Sunday, September 02, 2007

Wedding, part 3

Olive Oil. We went through almost a gallon of it. Thank you Costco. And friends Kim and Ian, for shopping with us so that we could use their truck to transport all of this food.

Way back when we first got engaged, Greg and I envisioned a fairly simple wedding. With budget constraints, a certain aversion to excess, and some good hard-headed-stubbornness to always do things with our own hands, we came up with the following ideas: on the beach somewhere, very small, and we'd do the catering ourselves.

We told a few people of our plans, and after hearing some laugh, others furrow their eyebrows, and quite a few say "What? Are you mad?", we completely abandoned the idea of a sit-down reception following ceremony. Our families had never met before and the thought of planning a traditional wedding sent me into increasing throws of grumpiness and bad temper: circumstances called for creativity. We decided that if tradition demanded a fanfare-filled, indecently priced, and short-lived event, we'd throw tradition to the wind and get married
our way. We had a mostly private ceremony with our immediate families in Italy, and then three months later we threw a celebratory bash for our friends and the rest of our family.

Whether I love food or food loves me, or food equals love to me, I knew that our reception would be centered around food we had lovingly prepared ourselves. The last two days have been a hectic rush of culinary preparation, but I think I feel confident in saying that it worked beautifully. For my own reference mostly, I wrote down the full menu at the bottom of this post, along with a few vaguely written recipes that others might enjoy. The food was great and designed to remind us of the three weeks we spent in Italy. Of course, we made far too much for anybody to eat in a single evening. Even after having most of our guests leave with plates full of leftovers, we still have a fridge stocked with yummy bites for a minimum week's worth of snacking. There are a few things we won't be able to finish off, but I plan to make the savory items into ravioli for freezing, and any remaining bruschetta topping will be great as a fresh pasta sauce. The four cheese lasagna, as we figured after our trial run, was a huge hit. The second most popular dish were the vegan meatballs - very funny, since there were only 4 vegetarians in the whole place, and many of the meat-eaters were shocked to discover that they weren't eating meat at all.

It was a truly wonderful evening. I was so busy that I didn't get a single picture of any of it, but my dad was diligent in snapping pictures every few minutes so we will have a record of the night after all. We invited 150 people, 66 RSVP'd yes, and I'd say somewhere around 50 showed up. We brought in houseplants and little white globe lights, every pitcher and serving utensil we owned, along with big sheets of white butcher paper for covering the tables in true Italian style. Greg's mom made flower arrangements from the weeds in our front yard, and my parents patiently assembled caprese salad skewers until the Italian flag colors of red (tomato), white (mozz), and green (basil) were imprinted in their minds forever. Greg grilled until midnight on Friday, and I made 24 cups of bechemel at 8am on Saturday. My father-in-law fussed over the exact seasoning on his salt cod bakala until it was spicy and perfect, and my aunt, uncle and cousin stuffed favor bags full of photos, and chocolate covered raisins and espresso beans. It was an adventure, to be sure, but I wouldn't trade the memories for the world.

The best part? We were able to see everybody in one room. I can't help but be nostalgic about putting away the wedding dress and sad to remove from my bookmark list, but I am filled with happiness to know how many of our friends and family were in one room on one night, sharing laughter and some four cheese lasagna. Being among so many individuals that are important to me, I couldn't escape a feeling of gratitude for all of the fortune in my life. Our love of family and friends is what our wedding has been about.

Greg and I wrote our vows in secret and recited them to each other for the first time on May 21st. I called him my "biggest surprise" and he called me his "greatest success". Even in the three months that we have been married, I see our relationship move forward in ways that I shouldn't really be surprised about after all. Saturday night cemented that bond for me. When I glanced his eye from across the room, or found myself helpless with laughter at stories of Greg's childhood, I was reminded again of how lucky I am to be with such a tremendously talented, generous and loving person. I've said it before in this blog and I'll say it again: thanks, Greg. Love you.

I won't tell you how much the Costco bill came to, but let me just say I'd like to shred my credit card right now. One of the best things I did to prepare for this was to break things down in two ways: (1) by ingredient category (dry goods, canned goods, dairy, fruit, etc), and (2) by recipe in basic steps.

