Dinner Party

I think our favourite type of event to cater is small dinner party in someone’s home. Between 8 to 12 people is the ideal size for an intimate gathering. Smaller events like this allow us  to give it the personal touch and  lets us have fun with the food. These events really allow us to customize the food to suit the tastes of the client and their guests. We had the privilege of catering an 8 person dinner last night.

This is the menu we served. The entire menu is dairy free and made with very little onion or garlic. This was the client’s preference.

If you have an event coming up, consider having it catered. Instead of being stuck in the kitchen over a hot stove, you can be enjoying your guests’ company.

Pass Arounds

smoked steelhead 2butternut squash with shitake and apple

crostini with arugula pesto, coppa and cherry Tomato

smoked steelhead cakes with spicy mint aioli
and smoked steelhead

 

Saladwalnuts

fresh fig, caramelized fennel, toasted walnuts and arugula
with a lemon balsamic vinaigrette

Entree

lentils

steelhead trout on green lentils with roasted nugget potatoes, green beans and cucumber remoulade

 

 

Dessert

coconut panna cotta with grilled peach granita, pomegranate seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, coconut, dried mango, fresh peaches,  fresh fig and mint

Butternut Squash with Shitake and Apple Appetizer

1 butternut squash

apple

1 cup shitake mushroom tops

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tart apple

lemon juice

olive oil

salt and pepper

1.I love how butternut squash has 2 parts, the top is shaped like a zucchini and is solid flesh. the bottom is round and is hollow, filled with seeds. This recipe uses both those parts. Try to find a squash with a skinny top so that when you slice it, it is a good appetizer size. To prepare, cut he top  and bottom off the squash. Cut the squash in half separating the skinny part from the round part. Peel the skinny part and slice into 1/4inch thick coins. Cut the round part in half and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle the squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake the top coins in a 350 oven for about 15 minutes, until it starts to brown. Bake the bottom part for 30-40 minutes until soft.

2.slice shitake mushrooms tops, sauté in a little oil with garlic, add soy sauce and remove from heat.

3. Scoop the squash out of the bottom half of the squash, puree in a food processor until very smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper

4. slice apple into little matchsticks, toss with lemon.

5. To assemble, drop a teaspoon of warm squash puree onto each squash round. top with shitake mushrooms, garnish with apple matchsticks. This dish tastes like early autumn. Depending on how big the squash is, you should get around 12 canapes. You will probably have leftover puree which you can use for a veggie side dish or as the base of a soup.

Eating Clean, A Plan

Want to eat healthy but still want tasty meals and snacks? I know we do. Cook with us as we try to find cleaner, healthier options that are delicious and fun to make

Alex and I have a fun little side project going on. The past few years, we have sort of ignored our health in a significant way and gotten rounder and rounder. I think it’s a fair statement to say we’re both kind of done with that situation. I can get really nutty and super into a project like this and wind up burning myself and Alex out so I’ve taken a bit more of a measured approach to situation.

A few months ago, I connected with Dave and Megan at Midtown Barbell. Not long after I started, I had the major setback of our work lives being blown up so I kind of lost my way for a bit. With some gentle encouragement and a considerable amount of patience, Dave got me back in the gym. It’s hard and gross and I could seriously talk myself out of going every single day but I haven’t and I’m there, sweating and swearing and trying to keep my chin up.

This past weekend, Megan sent me a little food plan. It’s pretty straight forward:

The Plan

Breakfast:

3 eggs, ¾ cup of oatmeal, 1 tsp slivered almonds, 1 tsp butter

Lunch:

5 oz turkey or chicken or tuna

Dijon mustard or some sort of sugar free sauce

2 cups spinach

2 tbsps dressing

Handful of cashews

Dinner:

6 oz lean meat, 1 cup steamed broccoli, 1 baked yam, 1 tsp butter

Snacks:

½ small fruit, 1 oz cheese, 1 small handful of nuts

1 oz cheese, 36 calories worth of crackers

1 oz meat, 1 slice of bread, 1 tsp mayo

1 hardboiled egg

Small handful of grapes and nuts

No pop, no juice, no alcohol

I sat with this for a couple of days… it was the long weekend which means lots of cocktails and yummy food so the eating plan could wait. And it gave me time to consider what she had written out. I really dislike boring food. And this just strikes me as 10 days of boredom which will be hard to keep myself motivated through. So I’ve had enough time to think and I’ve come up with a few ideas about how to eat this lean protein, high vegetable plan with a little panache.

Here is how we interpreted it on one of those 10 days

3 scrambled eggs with 2 tomato slices

¾ cup steel cut oatmeal with a few blueberries

Lunch for Danielle turned out to be a store bought chicken, corn and hardboiled egg salad with a mustard/olive oil dressing. Alex had 2 leftover chicken thighs and a sliced tomato.

For snacks, I had some cucumber slices with 2 oz of cheese. 

