Antipasto Advice from Mom and Great Tastes from the Texas Coast

I love it when folks reach out to me for advice about cooking and entertaining; it feeds my soul (pun intended).

It also gives me good topics for the blog and the impetus to pull together a post – from memory, experience or my own food mentors.

So, for the friend who asked for input on an antipasto tray she’s bringing to a party, here’s a special treat: advice from my Mom. She was an amazing cook and hostess and antipasto platters were a foundational appetizer for her parties.  I am so grateful for everything she taught me about entertaining and cooking.  If I’m guilty of ascribing to the “food is love” philosophy, it’s totally her fault.

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Mom and me in her kitchen at the beach / my childhood home, sometime in the mid-to-late 80s, enjoying a glass of wine together. There are so many memories locked up in those treasures all over that kitchen.

Mom has been cooking for the angels since September of 2000 and my Dad joined her in heaven this past summer, but they left me with a wonderful legacy: a cookbook they compiled of their favorite recipes, with additional entries collected from friends and family.  The Great Tastes from the Texas Coast cookbook project took place in the late 80s and was intended as give-away for clients at my Dad’s real estate office on the beach in Gilchrist, Texas. (Dad was a weekend realtor and a high-tech salesman for Motorola during the week.)

You know the kind of cookbook I’m talking about, paper-bound with a plastic binder, worn and torn, stained with use, stuffed with other recipes from family members on note cards and sticky notes that probably should have been in the cookbook (and probably would have been in the next version of Great Tastes from the Texas Coast if there was one).  Oh my gosh, I just got a great idea: that’s the name for my first cookbook, whenever I publish it.

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I didn’t realize at the time what a treasure Great Tastes from the Texas Coast would turn out to be, and now feel so blessed to have many of my parents’ recipes at my fingertips.  That’s my Mom’s drawing there on the front, too.  This bounty of family memories and codified parental cooking advice was the impetus for me to start on the Glover Gardens Cookbook (which eventually became the blog), so that our boys could have the same bounty of family recipes.

While Great Tastes from the Texas Coast is long on value through recipes and their associated memories, it is very, very short on words and and almost devoid of style (other than the cover art). Note Mom’s entry, Antipasto Ingredients, below.  No one could accuse her of being verbose or flowery.  This was serious business.

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But what Mom lacked in creative writing skills, she more than made up for in the cooking and entertaining department.  Here’s how she did the antipasto.

See the basket on the wall below, in the repeat of the kitchen picture? It was about 24 inches long, 15 inches wide and 3 inches deep, and was perfect for Mom’s antipasto treatment.  I loved that basket and think I might have inherited it, many moons ago.  It must have fallen apart, or I would still have it.  But I digress.  Mom lined that venerable old basket with plastic wrap and then covered the whole thing with overlapping red or green leaf lettuce, or both.  (Leaf lettuce is good for lining a platter, because it is easy to flatten.)

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After lining the basket, she stuffed it full with ingredients from her list, not neatly in little rows or stacks, but bunched together by type in a way that conveyed a sense of plenty and hospitality.  She was careful to distribute the colors – a pile of kalamata olives would never be next to anchovies, smoked mussels or marinated mushrooms because those colors would be too drab together.  You could almost see her artist’s mind working while she assembled, taking care to mix the textures, too:  the kalamatas would go much better next to bright red roasted and marinated peppers, which in turn would be nestled next to generous chunks of provolone with big, fat, garlic-stuffed green olives on one side and her garlicky, pink marinated shrimp on the other.  If there was a dip, it would be in a small ceramic bowl and garnished with parsley or dried herbs.  Bunches of sliced mortadella, ham and salami would be strategically placed opposite each other, perhaps next to glistening sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, artichoke hearts or fresh, crunchy, pungent radishes.  Breadsticks might be vertical in a pretty glass or two, and whole green onions would cut a bright green horizontal swath across the top. Mom would then drizzle a bit of vinaigrette on her masterpiece where appropriate and call it done.

I wish I had a picture to share – words cannot do justice to the welcome and hospitality that Mom’s antipasto platter conveyed. However, I found a photo in the site Honestly Yum that gives me the same feeling.