6:30-7:30, Appetizers
  • Fruit Platter (cantaloupes, red and and green grapes, Asian pears, oranges)
  • 120 Crabcakes (Prepared by friend Stacey) with Lemon Aoili Dip
  • 100 Lox Bites
  • Cheese Platter (Prepared by friends Kim and Ian)
  • Cracker Assortment
  • Green and Black Olives
7:30-8:30, Main Dishes
  • 120 Vegan Meatballs in Sauce
  • 6 9x13" pans Four Cheese Lasagna
  • 120 Caprese Salad Skewers
  • 9lb Grilled Marinated Shrimp
  • Caesar Salad (Prepared by my Sister-in-law)
  • 4 9x9" Spinach Tart
  • Grilled Vegetables: 10 Eggplants, 15 Zucchini, 2 each of Red, Yellow and Orange Bell Peppers
  • 10 Loafs of Ciabaso Bread, with Olive Oil
  • 4 Bruschetta Toppings: Tomato/Basil/Garlic, Caramelized Onion/Garlic, Pesto, and Olive Tapenade
  • Salt Cod Bakala (prepared by my Father-in-law)
8:30-9:30, Dessert (prepared by my Mother-in-law)
  • 100 Frosted Cupcakes
  • Chocolate Cookies
  • Almond Cookies
  • Brownie Bites
The Booze: 100 Peroni, 20 bottles red wine, 20 bottles white wine, 15 bottles champagne

Spinach Tart
My mom's recipe. One of the few things she cooks (she is a self-admitted "food assembler", meaning that she assembles frozen vegetables and main course items into microwave dishes), and it is excellent and easy. Her version includes some sauteed mushrooms and jack cheese, but I prefer just the spinach.
Serves: 6-8

9" pie crust
16 oz frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and thoroughly squeezed to remove all traces of water
1/2 pt whipping cream
3 eggs
Salt, pepper and nutmeg
  1. If using frozen pie crust, place in fridge the night before to defrost. Place on counter one hour before prepping
  2. Preheat the oven to 350. Thoroughly butter a removable bottom tart pan and drape with pastry. Press pastry into all corners of the pan and sprinkle with several pinches of kosher salt. Chill for 10 minutes, and then bake until cooked through (depending on crust thickness, 5-10 minutes).
  3. Meanwhile, stir together remaining ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste* with a dash of nutmeg.
  4. Pour filling into tart pan, and bake until set in middle, about 25 minutes.
*This will take a lot of salt and I am sorry to say that I'm just bad at measuring. The only way to check the seasoning, if you are averse to raw egg, is to microwave small bits until they cook through.

Grilled Vegetables

Eggplant, or other firm-fleshed vegetable
Equal parts olive oil and balsamic
Salt and Pepper
  1. Slice eggplant (or other vegetable) to 1/2" thickness (a mandoline helps).
  2. Marinate overnight with equal parts oil and balsamic vinegar
  3. Grill the next day, seasoning each side well with salt and pepper

Four Cheese Lasagna

(Click link for recipe)

Caramelized Onion/Garlic Bruschetta Topping

Olive Oil
2 large yellow or sweet onions
1 head garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Start a heavy bottom pan warming on stovetop with olive oil to coat
  2. Slice garlic in half. Brush cut sides with generous amounts of olive oil. Wrap, cut sides up, in silver foil and bake for 45-60 minutes, until cloves have steamed through and begun to caramelize (wait for them to turn a golden color. They'll get very sticky when they're done!). Squeeze out garlic cloves into a small dish and set aside.
  3. Slice onions to 1/8-1/4" thick rings. Add to warm pan and stir to coat with olive oil. Turn heat to medium-low and watch onions carefully, continuously stirring so that they evenly brown without sticking. It will take 30-40 minutes for them to reach a golden color, and you can add more olive oil if things get dry.
  4. Puree onion mixture with garlic in food processor until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste (it will take a lot of salt)

Lox Bites

Assemble the following on small crostini round: 1/8" slice of cucumber, slice of lox, 1/2 tsp softened cream cheese and sprig of dill

Caprese Salad Skewers

Marinate small mozzarella balls in Italian seasonings, garlic and olive oil at least overnight. Slide the following onto each skewer: 1-2 grape tomatoes, basil leaf, mozzarella ball, and slice of proscuitto. Drizzle with olive oil.

We kept our to-do list on the fridge. Each little paper was a dish, and it actually helped things stay super organized.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am ubberly impressed by your organizational skills and cooking talents. It looks like a magical evening.