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Entertain Like a Pro

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Written by Peggy Fallon   
Sunday, 18 July 2010

ImageEver wonder how Hollywood celebrities entertain? They usually hire Denise Vivaldo. From intimate dinners at home to the Governor's Ball at the Academy Awards, she's done it all. And now she has written The Entertaining Encyclopedia.

Denise is a celebrity in her own right: a classically trained chef; professional recipe developer; award-winning author of 5 cookbooks; UCLA Culinary Program professor; accomplished food stylist; and renowned caterer for 20+ years. Who could be better qualified to write about entertaining?

The book features 25 menus as diverse as a Neighborhood Block Party; Garden Brunch; Barcelona Bash; and Grecian Get-Together. There are also over 200 clearly written, tried-and-true recipes from the author's private files. None of them require daunting skills or impossible-to-find ingredients, yet each has enough pizazz to make a lasting impression. (You don't need to be rich or famous to enjoy Prosciutto-Wrapped Mango; Seared Ahi Tuna Salad; Couscous with Raisins and Caramelized Onions; or Death-by-Chocolate Cookies.) As an added bonus for those who entertain larger groups, each recipe indicates how many times it can be multiplied successfully.

The first half of the book is loaded with tips. Seriously. The amount of practical information is staggering—things like choosing the perfect menu; creating ambiance; figuring out how much food and drink you'll need; choosing the right glass for the right beverage, and just about every other dilemma a host might encounter. The secrets to success are all here—even ones you may have never considered.

The most refreshing surprise is that the book doesn't read like some dry instructional manual. Slip in-between the covers with Denise and you'll learn about her surprise encounter with Elizabeth Taylor, and how she met Frank Sinatra—twice.

There are certainly flashier books on the subject of entertaining—glossy coffee table tomes with more style than substance—but none contain the invaluable minutiae this author has crammed into less than 500 pages. My personal inclination is to say this book is a necessary resource for anyone who ever answers the doorbell; but suffice it to say that the knowledge contained within these pages is truly encyclopedic.

Roasted Chicken Chopped Salad with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

From The Entertaining Encyclopedia: Essential Tips for Hosting the Perfect Party  by Denise Vivaldo, Robert Rose 2009.

SERVES 6 or can be multiplied up to 4 times

There's so much variety and potential in this chopped salad, and it's an easy one to serve on a picnic blanket. Take liberties with the ingredients and personalize it however you please. Buy a roasted chicken at your grocery store to make this recipe quicker.

Make Ahead: Chopped salads can be prepped a day in advance if you store the ingredients separately in the refrigerator.

  • 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped   
  • 6 green onions, sliced   
  • 3 tomatoes, diced   
  • 1 large carrot, diced   
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped   
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, finely chopped   
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced   
  • 1 can (14 to 19 oz/398 to 540 mL) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 lb fresh mozzarella cheese, diced   
  • 1 lb bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled   
  • 2 cups diced roasted chicken   
  • 1/2 cup sliced cooked or drained canned red beets   
  • 3/4 cup Blue Cheese Vinaigrette (see recipe below)   

Divide romaine among serving plates. Arrange green onions, tomatoes, carrot, red pepper, yellow pepper, cucumber, chickpeas, mozzarella, bacon, chicken and beets attractively on top. Serve with dressing on the side.

Easy Extras: This is the place to exercise your imagination. Add any ingredients that strike your fancy, such as artichoke hearts, corn kernels, edamame or other beans, almonds, pecans or sunflower seeds.

Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

From The Entertaining Encyclopedia: Essential Tips for Hosting the Perfect Party  by Denise Vivaldo, Robert Rose 2009.

MAKES 1 CUP (250 ML) or can be multiplied up to 4 times

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese   
1/4 cup champagne vinegar or seasoned rice vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

In a food processor or blender, pulse oil, blue cheese, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper until creamy.

Variation: The blue cheese can be replaced with feta, Gorgonzola or cream cheese.

Place servings of dressing in small containers with lids, such as Mason jars or disposable plastic condiment cups, and pack them with the salads so the dressing won't make the salad go to mush before you're ready to serve it.

Make Ahead: This dressing can be made up to 3 days in advance if refrigerated in an airtight container.

Spiced Lamb Kebabs

ImageFrom The Entertaining Encyclopedia: Essential Tips for Hosting the Perfect Party  by Denise Vivaldo, Robert Rose 2009.

SERVES 6 or can be multiplied up to 4 times

The addition of cinnamon gives this dish a wonderfully exotic taste.

Tips: Kebabs can be served as sandwiches with flatbread.

If you prefer your lamb cooked to medium, broil or grill for 7 to  8 minutes; medium-well for 9 to 10 minutes; well for  11 to 12 minutes.

Twelve 12-inch (30 cm) metal or wooden skewers
2 1/2 lb boneless leg of lamb   
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin   
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 red onion, cut into large pieces   

1. Trim fat from lamb and cut into 1 1/2-inch (4 cm) cubes.

2. In a sealable plastic bag, combine oil, cumin, black pepper, cinnamon and cayenne. Add lamb, seal and toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight, shaking bag occasionally to redistribute marinade.

3. Preheat broiler, or preheat barbecue grill to medium-high. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 10 minutes.

4. Separate onion into pieces of 2 to 3 layers. Remove lamb from marinade, discarding marinade. Thread lamb and onion onto skewers, with 3 slices of onion between each piece of lamb. If broiling, place on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Broil or grill for 5 to 6 minutes, turning to sear all sides, until medium-rare, or until desired doneness.

Easy Extras: Add other vegetables with the onions: cubes of zucchini, sliced bell peppers or small pieces of eggplant would work well. Salt eggplant generously, drain for at least 1 hour and rinse well before using.

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.


Last Updated ( Sunday, 12 September 2010 )
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