Going to a party is a lot of fun, but hosting it can be another matter. The chief concern usually is how to get the food ready without a last-minute struggle in the kitchen.
For a lesson in this art, we wound far up Mandeville Canyon one day to watch the preparation of appetizers for Gold Shield’s Champagne reception this Sunday at the Bel-Air home of the Edward W. Carters.
Gold Shield is a UCLA support group that raises funds for scholarships, for the university’s Oral History program and grants a faculty prize every two years. To show the scope of these projects, the amount raised annually for scholarships is about $30,000, according to Sheila Cameron, Gold Shield president.
The reception will honor donors, scholarship winners and the current holder of the faculty prize, who is Patricia Greenfield, professor of psychology at UCLA and the second person to receive this award.
The party will be lavish, but not expensive. That is because these dedicated fund-raisers are doing the work themselves. In a series of cooking sessions called Canape Capers, they have prepared all the appetizers and sweets that will be served. The money they would have given to a caterer will go to their projects instead.
In planning the menu, they chose appetizers that could be served at room temperature and would require no last-minute heating because there will be no cooking facilities at the party site. To ensure safety, the food, including the cookies, has been frozen and will be thawed just in time for serving.
At the home of Rue Pine, the Gold Shield member who organized the Canape Capers, we watched a group fold filo dough into triangles for an appetizer version of beef Wellington. The filling included chopped filet mignon, pate, capers, dill and a pimiento slice.
Pine, a cooking teacher and one-time caterer, plucked fresh herbs from her garden to add to the vegetable filling for Nicoise Tartlettes. The base for these is a mock form of puff pastry that includes sour cream and can also be used for sweet tartlettes, Pine said. She suggested filling them with lemon curd for dessert. The final recipe that the group worked on was grape leaves stuffed with rice, pine nuts, currants and dill.
Here, for other party givers who need to work in advance, are the recipes, which represent a small selection of the variety to be served at Sunday’s party.
INDIVIDUAL BEEF WELLINGTONS
1 1/2 pounds filet mignon, trimmed of all fat
1 (1-pound) package filo dough
1/2 pound butter, melted
1 (1/2-pound) can pate de foie gras
1 (3-ounce) bottle capers, drained
1/2 bunch fresh dill, stemmed and chopped
2 (4-ounce) jars sliced pimientos
Freeze filet mignon until ice crystals form. Finely chop meat in food processor. Unroll filo dough. Work with 1 sheet filo at time and keep remainder refrigerated.
Brush sheet all over with melted butter. Cut crosswise, parallel with short edge, into 2-inch wide strips. Fold each strip in half so it will be half as long. Place small dab beef on 1 end. Top with 1 teaspoon pate, 1 or 2 capers, dash dill and 1 pimiento strip. Fold end of dough over filling so that 1 corner meets opposite side, forming triangle. Continue to fold in series of triangles.
Brush with more butter. Place in single layer on baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes 80 to 100.
1/2 recipe Flo Braker’s Mock Puff Pastry
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 (1/2-pound) eggplant, peeled and cubed
1 (1/4-pound) zucchini, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Roll out pastry about 1/8 inch thick. Cut with 2-inch biscuit cutter. Drop into mini quiche pans. Chill 30 minutes.
Heat oil in skillet. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is transparent. Add eggplant and zucchini. Cover and cook slowly about 20 minutes. Add tomatoes and herbs and simmer over low heat, uncovered, until most of liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper. Chill. Add about 1 1/2 teaspoons filling to each pastry shell and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake at 425 degrees 10 to 15 minutes or until pastry is crisp and brown. Makes 4 dozen.
Flo Braker’s Mock Puff Pastry
2 cups flour
1/2 pound unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg yolk
Place flour in food processor bowl fitted with metal blade. Cut butter into 1/2-inch chunks and distribute over flour. Process with on and off motion until butter particles range from size of beans to peas. Mix sour cream and egg yolk. Add to flour mixture and process just until dough starts to form ball.
Divide in half and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill half to be used for tartlettes 1 hour to overnight. Remaining half can be refrigerated 3 days or frozen up to 3 months.
RITA LEINWAND’S DOLMADAKIA
(Stuffed Grape Leaves)
3/4 cup olive oil
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced parsley
3/4 cup uncooked rice
1 tablespoon minced dill
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup currants, soaked in white wine to cover
1 (1-pound) jar grape vine leaves
Juice of 2 lemons
2 cups beef stock
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in skillet. Add onions and parsley and cook until onions are tender. Add rice, dill, pine nuts, currants with wine and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Remove vine leaves from jar, scald with hot water and drain. Cut off stems carefully. Pat each leaf dry and place on paper towels with shiny surface down. When rice mixture is cool, place 1 teaspoon in center of each leaf. Fold end of leaf over to cover filling, then fold in sides and roll carefully to form cylinder about 2 inches long.
Arrange stuffed leaves in layers in pot. Sprinkle each layer with lemon juice and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Carefully pour beef stock and remaining olive oil over leaves. Place plate on top to weigh them down. Simmer over very low heat 40 to 50 minutes. Drain and cool before serving. Arrange on platter with lemon wedges and accompany with bowl of chilled yogurt. Makes 4 dozen.