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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Ask Rula! NYC Edition

Even the city folks rely on Rula!
Hello my people! New and old, cowboys, cowgirls, healers, dreamers, subway riders, road-raged cabbies, overworked mothers, and confused Millennials, Rula is here to help. Wherever I go, I meet people with questions about food. How to make it, how to buy it, how to shop for it, how long to store it, and what do they do when they screw it up. Fear not, my culinary challenged sweeties. I — as always — have some answers for you. Here is a brief assortment of some questions I received this week.

The first question is from Pass the Party Platter Peggy, and she writes:
Dearest Rula,
One of my co-workers is retiring and I volunteered to do some sort of hors d'oeuvres for 40(!) people at his retirement party. D'oh! What was I thinking? Any suggestions for interesting, easy-to-assemble, snack-a-licious-ness? Also, how many pieces of food do I make for 40 people? There will be other foods (cake, salsa and chips, etc.) I want it to be nice, but I do not have time to spend hours in the kitchen making cute little canapés.
Pass the Party Platter Peggy

Dear Pass the Party Platter Peggy,
That will teach you to volunteer your services! But fret not my dear, you have options. Instead of making tons of labor-intensive little bits, I would suggest platters. You can go with anything from the classic and not terribly exciting hummus-and-flatbread to an impressive pan-Asian tasting platter with home-rolled sushi, pot stickers, kimchee, and chicken satay with peanut sauce. The most important thing to remember is don't try to be too smart for the room — know your audience. And don't forget to use what's available, even just as a jumping off point. Trader Joe's has some great items in their freezer section as well as pre-cooked rice and grains which are real time savers.

In terms of amount, I would figure 2 pieces per person, so if you do platters with, let's say stuffed grape leaves, (the commercial ones are great in a pinch) 2 per person should be enough, along with other items you say are being served. Bulk up on the crackers, croustades, bagel chips, pita triangles if you are worried they might be big eaters. Carbs like that are easy and cheap and you can take home any leftovers. Might I also suggest one of the best and easiest things to make and impress? Chocolate dipped strawberries or chocolate dipped dried fruit (mango, apricots, pears, etc). I have never met a guest who didn't go crazy over that!

The next question is from Tommy Tomato and he writes:
Dear Rula,
The other night, I was out at a great new little local Italian joint having some pasta, because — hey — I'm not going to order anything else but pasta at an Italian restaurant, right? My Pasta Primavera came out garnished with these beautiful, little, slightly-dried, multi-colored plum tomatoes which were sweet and lovely. How did they do this and can I make them at home?
Tommy Tomato

Dear Tommy Tomato,
Oh please, this is so easy you will be making them all the time. You can do this with grape tomatoes, pear tomatoes, and Roma tomatoes. This is my technique. Cut the tomatoes in half, throw them in a bowl and drizzle them with good olive oil, salt and pepper, a little fresh chopped garlic and fresh thyme, and the secret ingredient: a little maple syrup! Preheat the oven to 250 degrees and place the tomatoes cut-side-up on a rack sprayed with oil. Bake for 15 minutes then check them, turn the pan and bake them 15 minutes more. Keep checking them every 15 minutes until they reach the level of dryness you are looking for. Roma tomatoes will obviously take a bit longer. They are great tossed with roast fennel in a salad along with some shaved Asiago cheese. So as you can see, my short sighted friend, pasta is not the only Italian food!

If you have any questions for me, send me an email or leave a comment! Well, that's all for now — I have to get my torch tuned up. Ciao!

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