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Photo from Honestly Yum’s post How to Create an Impressive Antipasti Spread

Mom left out a few of the items that I remember from her antipasto, so perhaps they came later: cornichons, grapes, halved cherry tomatoes, pepperdew peppers stuffed with bleu cheese, fresh vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower (although we are moving out of the antipasto neighborhood here and it might be controversial that French cornichons or bleu cheese would even be considered on this originally Italian spread).

If I was doing an antipasto platter, I’d probably add a couple of my go-to favorites, such as my super-easy treatment of grape tomatoes below that provides a composed, bite-sized, super-fresh yumminess.

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Antipasto Fresca (grape tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and oregano)

Or Belgian endive filled with something good.

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Belgian endive with brie, walnuts and grapes

And the picture below is from a smorgasbord night here at Glover Gardens, which on that night looked a bit like an antipasto platter, although heavy with crostini and bruschetta.  Gosh, I’m getting hungry!

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Smorgasbord for Two by the Pool

And so, to my friend who requested some information about antipasto platters, I hope the advice from Mom with a little more info from me is useful for you.  Thanks for giving me a reason to spotlight Great Tastes from the Texas Gulf Coast and travel through the taste memories from Mom’s kitchen.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Revisiting a Recipe for Fall Parties: Tuscany-Texas Goat Cheese Spread

I love it when folks make my recipes! We had a big wedding in our family late this summer and celebrated ahead of time with a shower here at Glover Gardens. The nuptial couple took on the task of making one of the appetizers, my Tuscany-Texas Goat Cheese Spread. Their version was better than mine! (I think it was the love.) I’m revisiting this recipe right now because it is perfect for fall parties.

So – a little bit about this dish. It is salty, tangy, creamy, super-garlicky and fresh, with the brightness of fresh tomatoes and herbs. As you’ll see in the original post, I’ve seen guests fight each other for the last few bites.  Really.

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In 2015, I captured and published the recipe I’d been making for years
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2017: the engaged (and now married) couple makes my recipe – so colorful!
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The Tuscany-Texas Goat Cheese Spread is a great addition to an appetizer table

In addition to being an uber crowd-pleaser, this dish is easy to make! It is perfect for cocktail parties or wine tastings.

See the original post with the recipe: Tuscany-Texas Goat Cheese Spread.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Tiny Dinner Party with International Guests

Diversity Hands - the World I Want to Live InThe Grill-Meister and I are both blessed to work in international environments, which fosters great relationships with colleagues from all over the world.  Sometimes we are able to lure them to Glover Gardens, such as tonight, when we are having a tiny dinner party with a couple from far across the globe.  It is so rewarding to learn about different cultures as we share our own.  One of our two guests tonight has never been to Texas, so we’re having a very traditional steak dinner.  The menu:

It is mid-morning right now and the table is set, so I’m about to get to work on the dessert.  I’m breaking Ina Garten’s (the Barefoot Contessa) rule of never making anything for the first time for a dinner party, but it is early enough in the day that I can do something different if I make a mess of it.

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The table is set – now we just need food, wine, music, flowers and our guests

We’re really looking forward to it!  And for a look at an entirely different type of international party here at Glover Gardens and a couple of cool wintertime recipes, check out Pot Luck Perfect: In-the-Moment Lentil Soup.  We had a houseful of colleagues this time last year and a rollicking good time when everyone brought a dish or drink to share.

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My European colleagues in the outdoor kitchen at Glover Gardens; they whipped up a marvelous vegetarian lentil soup

I’ll share the results of tonight’s meal, and wish you all a happy Saturday evening.

UPDATE:   the tiny dinner party was super-successful, and the dessert was rockin’!  Read about it here.  And I made a new friend!  Read the haiku about that here.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Even the Chandelier is Decorated

A former colleague and friend shares my love of garden and cooking and home and holidays, and makes frequent posts in Facebook of his flowers, food and fabulous decor.  I have his permission to share this gorgeous photo of his dining room.  Isn’t it elegant?  And yet simple?  And what a great idea to decorate the chandelier to bring a little green into his silver and white theme.

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Here’s what he said when he posted this photo and others on November 21 (before Thanksgiving):

so grateful to be able to celebrate thanksgiving and christmas with loved ones. ~front room –d.o.n.e – silver and white theme
yes, i know it’s really early, but when you feel the spirit you just go with it. i always say find your own joy and rock on!

I couldn’t agree more. Thank you, my friend, for letting me share your beautiful dining room and more beautiful thoughts.

