Friday, February 24, 2012

Please Pack Your Knives And Go. A Catered Event

   I am not a professional chef, I am not a professional caterer. My husband and I have been lucky enough to earn our living as screenwriters for the last 20 plus years. Don't  get me wrong, I  love what I do, but cooking is my Secret, Groupie Vice. Cooking is my equivalent of having a  garage band. I love my knives and clay pots the way Beverly Hills Endodontists love their Harley leathers and the big ol' hog they keep out in the garage for when they turn into weekend bad-asses riding through Malibu Canyon. If there were a set of Great Chefs trading cards, I'd start chewing gum just so I could get them. And after all the dental work I've had... that's a measure of my devotion. Some people fantasize about being writers, well there are an lot of writers that fantasize about being chefs. I love, love, love, to cook and what I cook is Indian food.

   For me cooking takes the form of instant gratification. It takes months to write a screenplay. There are notes and input and even then, it can take years for something to finally make it to the multiplex. If ever. But when I cook, it's different. I am the captain of my ship stove, master of my domain. I am the writer and director, the producer and studio head. There is no one to say that the character arc of the bitter melon is not enough, that the fish doesn't learn anything at the end of Act 2, and that they want the Basmati rice to have a happier ending. It's. Just. Food. It gets cooked and eaten...but then don't we all in one way or another?

   There is a simplicity and purity in putting something upon a plate for people to enjoy that I find satisfying. I love to invite people over to our house for feasts, something I've regularly done in LA and here in Sonoma, but when a friend asked me to come cook dinner at his house the other night.. in tweet speak...!!!OMG OMG!!!  it was the equivalent of asking me to open for Lady Gaga. A catered dinner?! Where I would be chef? I was soooo there. NO need to ask me twice. Of course I accepted. I planned my menu as carefully as a starlet plans her red carpet debut. I'd do a few dishes prepped at our house and 3 done in the guest kitchen. I packed my knives, I packed my proteins and vegetables, I packed my pans, and spices, and my OXO  peeler and beater, (the guy is a bachelor and I had no idea what I was going to find in his designer gorgeous lady-trap kitchen) and I was off.

I wanted things to be easy for me in a strange place, so the menu consisted of a quick-cooking fish with Kokum ( Mr. X had brought back some kokum for us from Trivandrum), mustard seed rice, a radish and peanut salad, and an eggplant sambal. Dessert as usual was always the big question for me.I wanted something easy to prepare and I thought it would be fun for the diners to see their dessert made right before their eyes. Yeah, why don't I just get a blow torch and a rolling cart?

 A while back I'd run across a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey for a Northern Indian style dessert of caramelized apples cooked with walnuts and almonds, and served with a pistachio cream. On the face of it, it almost sounded like a crust less apple pie, but the beauty of this dessert is that despite it's Western-style appearance, it has none of the cloying sweetness one might expect from the traditional apple dessert. Kashmir is famous for its apples and walnuts, and the unsweetened cream spiked with pistachios helps to even out the tart bite of the apples. Plus you can make this fairly quickly and either serve it hot out of the pan, or make it ahead and warm it up. Either way it was the perfect finish to a spicy, hot Southern Dinner.


Caramelized Apples With Walnuts, Almonds and Pistachio Cream

Here's What You Need:
1 Cup of whipping cream
2 Tbs of unsalted finely chopped pistachios

1 stick of unsalted butter
4 medium sized Granny Smith apples, cored peeled and sliced thinly

1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
2/3 cup of dark brown sugar
3 Tbs of blanched slivered almonds
2 Tbs chopped walnuts

Here's What To Do:

Melt the butter in a large skillet over a low heat. Take the pan off the heat.
Peel, core, and slice the apples into the melted butter. The trick here is to get them into the butter so that they don't start to oxidize and turn brown. Therefore the easiest method is just leave this part until the butter is melted and add them in.

I kept the butter on a very, very, low flame as I added the apples which helped the cooking process move along more quickly.
Stir everything until all the apples are coated with the butter.

 Add the cinnamon, the cardamom, the cloves, and the brown sugar.

The walnuts

and the almonds

Cook everything down until the apples are lightly caramelized and softened. They should be cooked but still have a bit of firmness.

Now for the pistachio cream.

Empty the whipping cream into a chilled bowl.
Since the cream should only be lightly whipped, the control that one gets from a hand beater works best. Luckily I had the nifty hand beater the OXO people sent me a few months ago. I love this tool! It just feels right in my hand. Plus, since I use a lot of clay cookware, their wooden spoons are safe for my pots.

Whip the cream lightly and silently like the ninja cook you are.

 Fold in the finely chopped pistachios.

To serve, pile the apple mixture on a small plate and top with a dollop (love that word) of the unsweetened pistachio cream.

This recipe will feed 6 people.

   So the dinner went off without a hitch, and I got to play guest chef for the night....turns out a real chef friend (like a Cordon Bleu Grad) was going to be invited but at couldn't make it. Glad I found that out after the fact!  Meanwhile, I'm prepping for my annual Academy Awards Watching Tiara Wearing Indian Feast this Sunday where Hollywood meets Bollywood! Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


  1. This looks fabulous! I love pistachios and never would have thought to use them like this.

    1. Candy,
      I love cooking with pistachios and I usually keep several small bowls of crushed nuts, peanuts, walnuts, and pistachios by the stove for last minute adds to dishes.

  2. Yum! That looks so divine. I love apple pies and I am sure this dessert will be so addictive and I am going to try it soon.

    1. Vijitha,
      I think people were surprised that it's not an exceptionally sweet dessert. The tart apples give it an interesting tart sweet taste.

  3. How fun! What a great dish. Your talents are amazing - this is where you now write a screenplay about cooking and put all of us in it!



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