Around the World Dinner

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Around the World Dinner

Around The World Dinner

It’s no secret that I have a heart for Rwanda, Africa. Last February I visited for my second time, and was introduced to Hope Haven, a school in rural Kigali where over 400 children have the privilege of being educated. I stayed at the school for nearly a week, teaching cooking to the kitchen staff and some of the parents of the students. I was invited to their annual fundraiser event held in Denver last April, where I offered to donate a dinner party for eight people to be prepared in the home of Hope Haven’s founder, Susan Hollern. Five hundred people attended the event at the Wildlife Museum in Denver, and I was stunned when the bidding for my dinner went to $16,000! I agreed to cook the dinner twice, so the total raised from my two dinners was $32,000! That thrilled me since I knew that kind of money would be so beneficial for Hope Haven and the children that are hugely impacted there.

The first of the two dinners was scheduled for October, and I offered the winning bidders the opportunity to invite more guests. Fourteen guests were invited, with one couple bringing an infant. I arrived in Denver three days before the dinner in order to start my preparations (although I prepared my menu for weeks ahead). I decided to cook a seven-course dinner with an “Around the World” theme, based on seven different countries where I have traveled. I had special menu booklets designed for each person, and a generous wine collector donated nine different wines to pair with the appetizers and seven courses.

The first day in Denver, I got acquainted with Susan’s kitchen and began sourcing my ingredients. I took many of my own spices and a few tools, but Susan’s kitchen was well-stocked and ready for me to take over.

By the end of day two, I had stuffed two of her refrigerators full, and the countertop was piled with potatoes, tomatoes, beans, olive oils, and other necessary ingredients. Susan had found a young man who had gone to culinary school to assist me with preparations, so we chopped for hours and made the soup, curry, chocolate tarts, causas, and risotto balls on Thursday, the day before the event. Susan carefully set the table with her beautiful china, crystal, and silver, and I arranged flowers for the centerpieces. Since I was serving seven courses, I planned how each would be plated, and how we would wash certain dishes after they were used, in order to be plated for another course. Fortunately, I had six people to help me plate and serve, including my son and his girlfriend who drove two hours to assist me. A professional photographer was hired to capture the entire evening in beautiful photos, and I must say, the evening could not have gone more perfectly.

As people arrived they were served potato causas on appetizer spoons. It’s a Peruvian dish that is layered mashed potatoes flavored with chile puree and layered with avocado and shrimp. The second appetizer was Sicilian arancini, fried risotto balls filled with cheese.

After an hour of sipping Champagne and visiting on the veranda overlooking the beautiful mountain views, everyone sat down at the dining table to eat the first course, a salad inspired by the Caribbean. I had grilled fresh pineapple that was basted with vanilla paste and served in a green salad with other tropical fruits and almonds. The second course was inspired by Rwanda and the cooking experience I had in February when I taught the cooks to make pumpkin and sweet potato soup from the gardens at the school. For this dinner I garnished the soup with pepitas roasted with Rwandan coffee.

The third course was inspired by Peru, and was my award-winning dish from a competition in Tulsa last spring. Vegetable ceviche with tiger milk was the most labor-intensive dish of the night because of all the ingredients that were carefully chopped to the perfect size and fit into lovely crystal cocktail glasses. The tiger milk, which is coconut milk, cilantro, and other flavors, is poured over the top and garnished with toasted corn and quinoa. Many people said it was their favorite course of the night.

Chickpea Curry over basmati rice

The fourth course, inspired by my travels in India, was chickpea curry over basmati rice with yogurt raita dolloped on top. I toast and grind my own spices when I cook Indian food, and this time was no different.

Genovese Pesto with Sicilian Pine Nuts

Course number five was inspired by my recent travel to Camogli, Italy where I purchased the pasta from a shop on the seafront and brought it back just for this event. I made fresh Genovese pesto with Sicilian pine nuts, and tossed it with the pasta, garnished with Pecorino cheese.

Colorado beef from Susan's ranch.

Course six was a Spanish plate with Colorado beef from Susan’s ranch. I grilled the tenderloins and sliced them into portions topped with Spanish blue cheese and cream sauce. I made a Romesco sauce made of blended roasted red peppers, almonds and smoked paprika to toss with sauteed shrimp that was served with poached fingerling potatoes in Spanish olive oil. Back in the kitchen my helpers and I were eating the blue cheese sauce with spoons because it was so good.

