By Tina Wasserman
I am often asked how many people a recipe will serve. I always respond that it depends on the circumstances. We have all made the infamous tuna noodle casserole that’s supposed to feed four, except when it’s eaten by two people watching a football game on the couch there don’t seem to be any leftovers…
Obviously, the more food you serve at one sitting or on one buffet table, the more each dish will serve. However, the most important factor is WHAT you use to serve the food. Let me explain.
I have my own theory of buffet mentality. People come up to a buffet table and subconsciously assess the food. If they have never tasted the dish before they will take a small spoonful. If they like the main ingredient in a dish they will dip probably 1½ times. If they love the dish, they will take two spoons or forks full. Now, the size of the spoon and the depth of the casserole are up to you. If you use a long-handled stirring spoon from your kitchen in a deep 3-quart casserole instead of a serving tablespoon in a 13×9 casserole which is shallower, don’t come crying to me that the food never served 15 people as the recipe said it would.
This actually happened to me with my great Corn Pudding recipe. I brought it to a party and the hostess served it with this humongous spoon. Its smell enticed everyone so much that the last five people on the buffet line never got any, and there was leftover corn pudding on a number of plates because the people had taken too much. This situation needs to be avoided at all costs and it can be with choosing the proper-sized serving utensil. Just don’t go to the extreme as one caterer did. They served a side of poached salmon with a small two-pronged toothpick! Really!
Buffet mentality also applies to finger food. Want the small cookies, brownies, petits fours and nut clusters to serve more people? Place them in little paper mini muffin papers. NO ONE wants to hold a plate with six papers as evidence of their gluttony! Don’t laugh — it works every time! I’m not telling you to be skimpy. I just want your guests to enjoy your hard work, leave full, and not have you see food wasted.
For your New Year’s celebration, you want to be festive even if the number of people in attendance has been limited by that nasty Omicron virus. The following recipes are from my old recipe box, easy to make and sure to please. Everything old is new again!
Here’s to a healthier 2022!
Salmon Party Log
When I was first married and entertaining, I often went to my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbookfor ideas. The following recipe was one of my favorites and I have adapted it to accommodate 21st-century cooking techniques and palates.
- 1½ cups cooked salmon, finely mashed
- 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Finely grated zest from ½ lemon
- 1 tablespoon grated onion
- 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon liquid smoke
- 1 cup pecans, chopped
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1. In a 2-quart mixing bowl, combine the salmon with the next 7 ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until cold.
2. Meanwhile, toast the pecans in a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes or until fragrant. When cool, chop into small pieces either by hand or in a food processor, pulsing the machine only until the pecans are in small pieces but not pulverized.
3. Combine the pecans and the parsley on a dinner-sized plate. Set aside while you shape the log.
4. On a sheet of plastic wrap, shape the salmon mixture into an 8×2-inch log. Enclose the plastic wrap around the roll, and roll back and forth to make a relatively smooth cylinder. Chill for a few minutes if mixture feels too soft.
5. Unwrap salmon log, place on the plate with the prepared pecans and parsley and roll the log around until it is evenly coated.
6. Place on a serving dish and chill until serving time.
7. Serve the log with your choice of cracker.
- The original recipe called for canned salmon because 70 years ago it was difficult to get fresh. However, if you ever fought through the skin and bones to find the fish, you will understand why I call for fresh cooked salmon.
- Salmon is usually moister than tuna but, in a pinch, solid white canned tuna may be used.
- The ingredients will be easier to mix if the cream cheese is very soft. If you don’t have time to soften it at room temperature, you can soften it in your microwave for 20 seconds
Tortellini with Lemon Dipping Sauce
I created this recipe in the early ‘80s when I was Chef Fields at Marshall Fields in the Galleria. At the time, hot artichoke dip was just coming into vogue, so I created a variation to use as a dip for hot tortellini. Very easy and loved by all!
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup minced scallion
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
1. Combine all of the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Place in an ovenproof serving dish and heat in a 350-degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Serve with hot tortellini.
- ½ pound cheese-filled tortellini
- 4 tablespoons butter
1. Cook tortellini in boiling salted water until al dente or follow package directions.
2. Drain the tortellini and then toss with the butter until well coated. Place in a warm dish. Serve with toothpicks and dip into hot lemon dip.
- This recipe can be easily doubled. I serve it with little cocktail forks and 4-inch cocktail plates so the dip gets into the mouth and not on my carpet!
- Use whatever flavor of prepared tortellini you would like but don’t make your own for this recipe. Homemade is more delicate and would slide right off a toothpick!
- COVID-19 got me to get the cocktail forks and individual plates to keep each portion separate, but now I like having those items to be able to entertain at any time.
When I first started teaching, the French teacher in our junior high was Diane Wickstrom, who was of Swedish descent. She taught me this drink, and for many years we served it during the holiday season. Try this warm drink on a cold winter’s eve. It will definitely warm you!
- 1 cup warm water
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- ½ cup blanched whole almonds
- ½ cup raisins
- 2 bottles port wine
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 10 cardamom seeds, removed from their pods
- 10 whole cloves
- Zest from ½ orange, removed with a vegetable peeler in strips
- 1 pint brandy
1. In a 6-quart pot or Dutch oven, add the sugar and water and bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar in the water.
2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the almonds, raisins and port wine.
3. Place all the spices and orange peel into a piece of cheesecloth or in a tea strainer ball. Add to the pot.
4. Bring the wine mixture to a simmer and then add the brandy. Bring to a low simmer and cover the pot.
5. After 20 minutes, remove the spices but leave the raisins and almonds.
6. Serve the Glogg in mugs and sip slowly as mixture is hot.
- There is no need to use expensive port or brandy for this drink. Ask the salesperson at a reputable liquor store and you will get what you need without breaking the bank.
- Because this drink is hot, one tends to sip it. As is often the case, we tend to inhale when we sip. Be aware that the alcohol will reach your nose before it reaches your throat but it’s really worth it!
- This drink can be refrigerated if there are any leftovers and then reheated in the microwave or in a saucepan over medium heat. Do not overheat or it could ignite, although that is more likely when it is fresh rather than being reheated.