We had a dinner party last night at Casa Eades for a group of Mike’s golfing buddies and their wives/girlfriends. I knew some of the group, had casually met others, and didn’t know a couple of them before last night’s gathering, which can make for a bit of a challenge when devising a menu in this day and age of nutrition Nazis and food freaks who can’t eat this, don’t eat that.
Nowadays, a dinner host has to navigate a veritable labyrinth of food proclivities to try to please all comers. What ever happened to the rule my mother taught me as a child when presented with something I didn’t especially like or had never seen before: Take a bite to be polite?
Actually, I’m the first to try to accommodate food preferences for guests I invite to my home for a meal, if I know in advance of their requirements. And usually, I ask ahead of time: Anything anybody can’t or won’t eat? Obviously the last thing I’d want to do is feed something to someone with a true allergy, unless of course I planned to keep my medical bag close by to pop them with a dose of subQ epinephrine when they took a bite and began to gasp for air.
We’ve entertained folks who couldn’t or wouldn’t eat everything from wheat (usually not a problem in our house), dairy, seafood, and beef to onions, certain dye colors, and red wine. We’ve entertained vegetarians. We aim to please.
Last night’s menu started with an Asian flare: Thai Tomato Ginger Soup, then an Avocado Ahi Tower with Microgreens. We then moved to cattle country, with a Marinated Grilled Flank Steak served on a bed of Mashed Fauxtatoes with Roasted Asparagus garnished with strips of Roasted Red Pepper. Dessert was one of my favorites: Wine Poached Fragrant Pears with a Cabernet Reduction Sauce.
As the group assembled, we slurped on a big batch of Guiltless Margaritas and some Spicy Low Carb Tortilla crisps and Salsa Roja. (The South of the Border part of our culinary world tour.)
(The Fauxtato, Pear, Margarita, and Tortilla crisp recipes are available on our PBS tv show’s website and appear in the show’s companion cookbook, Low Carb CookwoRx Cookbook.)
After a suitable interval of convivial gabbing, Mike and I ladled up the soup and invited all the guests to the dining room to begin.
After one bite of the soup, one of the guests asked “Do I taste pepper in this soup?”
“Yes, you do,” I replied. “There’s a bit of fresh Serrano pepper in there.”
His dining companion laid down her soup spoon.
“I can’t eat peppers,” said she. “They make my tongue swell and tingle.”
Needless to say, I was horrified. Thankfully, she hadn’t eaten any of the soup, so I didn’t have to rush for the bag or call 911.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, “can I get you something else?”
She graciously demurred and I assured her that there were no hot chile peppers in any of the coming courses.
We cleared the soup and brought in the Avocado Ahi Towers, which were absolutely beautiful, if I do say so myself, not to mention delicious. (The recipe for how to do it follows below.)
I had to leave in the middle of the fish course to tend to the grilling flank steak and when I returned to finish my ahi, I was pleased to see that every single bit of food was gone from every plate. That’s always a gratifying sight for the cook
It wasn’t until all the guests had departed and Mike and I were cleaning up afterward that he spilled the beans to me. The Pepper Lady apparently wasn’t into sashimi, either, because while I was out of the room tending to the beef, she’d given her entire fish portion to her dinner table neighbor, who accepted it, happily, and consumed every bite.
Which explains why the Pepper Lady had asked for more of the cauliflower puree (Mashed Fauxtatoes). Poor thing was probably starving half to death.
The moral of this tale is this:
People with food allergies or strict requirements should ALWAYS notify their hosts in advance!
For those of you, who, like us, love ahi sashimi, here’s the recipe:
Avocado Ahi Towers with Microgreens
For the dressing/marinade
Juice of a lime
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 inch Wasabi paste (or 1/4 teaspoon Wasabi powder)
2 Tablespoons Ponzu Sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 pinch Celtic Sea Salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 green onions, diced, both green and white parts
1 pound fresh sashimi grade ahi (tuna), diced into 1/2″ cubes
1 ripe Haas avocado, diced into 1/2″ cubes (doused with the lime juice)
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 cups fresh microgreens
1/4 cup pickled ginger*, if desired for edible garnish
1.) Prepare four 4-ounce ramekins or custard cups by lining each one with a square of plastic wrap. (You’ll need about a 10″ length for each cup, center the wrap over the middle of the cup, press it down all around and leave the edges lapping over the sides.)
2.) In a small bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients, except the oil and set aside for 10 to 15 minutes to allow flavors to combine and salt to melt. Then whisk in the olive oil in a slow stream.
3.) Reserve about 2 tablespoons of the dressing/marinade for use in dressing the microgreens just before serving.
4.) Place the diced ahi and green onions in a bowl, pour on half the remaining dressing/marinade and toss to coat completely.
5.) Pour the remaining dressing over the cubed avocado and toss gently with your fingers to completely coat.
6.) Place one-quarter of the ahi into each ramekin, top with one-quarter of the avocado, and then bring the ‘tails’ of the plastic wrap up and over to cover. Press slightly down to make the layers firm.
7.) Stack the ramekins one atop the other (the weight helps to solidify the ‘tower’s’ body) and refrigerate until ready to serve. (You can do this up to 3 or 4 hours in advance, but much longer and the avocado will begin to break down and get mushy.)
8.) When ready to serve, dress microgreens lightly with the reserved dressing/marinade. Gently tug on the ends of the plastic wrap to pull the ‘towers’ out of the ramekins, open the bottom of the wrap, and invert the tower on a chilled salad plate. Place one-quarter of the dressed microgreens beside the tower. Garnish with a few coins of pickled ginger, if desired.
*(Note: Pickled ginger is available in little plastic bags, usually in the Asian or International Foods aisles of most grocery stores.)
What are ‘microgreens’?
COMMENT from MD EADES: Little bitty mixed lettuce seedlings. They sell them in my grocery store over by where they sell little plastic boxes of sprouts and herbs and stuff. They’re very tender and tasty. I feel sure that if your local grocery doesn’t carry them, the produce manager would order them if he/she thought there was a market for them. Alternatively, you could just buy a package of “mixed lettuce” seeds, sow them in a big pot and when they sprout as seedlings, harvest them and sow some more. Failing either of those, you could just substitute some bigger tender greens, but they’re just not as cute.