MONTEREY COUNTY MAGAZINE
Volume one Number one
THE FINE ART OF FOOD
By Wendy Brodie
This is the time of year we gather our festive culinary creativity to bestow on family and friends. Cold, crisp weather, the scent of pine and crackling fireplaces don the home front. Whether you will be digging out the traditional holiday recipes or perusing cookbooks and magazines for new ideas, let me add to your repertoire with some of my holiday adventures.
Hors d'oeuvres have unlimited possibilities and cone- shaped Styrofoam trees are one of my favorite holiday presentations. The cone "trees" are covered in slightly wilted spinach, adorned with your choice of food, then toothpicked to the tree as if they were ornaments. Some things I've used are blanched prawns, cheese cubes; cherry or pear shaped tomatoes and blanched vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. For something sweet, use plain or chocolatc-dippcd strawberries for a dessert tree.
To make the trees, use purchased Styrofoam cone shapes (available at craft stores). The larger the cone, the less stable it is so I add a Styrofoam base and glue the two pieces together. You may also screw the pieces together with a long screw, from the bottom of the base up through the center of the cone bottom. The best way of making the tree look natural is by covering the cone with wilted spinach as it sticks to itself. I place the spinach in a microwave bowl covered with plastic wrap (most brands are microwave proof, but check on the box.) and heat for about 30 seconds to 1 minute on high. Wilting the spinach in this way prevents it from getting too watery. Starting at the top, overlap the leaves, clinging fairly tight to the cone. These display trees can be made days ahead and the spinach can dry or keep in the refrigerator if you have the room. You can decorate the top with a bow, an ornament or food. For the patient foodie you could omit the spinach and cover the cones with small broccoli florets or cauliflower for the flocked look. Be prepared to use lots of plain round toothpicks placed in the stem end of the vegetable and then into the tree. Use the frilly fun toothpicks to adhere your favorite food to the tree. When assembling the food to the tree it is best to start at the bottom and work your way up evenly so the tree stays balanced. This is a good project for kids.
A festive holiday soup idea is to create two colored soups---red and a green-then putting them in the same bowl for a two-tone look. I have tried red and green bell pepper soups thickened with some potatoes and a tomato with spinach or pea soup. You will want to make the soups fairly thick like a vegetable puree, but still liquid and both soups the same consistency so they don't dilute into each other. When you are ready to plate up the soup, either use ladles or pitchers with one in each hand and pour at the same time. If this is too tricky then ladle or pour part of the soup in a bowl then pour the other color in the center so it forms a circle inside the other. I hope you have fun with these ideas. Who Knows? You may even get inspired with your own creations!
MONTEREY COUNTY MAGAZINE; WINTER 2004-2005