25 July 2010

United Way Happy Hour on Big Island 2010

For the third year running, a co-worker and I auctioned an event for our company United Way campaign. We host a happy hour at her family’s cabin on Big Island in Lake Minnetonka. (Click here to read my post about last year’s event.) The event is getting a reputation, and bidding for this year’s happy hour was pretty intense. I think it was the second most expensive item in the auction.

We settled on a date in early June with the winning bidders. Here’s the menu:

Lydia made Gianni’s Grilled Shrimp Appetizer, grilled chicken skewers with peanut sauce, and guacamole with chips. Gianni’s is a steakhouse in Wayzata. Click here to read about it.

For my contributions, I prepared three celebrity chef items. From Giada De Laurentiis, I made Sweet Pea Crostini; the recipe is on the Food Network web site (click here). I really am a big fan of Giada’s recipes. My wife says it’s only because of the low-cut sweaters she wears on her cooking shows. But honestly, I never even noticed. (Giada, if you’re reading this, ‘Sorry.’)IMG_3695_1024

My second item was a Grilled Panzanella Salad. I adapted this from a Mark Bittmann recipe (New York Times food columnist). His recipe also is on the Food Network site (click here.) I modified his recipe quite a lot, however. Instead of chopping the tomatoes, I used whole grape tomatoes. I also added feta cheese and instead of basil and parsley, I used fresh oregano to give the recipe a Greek flavor.

My third item was the most challenging and also the most fun. It was from Jose Andres TV show Made in Spain. It’s a very entertaining show that’s a cross between travelogue and cooking show. It also has a great web site. The recipe is for Seared Piquillo Peppers stuffed with Roncal Cheese. You can watch Chef Andres prepare the recipe by clicking here. When I say this was a ‘challenging’ recipe, it’s not that it was so difficult. It’s actually quite easy. But it was a real challenge to find all the ingredients, especially the peppers. I found a source to order them online. But in the end, I found them at Trader Joe’s. Also, I couldn’t find Roncal cheese, which he describes as a creamy sheep cheese from Spain. So I used manchego, which is another Spanish sheep’s milk cheese and is more readily available (though not cheap). I also made this recipe for my family. We agreed that it would be good using mozzarella cheese. (Sorry, Jose.)

We also had a selection of cheese and crackers.

Following the tradition that we started last year at the United Way Happy Hour, we prepared a signature cocktail for our guests – a French 75. I had a page torn out of Bon Appetit from 2004 with the recipe, and finally tried it. (You can find the recipe on Epicurious, click here.) The only modification was instead of Champaign, we used prosecco. IMG_3705_1024

This was a happy hour, of course, so besides the cocktail, we also had beer, wine, sparkling water, and sodas. The group went through three bottles of pinot noir. We had a bottle of chardonnay open, but I don’t think we poured even one glass from it.

At the end of the evening, Lydia offered coffee and brought a dessert. As it got dark (under a cloudy sky that threatened rain), we boarded the boat back to shore.

So all told, I think it was another successful event, and best of all, it was for a good cause.

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