A friend of Dave’s from biz school, Tom, is graduating and moving back to DC so he decided to throw a “Going out of business” party for which I had the privilege of making the food. I was told to cook for 50-60 people and so I made several larger dishes that would feed the masses with a few more detailed items thrown in for variety. The final menu included curried chicken salad, bulgur salad, whole wheat pasta with homemade pesto, mini salmon cakes with yogurt dill sauce, white bean dip, roasted red pepper dip, and a chocolate chip cake (with a train cake on top to represent the Acela).
The crowd favorite was definitely the salmon cakes.
The cake was also a big hit, and the biggest I have made to date (baked in a 12 x 15 x 3 in pan). What I didn’t know until I did some research, is that when you bake a sizable cake you have to use a heating core to help evenly distribute the heat. Otherwise, by the time the middle of the cake is done the outer edges will be hard and dry. While the core makes a hole in the cake, you simply fill it with a bit of a batter, creating a neat little plug that you insert back into the cake. Once the cake the frosted, nobody is the wiser.
(So much batter!)
My favorite thing I made for the party was the roasted red pepper dip. Taking that extra step to roast the peppers brings out their natural sweetness and really deepens their flavor. To roast red peppers at home there are two things you can do: use your burners (if you have a gas range) or broil them in the oven. If you are lucky enough to have a fancy stove with an open grill grate built in, or you have access to a real outdoor grill, you can disregard what I am about to write. If you are only doing a few peppers, and have the time to devote to a little babysitting, I prefer the burner method.
Simply brush your pepper with oil and place directly onto the burner, turning the flame on high. Rotate the pepper as each side becomes charred, don’t worry if it looks burnt, the skin should be turning black. If you are doing a larger batch (as I was for my dip) the broiler is the way to go. First, place your peppers in a large bowl and coat with oil.
Then place them on a tray and into the oven with the broiler on high. Turn the peppers every 7-10 minutes or so.
This batch took about 30 minutes. The peppers won’t get as charred in the oven (versus the stove top); you know they are ready when the skins becomes wrinkled the peppers begin to deflate. Once done, remove the peppers from the oven, place in a large bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 10-15 minutes.
After the peppers have cooled enough for you to handle them, peel and seed them and remove the stems (the skin should slip off easily). This can be done under running water, if desired, which will make for a less messy process.
Once cleaned, your peppers are ready to be sliced and enjoyed, in salads, on pizza, however you like them. Mine went right into the food processor.