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The candles provide a wonderful holiday mood

Rosemary Wreath Appetizer Platter

I was inspired to make a rosemary wreath by another blogger (see yesterday’s post) and it worked!  It is a lovely way to dress up the old standby party dish of cheese, salami and olives.  I decorated the wreath with marinated piquant Peppadew peppers, but cherry or grape tomatoes would work just as well.

Here’s how to do it.  You’ll need to have access to a large a rosemary plant.

Snip about 30 sprigs of rosemary, one inch long or less.  Remove the side sprigs so that each length of rosemary is only one stem.  Lay the longer sprigs in a circle on a round platter and secure with florist’s wire.  Tuck the shorter ones in around the circle to even out the wreath.

Ingredients

  • Rosemary wreath (see above)
  • 9 marinated cherry peppers, cut in half sideways
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 8 oz. of your favorite white cheese, cut into cubes (I used Havarti dill)
  • 8 oz. sliced salami

Place a small container with toothpicks in the middle of the platter, then surround it with salami slices inside the wreath area.  Arrange the peppers in groups of three on the wreath to resemble holly berries, then add the cheese cubes to the wreath.  Scatter the Kalamata olives across the whole platter.

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Below is the original wreath from Home is Where the Boat is, shared by Sara from Last Night’s Feast.

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Did You Know…?

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Photo By Biozinc (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Sweet piquant peppers called Peppadew are originally from South Africa and were discovered in the early 1990s.  Peppadew is a trademarked name and the peppers can be a little hard to find.  Bon Appetite published a recipe with them a few years ago and got loads of letters from disgruntled readers looking to make their Pimento Mac & Cheese, so they followed up with the article Where to Buy the Elusive Peppadew.

Peppadew peppers resemble (but are not the same as) cherry peppers, which is another name for pimento peppers.  Pimentos resemble (but are not the same as) red bell peppers.

Any of these wonderful peppers can be used in this recipe.

 

Rosemary Wreath

This blogging thing is fun, especially the connections with other bloggers and the ideas they share and inspire.

One of the blogs I subscribe to is Last Night’s Feast, where blogger Sara occasionally makes a post called Pretty Things, a collection of unrelated links and pictures of, well, pretty things.  A rosemary wreath caught my eye on her November Pretty Things post.  The wreath is from a blog called Home is Where the Boat Is (doesn’t that sound inviting???)

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Rosemary Wreath photo from Home is Where the Boat Is, reposted in Last Night’s Feast

The herb section of Glover Gardens includes a gigantic rosemary bush and more of this lovely savory than we could use in a decade, so of course I have to try this wreath.  It’s on the menu for a party with our wine club tonight.  I’ll share some photos of the Glover Gardens version, with thanks to Sara from Last Night’s Feast for sharing this very pretty thing.


Update:  I tried this, and it worked!  Read all about it and get the recipe here.

A Gorgeous Thanksgiving Table; A Family Legacy from Strong Woman to Strong Woman

Thanksgiving is about food and family and memories and connections.  Sometimes those connections are new, with folks who would be family, only if they were near and known.

I made such a connection tonight, with a marvelous lady named Cathy,  from the land of Facebook in Pantsuit Nation.  She posted this picture and story about a table setting from her mother’s depression glass, and the legacy of strength and faith passed down from woman to woman.

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Cathy said that her grandmother collected these beautiful dishes in West Virginia during the depression on a meager teacher’s salary, and was a dedicated public servant, working at the voting polls every election in her community until her mid-seventies. Cathy’s mother inherited the dishes, and passed them on to Cathy when she turned 50.  She has followed her mother and grandmother in public service and is a special education teacher.  Cathy’s daughter, a lawyer representing workers who have been treated unfairly, will inherit these dishes one day. Cathy says:  “We will endure, we will create beauty in the midst of chaos, we represent hope.”

Cathy’s Facebook post about these dishes, her family and the legacy of strength, conviction and public service on the matrilineal side garnered 500+ likes in its first 30 minutes, and spawned dozens of comments from women who, like me, feel a connection with her story.  Family legacy objects like Cathy’s depression-era glass serve as a talisman to help us believe in better days, better people, better lives.  I have many such items from my grandmothers on both sides that remind me daily to do my best, try my best, be my best.

Thank you, Cathy, for your story.  The ladies in your family are role models for all of us.