Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cooking for Others

I’ve been holding out on you.

It wasn’t intentional. I just didn’t want to tell you until I had survived the first event unscathed. Victorious, even.

A few weeks ago, I was hired to cater a dinner party for a great group of people. I dove in headfirst, scheming up a menu ready to satisfy the vegetarians, omnivores, kosher-keepers and hilal-observers who make up Kids4Peace, an exchange-ish program between Muslim, Jewish and Christian children in the US and in Jerusalem. Needless to say, the stakes were high. I mean, these are pretty awesome people, and I certainly couldn’t serve them less than the best.

I made a triple batch of French bread (learning important lessons about the freezer along the way), roasted free-range chickens, stuffed 10 pounds of kale into my stockpot, and pickled beautiful Woodland Gardens watermelon radishes. I baked cookie after cookie, stretched endless batches of cracker dough, assembled mushroom and rutabaga tarts, and sliced enough citrus to power an iPhone (um, almost).

In short, it was awesome, and I hope to do it again. And again.

Without further ado, then, I give to you my new pet project: Verdant Kitchen Sustainable Catering.

Tell your friends.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Avoiding Ingredients

During a job interview the other day, I was asked if there was one ingredient with which I refused to cook. This question kind of threw me for a loop, because, in the last few years, I have undertaken a mission to at least like everything. As a kid, I was pretty picky. I’d like to think that this stemmed from my myriad food allergies; my pickiness was just a method of self-protection. In reality, I was probably just being a kid.

Since then, I’ve taught myself to eat (and enjoy) mushrooms, tomatoes, fish and browned toast (Yes, I was one of those children who would have rather eaten a cold Eggo waffle than one with just the slightest hint of browning). The only food I have yet to conquer?


The final frontier.

Granted, bananas aren’t the most sustainable fruit to eat, especially in the winter, and the hard yellow specimens filling our supermarket bins are the culinary equivalent of Sara Lee white bread. But the sweet yellow fruits seem should seem like a small hurdle to overcome on my path to I’m-a-foodie-so-I-like-everything status.

Not so.

From a young age, I could pick up the taste of traces of bananas in everything from baked goods to my friends’ contaminated lunch boxes. Small taste tests turned into face twisting retches of agony, the flavors in my mouth screaming “Mushy!” “Overripe!” “Saccarine!” At some point, my abhorrence got so bad that I refused to touch any fruits near the bananas in my parents’ kitchen.

With age, I tried to introduce the flavor slowly, stomaching plantain chips, slowly sipping strawberry-banana smoothies, and swallowing whole rum-soaked Foster slices. None of these things worked. Not even close.

It wasn’t until the other day that I was asked to whip up some banana bread for my after-school charges that I ate a few bites of the stuff without a grimace. Perhaps it was in hopes of keeping my authority intact (How can you get a six-year-old to eat broccoli if you won’t even try your homemade banana bread?), but I actually enjoyed my banana-filled concoction. And seriously, this bread was filled with the fruit—I had to almost triple the suggested amount of banana to use up the quickly over ripening specimens on the counter, lowering the other liquid ingredients to almost negligible amounts. This was serious stuff, and I wish I had a recipe, or at least a picture to show you, but it has unfortunately escaped into the netherworld of crazed babysitter afternoons.