Grapes

A few roasted almonds

And then for dinner, I made a pretty nice little schmammer:

Yam, Kale and Ground Turkey Hash

Yam, Kale and Ground Turkey Hash

 

Yam, Kale and Ground Turkey Hash

yam schmammer1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 jalepeno, diced

1 very large or 2 regular yams, diced

4 cups of kale, stripped of stems and chopped

1lb ground turkey

2 tbsps chili powder

1 tbsp cumin

2 tbsps oil, divided in 2

Salt and pepper to taste

At medium high, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large frying pan, add chili powder and cumin, let cook for 1 minute. Add the onion and saute until cooked through. Add garlic and jalepeno, cook for 1 minute.  Meanwhile, steam the yams in the microwave on high for 5 minutes with ½ cup of water. Drain off the water and add the yams to the onions. Cook for 5 minutes then add the chopped kale.

In a separate pan, heat up 1 tbsp of oil and add the ground turkey. Saute until cooked then add to the sweet potato mixture.

I wasn’t sure how this dish was going to go but it was delicious! So good. And I feel it is entirely in the spirit of the meal plan.

For the Love of Entertaining

 

floral centerpiece
A floral centerpiece from our own garden

We love to entertain. Full-on. From a few people sitting around a campfire drinking hot toddies and eating s’mores to an elegant five course dinner with all the details in place, we are deeply nourished by gathering with people and connecting over food and drinks.

When I was 18 years old, I met Alex’s family. At a dinner party. With a lot of cutlery. And glasses. I was super intimidated and freaked out. You see, I was raised in a different kind of world. A world in which tv trays made of hard cream coloured plastic with scenes of horses running through fields were tucked behind plates with meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Where most parties meant paper plates and plastic cups because that made clean up easier. Where trays of oven fried chicken were balanced on the burners of the stove for a makeshift buffet dinner.  Not that there was anything bad or unpleasant about the food and dining experiences of my childhood. The food was all lovingly made, often by my grandmother and usually using chickens from the neighbours and vegetables from our gardens. And we had lots of parties. Family and friends gathered in our big house or at my great aunt’s (seriously) tiny house (her kitchen couldn’t handle a full-sized fridge, so it had a bar fridge!) And we ate and laughed and had fun.

It’s just that I did not know that dinner could involve two forks. Or cloth napkins folded to look like fans or birds. Or 3 glasses. When I met Alex’s mom, Aija, I believe she was at the apex of her hosting. For the first ten years, there were endless parties: dinner parties, themed parties, cake parties. You named it, there was a party for it. One Christmas, she hosted 19 parties. Who does that?! But it was a ton of fun. All these parties tapped into some deep part of me, into my creative and nurturing parts, and I fell in love. Pretty soon, we were hosting our own parties and helping Aija with some of her parties.I learned how to set a table with all the cutlery, and how to time the service of courses, and emergency repair a cake, and use the right glasses for port. I am always grateful for Aija sharing all of this knowledge with me and for the lessons in being a gracious and good host. I’ve carried this knowledge with me throughout my life, no matter what I’m doing, and although the port glass stuff doesn’t come up too often, the gracious host stuff comes up a lot.

neil dinner 1
The first of many courses

 

In this section of our website, we will be posting about parties we host or parties we cater or parties we would love to create. Enjoy the party and join the conversation! If you have any questions, thoughts, feelings about events please comment or send an email to chef@alexanderskitchen.ca or danielle@alexanderskitchen.ca

The Gift

Sometimes gifts arrive in the most curious of packages. So curious, in fact, that it can take a few moments to even recognize it as a gift. We’ve recently had the experience of receiving an expected, unrecognizable gift.

Our business was taken away from us.

Truly, did not see that coming. Six weeks before we were ousted, we had signed a lease on a new restaurant. We all met and planned and chatted excitedly about possibilities. And then, we were out. And, for awhile, it was ugly; the gift that causes waves of nausea, fear and confusion, is really, really hard to recognize as a gift.

But, as a bit of time passed, and we were able to start to see the glimmers of possibility. We began to experience a shift in our vision. Maybe we want to do more than run a restaurant? Alex and I have been in the restaurant and hospitality industry for a very long time. He has been a chef for 25 years, we opened our first restaurant together 15 years ago. We have catered every kind of event imaginable, from a 4 person private event under a tent where the guests arrived by boat to many 200 person sit-down weddings to 5,000 person dinners in a field. We have run an intimate, open-kitchen bistro, a fun and packed lounge, a butcher shop… We have toured and cooked. We have done tv, radio and magazine articles. We have cooked for our friend living with cancer and her celiac husband. We have said “yes” to every special request that came our way. We have mixed cocktails and grown our own veggies and herbs. We hosted our very first dinner party when we were 20 years old, complete with a theme and 4 courses. For years, we hosted a weekly Friday night dinner of about 20 people, where everyone threw $5 in a pot to cover the food costs (this was a few years ago…) and we sat in the glow of each other’s company and unpacked our long weeks together. We catered our own wedding. Seriously. For 30 years now, we have lived food, drinks, and hospitality. And for the past 15 years, we have focussed on running our own restaurants. Maybe the time has come to shift our gaze. To lean deeply into the parts of food culture which often get pushed to the side when running a busy place: writing about food, creating recipes, talking about cookbooks, spending time with farmers, hosting events. And talking with other people about it all.