French inspired chocolate tarts for dessert.

Finally, I served chocolate tarts inspired by France, which were made with two chocolates, liqueur, and a splash of Rwandan coffee. Lightly sweetened whipped creme fraiche, for the tarts, was the final garnish of the night.

I didn’t sleep well that night because of the excitement from feeling like I had really pulled off something I had never done before. I am a cooking teacher, and I’ve never cooked in a restaurant. I’ve cooked for many parties of my own and I’ve been hired to cook for many events, but this was different. These guests paid a lot of money, and entrusted me to provide not just a good meal, but an experience. Getting to use the knowledge I’ve gained from my travels was so exciting to me, and the ability to share it with these special people who love and support Hope Haven was a night I will never forget. I cannot wait to do it again!

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Around the World Dinner to raise money for Hope Haven, a school in Rwanda, Africa

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Around the World Dinner to raise money for Hope Haven, a school in Rwanda, Africa

Tomorrow I go to Denver to begin preparing a dinner party for someone who purchased my "Around the World Dinner to raise money for Hope Haven, a school in Rwanda, Africa". The winning bidder paid $16,000 for this special occasion, so No Pressure Here! I've practiced and worked on the menu and dishes for quite some time, and this week I'll be posting some of the dinner courses with the recipes that I'll be serving on Friday night.

Today I present the Indian Course, Chickpea Curry. My spices are toasted and ground (all 10 of them), and my suitcase is getting full of some unique items. Here I go! Here’s the Chickpea Curry recipe: beadsandbasil.com/main-dishes/2017/3/24/chickpea-curry

#cookingforacause #Tulsachef #womenchefs #Tulsa_times #Iloverwanda #makingadifference #aroundtheworldcuisine #dinnerparty #beadsandbasil #onthetable #inthekitchen #foodie #recipes #indiancurry #chickpeacurry

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Savoring Seattle

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Savoring Seattle

Savoring Seattle

There’s just something about traveling with a good friend. Anne Marie is from France, and she has lived in Oklahoma for twenty years. Fortunately, she hasn’t lost her beautiful French accent, and she is one of the most elegant people I know. She owns The French Bouquet floral shop in Tulsa, and rarely gets to travel because she is so busy designing floral arrangements for some of the biggest events in Tulsa. One night this summer we were having dinner together, and I asked her where she would visit in the U.S. if she had a choice. Without hesitation, she answered “Seattle!” A month later we were on a plane destined for a four-day trip to Seattle, which she allowed me to organize. It had been ten years since I had been there, so it was nearly just as new to me.

We stayed downtown in the beautiful Hotel Monaco where we were able to easily walk to nearly every place we wanted to see. Well, easily might be a stretch since Seattle has many steep hills, but we managed to climb those hills with fervor since many of our destinations included food.

One of our favorite restaurants was Joule, a contemporary Korean steakhouse. It was an incredible start to our Seattle adventure, and we could not stop thinking about it for days. Sunday brunch was spent at Cafe Flora, a vegetarian restaurant where we sat on the patio and had the best vegetarian feast I’ve ever enjoyed. Thank goodness they served eggs (and cheese). We felt like we’d eaten a big healthy meal just right for walking the hills back to our hotel. Cafe Flora is located near the Japanese Garden, where we sat on a bridge over the koi fish pond for over an hour. The fish were stunningly beautiful, and as we sat there with our feet dangling over the edge of the bridge, we told stories about our childhoods that made us cry and laugh. It was a really moving experience to do that with someone from an entirely different culture.

Of course, we found DeLaurenti, the Italian grocery store with the gorgeous cheese counter...

Of course, you can’t visit Seattle without walking along the Puget Sound waterfront, and visiting Pike Place Market overlooking Elliott Bay. It’s a public market that has been around since 1907, and features fishmongers, produce stands, restaurants, antique shops, and craft shops. You can spend an entire day visiting the busy market, and not see it all. Of course, we found DeLaurenti, the Italian grocery store with the gorgeous cheese counter and wine room! We spent hours enjoying a platter of cheeses and bottle of Rosé. I loved looking at all the Italian food items in the store that I recognized from my recent travels in Italy. I also shopped in the cooking supplies shop called Kitchen N Things, which has been there for 40 years. I found a few tools impossible to live without.

