by Kate Heyhoe
In the food business, we call the period from Halloween to New Year's "the food season." Meaning, of course, that food, cooking, and entertaining are at their peaks.
But there's another food season that has nothing to do with gingerbread, roast turkeys, or cornbread stuffing. From March to September, the joy of entertaining goes from indoors to outdoors, or is held in both settings. Celebrations arise not just for holidays, but for any occasion that brings friends, family, and food together. Events like Easter and weddings are preplanned, but others are spontaneous and casual.
While the other food season focuses on cookies and cranberries, the spring and summer seasons revel in microgreens, baby asparagus, fresh salsas, and outdoor grilling. Hot toddies give way to exotic cocktails. Days are longer, and dinner is later.
Farmers markets reappear, and as the weather warms up, vine-ripened tomatoes, from small, red, and round, to plump and juicy, are once again full of flavor.
To make the most of what I like to call the "Second Season" of entertaining, this month's Gourmet Guess features a sensational collection of party books, including my own Macho Nachos, which was featured on the CBS Early Show. Other books with terrific ideas include: Flirtini, Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates, and Barefoot Contessa Parties.
Here are a few tips and recipes for celebrating the Second Season with style:
As one Macho Nachos reviewer noted, this year's nacho season begins with Super Bowl and extends through the November election. For a spirited party, start off with a tray of Chinese Firecracker Nachos followed by a taco bar, using my nacho toppings as fillings for soft tacos (such as with Brined Barbecued Chicken Breasts, topped with Lemon-Pepper Cole Slaw). Don't forget the nacho fiestas for Cinco de Mayo (with Chile-Rubbed Sirloin Nachos), Dads 'n' Grads days (Caviar and Chive Nachos), July 4th (Jamaican-Rum Chicken Nachos with Ginger-Watermelon Salsa), and for dessert anytime, S'More Macho Nachos. Tips: Bake nachos in a preheated 475 degree oven for best results. Line the pan with nifty, new nonstick foil to keep cheese from sticking.
In Flirtini: A Guide to Mixing and Mingling, Allana Baroni creates cocktail parties fit for cutting loose and flirting with abandon. Her theme-parties (each with a house specialty drink) illustrate how easy it is to make a night sizzle with memorable fun, and perhaps spark a new relationship or two. Just two of her keys to success: 1) Life is too short to stress over crystal and barware, and 2) Set the mood with lighting.
Ina Garten brings style to simple, stress-free foods. In Barefoot Contessa Parties! this caterer-cum-laude greets spring with a fresh-flavored Sunday Breakfast, and cruises into summer with a Canoe Trip party for twelve. Her advice: Organize like a caterer. Write up a complete plan, making sure every detail is seamless. That way, if something goes wrong, you're still confident, organized, and in control, and no one will ever know there was some drama behind the scenes.
Spring and summer shine with outstanding vegetables, and Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates reinforces the Moosewood Collective's well-deserved reputation for making meatless menus magnificent. The book covers an array of cultures and occasions, such as an Indian Diwali feast, a Mother's Day Tea, and for any reason or none, a Pizza and Sundae Party. Some tips: Prepare green and fruit salads in advance, but keep the dressing separate until just ready to serve. When grilled, vegetables lose color, so serve them on bright platters. Make a complete shopping list to avoid an emergency trip back to the market.
So whether you're celebrating a birthday, a holiday, an award, or just the joy of being alive, fire up your wok, break out the grill, and plug in your blender. The Second Season of entertaining is about to begin, and for that I say with a warm welcome: Bring. It. On.
Copyright © 2004, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created March 2004
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