For as long as I can remember, community has been key to our lives. Being connected to people and experiencing life together is so very important to us. We hope we are going to be able to create community here. We hope to answer questions, learn about so much, provide support, and have a really good chat. Our website is intended to be dynamic and engaged with the community. We will write about our food experiences, we will take pictures, talk, cook, laugh, love and share it all with you.

Food and community, what else is there?

Thank you for coming to our website.

#livewithlove

Nourishing Narratives

naturally-nourished.jpg

I love cookbooks. You could say I collect them. Someday I would love to open a Chef’s Library (fully licensed of course). I read cookbooks instead of novels, I’ve always said I have too short an attention span for a novel, a cookbook is like a collection of short stories. Tasty short stories.

I have an interesting relationship with cookbooks. They come to me at different times, I flip through them, look at the pictures, read a couple recipes. Sometimes I will become obsessed with the book right away, I’ll read and re-read it, try recipes, seek out more information about the author. Other times, the cook book isn’t really where I am at in that moment. And I will put it away, almost forget about it. And then, at some future moment I’ll remember and rediscover that book and fall in love with it. I had that with Prune by Gabrielle Hamilton. I received it for Christmas one year, flipped through it and put it away. This past winter, I was looking for ideas, pulled Prune off the shelf, and Bam!, I was hooked. I wanted to make everything in the book and I didn’t want to make anything that wasn’t in the book.

Some books are great collections of recipes. Others are great inspirations. Some are both. The French Laundry, but Thomas Keller, is a great coffee table book. It has great recipes, most of which you will never make, but it is punctuated by beautiful little stories of his career as a young chef. I often encourage my cooks to read the story about the rabbits. But I also love books like the Mennonite Heritage Cookbook or cookbooks put out by church guilds and community clubs. These have low production values but are filled with great recipes. They often assume you know how to cook, they use instructions like “add enough flour to make a soft dough” and “cook until done”. But if you want five different recipes for million dollar relish, these are the books for you.

I am often asked, “what is your favourite cookbook?” Sometimes I will say which ever one I am leafing through at the time. But if pushed, I will list two books. The first is always The Joy of Cooking; not the new one, but the old one. You know the one, the one with the hand drawn illustration of how to skin a squirrel. This book is dense with recipes. There is pretty much a recipe for anything you might want to make. But these were recipes for a leaner time. If I am making a dessert out of Joy , I always double the amount of chocolate it asks for. But I particularly love the ‘About’ sections: here the book will give you detailed description of how ingredients work and the techniques behind types of recipes. Anyone interested in cooking would benefit from studying this tome. The other is The Zuni Cafe. I don’t know if I have every made a recipe out of this book, but every time I pick it up, it inspires and educates. I love the stories she tells of working for the Troisgros brothers or of Alice Waters in the early days. I am particularly excited by her lengthy and rule breaking treatises on such subjects as salt or making stocks. Whenever I am struggling with a menu or a dish, I return to The Zuni Cafe.

 

So, whenever I get an idea in my head of some new food adventure I want to go on, I always start by seeking out a new cookbook. This summer Danielle and I decided to embark on a “Eating Clean” plan. Danielle’s personal trainer gave her an incredibly boring meal plan. It was nutritionally complete, not too onerous to follow, but dull and we knew we wouldn’t be content with just eating yams, broccoli, boneless chicken breasts and eggs. If it was going to work for us we had to make it tasty. So, down we go to the nearest bookstore. After flipping through a pile of healthy cookbooks, we landed on Naturally Nourished by Sarah Britton (Random House, 2017). The recipes in this book fit in with the vegetable intensive lifestyle we lean toward and were embarking on. But more than that, it is a beautiful book with great pictures. It is filled with some gorgeous and creative recipes: charred green beans with romesco sauce, celery leaf salad with balsamic eggplant or cauliflower steaks with charmoula and eggs.

We bought the cookbook on Thursday and we had to bring a dish to a cocktail party  on Saturday. So, we decided to make a dish out of Naturally Nourished. After flipping through the book, we landed on “Baked Feta with Olives, Peppers and Tomatoes”. It looked like a great sharing appetizer. Serve it with some of my fresh baked sour dough and it should be a hit.

The recipe is simple, quarter cherry tomatoes (or you could coarsely chop bigger tomatoes), dice red peppers, pit and chop olives. Toss all this together with oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper. Then you crumble feta into the bottom of a crock or casserole dish. Top the feta with the tomato, olive mixture and bake at 400F (200C) for 25 minutes. Then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with coarsely chopped Italian parsley and serve with bread or pita.  We topped it with oregano flowers from our garden. When we made it, we found it super tasty, but the feta never got soft enough to be a dip. I think a lot depends on what feta you use. If your feta is fairly soft and creamy, it will work fine. If it is on the harder/drier side, I would suggest whizzing it in a food processor with a little heavy cream or cream cheese and then putting into the dish. This dish is a great appetizer, but if you served it with a piece of grilled chicken and some brown rice you would have a delicious dinner.


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