Another morning was spent walking to the Space Needle and visiting the Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit. It was magnificent, and is a spectacular way to spend hours viewing the most incredible works of art by Dale Chihuly. We particularly enjoyed the gardens where Anne Marie was mesmerized by the varieties of flowers and glass sculptures of flowers. We skipped visiting the Space Needle because the visibility wasn’t good due to nearby forest fires. Instead, we found the perfect breakfast spot, Lola, where we ate eggs benedict, huevos rancheros, and a stack of pancakes.

Our final breakfast in Seattle was at Bakery Nouveau in Capital Hill.

The only downfall was that we had to walk several miles back to the hotel with very full tummies. Our final breakfast in Seattle was at Bakery Nouveau in Capital Hill. We walked there (of course), and waited for them to open so we wouldn’t have to stand in a line to get in. Once inside, we couldn’t believe how beautiful the pastries and quiches looked. Anne Marie said it was just like a French bakery. Because we’d come so far, we knew we should try several things, and not one of them was disappointing. If I had to recommend one eating spot in Seattle, it would be Bakery Nouveau!

Our final night in Seattle, we decided to be real tourists and take a sunset ferry ride in the bay. Although we boarded with at least a hundred other tourists, it was one of the coolest things we did on the trip. The tour guide on the top deck was a former Marine, and his knowledge of the area was incredible. We got to see the Seattle skyline at sunset, and learned about most of the buildings and their history. The Ferris wheel was lit up beautifully, and I couldn’t recommend this tour more highly.

After three full days in Seattle, we decided to spend one night 40 miles east, in Snoqualmie Falls. We stayed at the Salish Lodge and had a room with a perfect view of the falls. I had read about a farm-to-table dinner at The Herbfarm, so I booked the “Hundred Mile Dinner.” It was a nine-course meal with every ingredient being from within one hundred miles of the restaurant (including the salt). The meal lasted four hours, and we were treated to our own special tour of the wine cellar (26,000 bottles), the patio with wood fire oven, and the chef’s loft, where the chef gets inspired for his menus. It was quite an experience, and for many reasons we will never forget it.

Anne Marie and I came home better friends than ever. We laughed so much, we knew we needed a break from each other just to recover. We shared so many stories, and we’ve already begun plans for next year’s adventure. Seattle was wonderful, and I highly recommend a visit, but traveling with a friend to discover new places is the best adventure you can have.

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Sangria & Paella Summer Cooking Class

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Sangria & Paella Summer Cooking Class

Sangria & Paella Summer Cooking Class

It was a perfect class to teach this summer.....Sangria and Paella.  I've travelled in Spain only once, but I tasted the delicious paella near Valencia on the eastern coast, where paella is reputed to have been first created. It's a tasty dish using the local short grain rice and delicious meats and vegetables from the area. Seafood paella is popular closer to the coast, while paella made with rabbit, pork, chicken and beans is more popular further inland. "Paella" literally means "pan" in Spain, and the pan used for this particular dish can be found in many different sizes. In Spain, there are often paella parties where the huge pan sits over an open fire, and can serve hundreds of people.  I own paella pans in three different sizes, and usually use the biggest one since I can feed up to 25 people. My favorite paella is made with chicken and pork. I also add saffron, hot smoked paprika, sweet smoked paprika, and artichokes. I've cooked over an open fire, but in most paella classes I place the pan over three gas burners in my kitchen, and it turns out delicious.

Sangria is a refreshing drink that I make frequently in the summer. It's basically a fruit punch made with wine and fruit.  In this class I made two different sangrias, one with rose wine, elderflower liqueur, and stone fruits. I also made one with white wine, brandy, citrus fruits and green apple.

You can find my recipes at these links: CATALAN-STYLE PAELLASANGRIAS, and let me know what you think. The paella tends to be best eaten the day it's made, but the sangria can last for several days in your refrigerator. However, it's so good I doubt you'll have any leftovers.

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Cooking in Rwanda: From Chocolate Chip Cookies To An  Herb Called “Shannon”

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Cooking in Rwanda: From Chocolate Chip Cookies To An Herb Called “Shannon”