Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Floral Arrangement On A Budget

The life of a caterer is all about balancing budgets for food, service, rentals and sometimes d├ęcor or floral for the tabletop. Food and table presentation is very important to me at all my events, no matter how small or large the party is. Not only is my reputation at stake, but the reputation of the host or hostess that hired me. Besides reputation, I really care and have a passion for all my events. I enjoy the creative process that’s involved and I’m always learning about new ways to present and stage my food.

Floral arranging is an art in itself and a completely different ball game then catering. I am not a florist and I let my clients know that and I suggest to them that they should purchase a floral arrangement for their buffet table and/or guests tables. Sometimes in rare occasions my clients tell me they don’t want flowers or that they don’t need them, but I know perhaps their event budget was stretched a little too thin. In this case I need to be a little creative with my “art of presentation”.

At a recent holiday party, I had to think of something to “stage” or decorate the tabletop on a budget (as usual). I came up with something quick, seasonal, colorful and some of it edible. When I say quick, I mean quick-with all the other elements involved with what I do, I really don’t have the time to make elaborate floral arrangements. Since I’m always at a grocery store somewhere in my day, I look in the produce department for and inspiration on a budget. If you remember that “food” is being served, food can also be used to compliment it with style, color and texture. I saw that green apples where on sale, so I bought loads of them and then I needed a complimentary color. I found some large purple and while flowering kale, so I bought a few bunches of those. I already knew that the event location of this party had a large entertaining room with high ceiling. So, I thought I would use these large and tall cylinder shaped vases-big and dramatic always makes a statement! After that, I drove to my favorite local florist and purchased some tall bunches of curly willow, some evergreen branches and some red branchy things. I did not even arrange this until I was at the event the next day, that is how easy this is, it really only took 15 minutes to arrange.

To make the floral arrangement I put some green apples in the bottom of the vase and put in the curly willow, evergreen branches and the red branches. After putting the arrangements on the buffet table, I arranged some more evergreen branches and apples right on the tabletop and just put down the kale on the table at the base of the vase. Simple, elegant and decorative and on a budget…in some cases you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make something look great and unusual.

Sesame Tempura Green Beans with Soy Dipping Sauce

This recipe is such a hit with my clients and friends. So much so, that my friend Paula in Spokane, Washington opened a restaurant there recently called "Olive Oilz" and she serves it on the menu as an appetizer. But I have to be honest, anything deep fried is good, you can take the tire off your car and dip it in batter and fry it and it would be good!

Sesame Tempura Green Beans with Soy Dipping Sauce
4 Cups Vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
2 Teaspoons Fresh Lime Juice
1 Teaspoon Superfine Granulated Sugar
1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
¼ Cup Sesame Seeds
1 Cup Beer (Not Dark)
¾ Lb Green Beans, Trimmed

Heat 2 inches oil in a 4-guart heavy pot over moderate
Heat until deep-fat thermometer registers 365*F.
While oil is heating, make dipping sauce by stirring
together soy sauce, lime juice, and sugar until sugar
is dissolved. Whisk together flour and sesame seeds and
whisk in beer until batter is smooth. Toss about 10 beans
in batter until coated. Add to oil 1 at a time and fry, turning
until golden, about 1 ½ min. Transfer with tongs to paper
towels to drain and sprinkle with salt to taste. Coat and
Fry remaining beans in same manner.
Serve beans with dipping sauce and enjoy!
P.S.-I’ve served this with a hot & sweet mustard for dip
And it was very good!
Makes 6 (hors d’oeuvre) servings.

A little history about Tempura, it was introduced to Japan in the mid-sixteenth century by early Portuguese visitors. The word tempura may be derived from the Portuguese noun tempero, meaning a condiment or seasoning, or from the verb temperar, meaning "to season". Theree is still today a dish in Portugal very similar to tempura called peixinhos da horta, "garden fishies". An alternate explanation for the word is that it is derived from "Tempora", a Latin word used by either Spanish or Portuguese missionaries to refer to the Lenten period where they could not eat meat.