’ve ever made! This was a good prelude to the food to come as each guest was handed a mug of warm (not hot) tomato soup which I garnished with cream and a roasted grape tomato. For pictures and the recipe, please see my post “Roast Tomato Soup” (8/31/13).

Quinoa Salad – One of my favorite new foods. Quinoa is believed to have originated in the Peruvian Andes. Although it looks and be haves like a grain, it is actually related to spinach and tumbleweeds! Nevertheless, it is rich in protein and is easy to cook. When it’s cooked it seems that the ring holding the two halves together fall off. I mixed red and white and added diced beets from my garden, sliced olives, minced red onion, cucumbers, diced orange bell peppers, fresh thyme, and capers. Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper were all I used to season this dish.

Corn Salad – I usually don’t make this but I thought it would add to the table. It certainly was colorful! First I roasted the corn (in their husks) in the oven, then I shucked them cutting as close to the cob as possible. I added diced red bell peppers, black beans, diced carrots and celery, basil leaves and minced flat leaf parsley. You can dress it with your favorite brand of Italian dressing.

Grilled Veggies – This is a standard whenever I BBQ or grill anything. It’s a great accompaniment to the meat and a good alternative for vegetarians. All I do is mix garlic salt and oil in a large bowl and toss the vegetables in it. Grilling veggies gives them a delicate smoky flavor and an attractive char. So for my birthday, we grilled zucchini, green beans tomatoes and portabella mushrooms.

BBQ Tri-Tip – I like to serve this for a crowd. It cooks in about an hour, is pretty lean and has lots of beefy flavor. When sliced thin and at an angle, it comes out very tender. Be sure to let the meat rest for about 10 minutes after removing from the grill to let the juices redistribute.

Grilled Mahi-Mahi - My mom doesn’t like to eat a lot of red meat so I always try to have something else for her. As with the veggies, I used the garlic salt-oil mixture to season the fillets. The oil also prevents them from sticking to the grill. Just grill the fillets until they are opaque to preserve their tenderness, otherwise, they come out dry.

Chimichurri – And finally my go-to condiment for grilled anything. Please see my post “Chimichurri” (9/6/13) for details.

Carrot Cake – Carrot Cake is my favorite kind of cake since it provides the sweet finale to a meal, as well as contributes to the DRA (Daily Recommended Allowance) of fruits and vegetables! So my sister-in-law, Marie, said she was going to take care of the cake. She made one. But this was no ordinary cake! It was chock-full of candied pineapples, coconut flakes, nuts, hand-shredded carrots, raisins, etc. She also used my Apricot Jam and Apricot-Banana Jam.


As we were enjoying the food, I was already thinking of what to make for the next party. I also made a mental note to add marinated artichoke hearts or hearts of palm to the Corn Salad.

My friend, Ray, also brought his World Famous Macadamia-Crusted Pear Tart which was devoured within minutes of slicing. You need to bring more next time, Ray!

It was a wonderful gathering. My family and friends asked God to bless me, and in turn I thanked God for them. Despite my protests, Mary insisted that I make a wish and blow out a candle. So I wished for success in my future endeavors.

Would you like me to cook for your birthday?

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