You’re planning a cocktail party for 30 friends. Five are vegetarians, six are eating gluten-free and two are allergic to peanuts and eggs.
This is not an unusual situation for Cathy Conway, owner and executive chef of Avalon Catering, a full-service catering and event-planning company. “I got an email this week about a dinner we’re catering for a group of 35 people. They gave me a list of all the allergies and food sensitivities. Thirty percent of the people we’re serving at that dinner have some food issue,” said Conway.
Conway is not thrown by such challenges. Because she uses few processed products in her dishes, she’s able to work around those food sensitivities and create menus that will satisfy a variety of tastes at the party. Less-processed food gives her control. No surprise chicken broth, no hidden gluten, no peanuts that might have come in contact with something she’s serving.
Conway specializes in menus that are seasonally driven with the food sourced locally.
“What our clients are looking for now is integrity in their food. They want to know how the food they’re eating is sourced and grown. When food comes from sources you know, it’s easier to deal with those food issues,” she said.
Much like the growing number of farm-to-table restaurants today, Conway and her chef de cuisine Jenn Robbins can rattle off the source for each ingredient they use, and they source 80 percent of their food from local producers and vendors.
As much as possible, ingredients such as cheese, fish, grits and vegetables come from people they know and respect for the way they produce the food.
Farm Egg Vinaigrette 1 hard-boiled egg
1 cup olive oil
cup white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons capers, drained, finely chopped
2 teaspoons chopped shallots, 1/8-inch dice
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon finely chopped tarragon
1 small garlic clove, pressed through garlic press
Peel egg and press white and yolk through a sieve separately. Reserve white for garnish. In a bowl, whisk together sieved egg yolk, olive oil, vinegar, capers, shallots, whole grain mustard, Dijon mustard, parsley, tarragon and garlic. Taste for seasoning. If not using immediately, refrigerate vinaigrette and egg whites separately.
Per 1-tablespoon serving: 74 calories (percent of calories from fat, 97), trace protein, trace carbohydrates, trace fiber, 8 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 8 milligrams cholesterol, 12 milligrams sodium. Tomato-Ginger Jam 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 shallot, cut into 1/8-inch dice
2 pints cherry tomatoes, rinsed and quartered
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 cup water, more if needed
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil until hot. Add shallots and sauté 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium and stir in tomatoes and ginger. Cook until tomatoes begin to cook down, adding water to keep tomatoes from scorching. When tomatoes are a jam-like consistency, about 1 hour, add lemon juice, salt and sugar. Season to taste and cool.
Nutrition information (per 1-teaspoon serving): 2 calories (percent of calories from fat, 26), trace protein, trace carbohydrates, trace fiber, trace fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 20 milligrams sodium. Grilled Gulf Shrimp 20 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup Tomato-Ginger Jam (see recipe)
In a bowl, combine shrimp, olive oil, salt, lemon juice and pepper flakes. Allow shrimp to marinate 30 minutes.
While shrimp is marinating, heat grill. Lightly oil grates. Grill shrimp 3 minutes per side, being careful not to overcook. If not serving immediately, cover and set aside. Refrigerate if making more than 30 minutes ahead.
When ready to serve, garnish each shrimp with 1 teaspoon Tomato-Ginger Jam and serve immediately.
Nutrition information (per appetizer): 37 calories (percent of calories from fat, 30), 6 grams protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, 1 gram fat (trace saturated fat), 43 milligrams cholesterol, 160 milligrams sodium.Hands on: 5 minutes | Total time: 5 minutes Makes: 1/3 cups Hands on: 10 minutes | Total time: 1 hour | Makes: 2 cups Hands on: 10 minutes | Total time: 40 minutes Makes: 20 appetizers