Recipes


Layering a buffet table works well for many reasons. This technique makes the best use of limited space—ideal for a condo, apartment or yacht. It establishes an inviting “come-to” zone where guests can freely help themselves again and again. Besides, we all know that three-dimensional buffets are always a better way to display yummy foods, condiments and desserts!

For many years, I considered using this approach for our annual Parade of Lights holiday party; this year I finally took the plunge. First I researched the subject by surfing YouTube, where I found professional chefs and party-planners dispensing advice. Then I scaled it all down to suit my needs.

Here’s what I learned:

Take a good look at the table or surface you will use. Does the location allow for walking around or past it without guests bumping into each other? Can you move it to a better location? I decided that I didn’t have sufficient room in my condo for walking around the dining table, so I decided to push it near the wall, leaving a milling-around-and-line-up area for guests.

Buffet table with tablecloth and tree skirt over risers.

Determine a party theme and color scheme and for your venue. Because my party is held in mid-December, an obvious choice was a Christmas theme. I chose shades of red and green, with a little white for contrast. I love flower arranging! Using fresh flowers and greens purchased at Wholesale Flowers, I made six bouquets, all using the same basic scheme.

Search for items to use for layering; you probably have them in your home. I selected a riser from my linen closet and used stacks of books for the rest. This was a good solution for me—I always have to find somewhere to stash books during a party! Then I selected a large green tablecloth and used a burgundy-red tree skirt for contrast. 

Table set-up.

Place one table covering flat on your table, then add stacking materials.  Cover with the top cloth (or tree skirt in my case), bunching it up like the professionals do. I scattered a few evergreen branches to peek out of the “valleys” between the risers, added three matching small arrangements—short so they won’t obscure the view of the food—then placed a tall bouquet back by the wall. Voila! I was all set.

To eliminate last-minute chaos, place a note on each dish that describes what will go into it.  I placed another stack of serving dishes in the kitchen, for use by those bringing appetizers. I placed a three-tiered stand on the counter, to fill later and replenish the buffet after the parade of boats had gone past our balcony.

Buffet table set against wall.Lois with guest at buffet table.

The layering plan worked out well. I would use it again! Layering made good use of limited space and I thought it made the table more appealing. Of course, I did need some “muscle men” afterwards to put the table back in place!

Have you used buffet layering techniques? How did they work for you?

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During this time of year, my food fantasies often turn to those warm one-dish meals that are easy to prepare and oh, so comforting!  On page 56 of  my book “In Search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss: MAIDEN VOYAGE,” I describe what it was like to cook a Thanksgiving meal in a pressure cooker while rocking and rolling toward Cape Verde.

During the eight years we spent at sea, I learned to depend on my trusty Kuhn Duromatic pressure cooker, purchased especially for our circumnavigation pressure cooker.  This was one item I made sure to ship back before we sold Pacific Bliss after we crossed our path in the south of France.  Now that I’m a landlubber, I still like to use my cooker—especially when the weather chills.

Many cruisers have pressure cookers on board their yachts because they cook faster and therefore use less propane fuel.  The principle of pressure cooking is simple: Because a pressure cooker is airtight, pressure builds up inside as the liquid comes to a boil. The resulting trapped steam causes the internal temperature to rise beyond what it can do under normal room pressure. Food cooking under pressure and at a higher temperature cooks faster.  Another benefit of the increased pressure is that it softens the fibers in foods, tenderizing even the toughest meats and beans.

One of my favorite recipes on board Pacific Bliss was a combination of lentils, yams, and ribs.  One can make it in a variety of ways: as a curry, as a soup, or as a barbeque as shown in the recipe below. Just add extra water with the lentils and yams. (Lentils do not require soaking.)

SPARERIBS WITH BARBEQUE SAUCE 


3 lb. spareribs

Salt & pepper
Paprika
1 tbsp. shortening
1 lg. onion, sliced
1/4 c. catsup
2 tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. celery seed
1/4 c. water


Cut ribs into serving pieces. Season with salt, pepper and paprika. Heat in cooker and add shortening. Brown ribs on both sides. Add onion. Combine vinegar, catsup, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, celery seed and water. Pour over meat in pressure cooker. Cook 15 minutes at 15 pounds pressure. Let pressure drop of its own accord. Serves 5-6. Recipe can also be used for pork chops.


Recipe from Cooks.com

One of the joys of sailing around the world was shopping at ethnic markets and trying out new recipes.  During the time we spent in Australia, I was treated to this marvelous dessert twice.  The first time I encountered it was in Bundaberg, Queensland—in a beauty shop, of all places! I was having my hair colored and cut, and while I was there, a lady came in cradling a box from the local bakery. “Pavlova!” my hairdresser shouted.

“Lois, have you ever tasted this?” she asked. I shook my head no. “You must have a piece. It’s like manna from heaven!”

Not having any idea what manna would taste like (I always thought it was a kind of bread), of course, I agreed to try it.  The soft, sweet meringue melted in my mouth. The fruit provided a tangy contrast. Those tastes—combined with rich whipping cream—indeed tasted like a slice of heaven!

Pavlova is an authentic Australian specialty, so claim the Aussies. This dessert was created in honor of the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, after her tour in 1926 through Australia. But this dessert is also one of the national symbols of New Zealand.  Anna toured both countries that year. So was this recipe was created in 1929 in New Zealand or in 1934 in Australia? The two countries have even taken the fight to court. The controversy makes Pavlova all the more mouth-watering.

I made the dessert for “the kids” last Sunday when they came to our house for dinner. My daughter-in-law, Sabine, guessed that it came from Austria. That’s where Google comes in! All agreed that my version of Pavlova (see below) was lip-smacking good.

Recipe for Mixed Berry Pavlova
1 Pavlova shell
6 cups mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, etc.) cut as for fruit salad and mixed with a pinch of salt and superfine sugar to taste
2  pints best-quality vanilla ice cream or 1 pint fruit sorbet and 1 pint ice cream (optional; not always  included in a Pavlova, but very good)

Whipped Cream
Whipped Cream Topping:
1 cup very cold heavy cream
4 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the Pavlova shell on a cake plate. Soften the ice cream and/or sorbet (if using). Spread first the ice cream and then the whipped cream over the shell and top with the berries. Slice into wedges or just heap into a bowl.

Pavlova Shell
4 room-temperature egg whites
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tsp. white vinegar
2 tsp. cornstarch

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment and draw a heavy 10-inch circle on it. Turn paper over.

2. With the whisk attachment in place, beat egg whites, salt and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer set on medium-low speed. When frothy, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the whites form soft peaks.

3. About 2 teaspoons at a time, add sugar while continuing to beat. Increase the speed to high and beat until stiff and glossy. Beat in vanilla, 1 teaspoon white vinegar, and 2 teaspoons cornstarch.

4. Spoon meringue into the traced circle, smooth with a spatula and shape like a shallow bowl.

5. To cook: Place in the middle of the oven and reduce heat to 250 degrees. Bake for 1¼ hours. Turn off the oven. Leave the meringue in the closed oven for at least 4 hours. Leave the meringue in the turned-off oven to cool, preferably overnight. Should end up crispy on the outside, chewy in the middle.

Pavlova Shell

Adding Sorbet

Pavlova with fruit added

Pavlova, Ready to Serve

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