Continuing along with the appetizer theme of December’s columns, I couldn’t pick one this week. One takes minutes to do, and the other is quite simple after you gather the unusual ingredients. I can admit now what I spent my days last week doing – preparing and hosting a cookbook signing for a dear friend, Erin, who flew in from Boston. She grew up in Wichita, and her beloved “Sitti” (Arabic for grandma) was a pillar of our community at St. George Cathedral. You might have known her grandmother from Henry’s department store. I swear she clothed half of this city there. Her name was Vi Farha, although everyone knew her as “Aunt Vi.”
If you don’t have a copy, you can pick up one of these lovely cookbooks written in Vi’s memory, called “Hospitality and Joy,” at Eighth Day Books, or if you aren’t local, online at http://www.hospitalityandjoy.com. This book is chock full of gorgeous food photography, heart-warming stories and pure love. I realize I’m biased, however, I think you’ll agree it’s a beautiful book filled with everyday recipes and ones for special occasions, too.
We had 75 people last week for the cookbook signing. Thankfully, many friends offered to help cook, so as I say, “Team work makes the dream work” rang true once again. People came, ate a dozen culinary delights from the book, sipped wine, enjoyed a bit of holiday cheer and had their cookbooks signed by Erin. Bless Randy – whatever crazy idea I have, he goes along with it with a smile on his face and puts up with my needing his help.
I don’t usually host holiday parties other than my regulars: my book club and my 40 family members who come on Christmas Day. I call them the “holidaze” for a reason – it’s a month filled with so many extra things to get done other than everyday life.
Never miss a local story.
Back to these lovely appetizers. The Roasted Olive Medley will delight any olive lover – it’s salty and delicious. I couldn’t stay out of it. I’m still snacking on the leftovers and have to stop myself from eating it all in one sitting. The Kataifi Savory Cheese Pie is phenomenal – like melt-in-your-mouth delicious. It’s cheesy, buttery and has shredded phyllo. You can purchase kanaffe dough frozen at N&J Global Market and also pick up your feta and Kasseri cheese there as well.
Back to that pesky holiday shopping list, which isn’t any shorter than last week. Thought I’d give you all a few suggestions of my favorite kitchen items in case you’re looking for something to buy for that special someone.
▪ Nespresso Vertuoline Coffee and Espresso Maker with Aeroccino Plus Milk Frother: This coffee machine is a total game changer. We purchased several years ago and enjoy every cup that comes from it. It’s fun, too, to use for entertaining because you can make each person the flavor, boldness or caffeine level they desire (they even make half-caff pods). The milk frother alone would make a fabulous gift if you’re not up for purchasing the whole thing. The only downside to this machine is that you have to purchase the pods online from Nespresso. They’re not cheap, either – about $1 each. But it makes the most wonderful coffee with such ease. It can be purchased locally at Williams-Sonoma and Target. Also check Nespresso.com for their 30 percent off machines. Prices range from $139 - $174.
▪ Chef’n Switchit Silicone Spatula: I originally discovered these awesome spatulas at Whole Foods about 12 years ago. Williams-Sonoma sold them then, too. Now, I’ve had to resort to Amazon to purchase. I’m very picky on my spatulas, and this one is perfect. Sleek design, double-sided, very easy to clean. I have half a dozen of them and donated all other spatulas. Price is about $13 on Amazon. I wish someone local would carry them.
▪ Microplane 38,000 Professional Coarse Grater: A wide microplane is the gift that keeps on giving. You will use fewer strokes to get whatever you’re zesting and you’ll save your fingertips too. Mine has a rubber handle, which I love, but I’ve noticed they aren’t available anymore. So you’ll have to settle for a stainless handle. The stainless version is available on Amazon for a little over $13. If you want to be fancy and get a copper handled one, Williams-Sonoma has it for $29.95. These graters come in “fine” and “coarse.” You of course need both.
▪ Good kitchen shears: You can browse yourself for these. I have four pair because sometimes I need all four for classes. I have two Wusthof and two Trudeau Titanium, all purchased from Williams-Sonoma. Prices start at $19.95. I suggest you use your kitchen shears only for food related things to keep them sharp and to keep them sanitized.
Roasted Olive Medley on Brushetta Toasts
1 10-ounce jar green pimento stuffed olives, drained
1 6-ounce can California ripe olives, pitted and drained
1 3.5-ounce jar capers, drained
1 12-ounce jar Kalamata olives, pitted and drained
16 garlic cloves, peeled
2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 – 2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place olives, capers, garlic and tomatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle olive oil and spices and toss thoroughly. Bake until tomatoes are shriveled and the garlic is golden, about 35 – 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with Brushetta Toasts.
Hospitality & Joy Cookbook by Erin Kimmett
Kataifi Savory Cheese Pie
1 box kanaffe (shredded phyllo dough), thawed
14 ounces Kasseri cheese, shredded
12 ounces feta cheese
8 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese
5 large eggs
18 ounces (about 1 ½ cans) evaporated milk
1 cup water
½ pound (2 sticks) butter, melted, plus 2 tablespoons to coat pan
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large casserole pan (10 x 14 lasagna pan works great).
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until they are well beaten, then add the canned milk and water, and stir until combined. Set aside.
Divide block of kanaffe dough in half. Break apart the first half into fine shreds, and distribute evenly along the bottom of the pan. Spread the cheeses, one by one, until evenly distributed atop the dough. Cover with the rest of the shredded kanaffe dough. Drizzle melted butter evenly over the entire pan. Pour milk/egg mixture over the kanaffe. Bake until lightly golden, about 30 – 25 minutes. Watch that edges don’t get too brown. Cut into squares and serve.
Hospitality & Joy Cookbook by Erin Kimmett