Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Memorial

Perhaps a six weeks ago a good friend of mine called me up to see if I'd be interesting in volunteering for a Martin Luther King Jr memorial service in Tacoma.  I thought, sure, why not, it'll be a fun experience, right?  I was going to be in charge of setting a menu for and executing a sort of cocktail hour-minus-the-cocktails reception after the two-hour performance. 

There were a few restrictions on the menu which made the development process a good challenge.  First off, the group organizing the event wanted everything vegetarian (I can't tell you how many people asked me "where's the fried chicken?").  Next, this was the first year providing food after the service, so it was kind of sketchy how many people would hang around after for a snack (anywhere from zero to three hundred fifty).  Recruited to help me were five (even though it turned out closer to ten) high school students looking for some community service hours.  Last but not least, kitchen space and storage logistics turned out to be rather difficult.  We had limited access to the kitchen at the event site so we had to scrounge a bit...

So, the menu had to be vegetarian, very inexpensive, easy to execute so my enthusiastic but untrained assistants could actually have something to do, and all of the food had to be able to be made the day ahead, stored, and then all served at room temperature with minimal assembly.  This is what I came up with:

 Fig, Gorgonzola, and Walnut Crostini
Goat Cheese and Tapenade Crostini
Vegetarian Antipasti
(agrodolce pearl onions, roasted red bell peppers with sun dried tomatoes,
marinated wild mushrooms, olives with fresh herbs)
Spiced Grilled Eggplant and Cucumber Salad
Tunisian Carrot Salad with Toasted Cumin and Parsley
Cannellini Bean and Rosemary Spread
Labneh with Sumac, Olive Oil and Fresh Herbs

Not exactly what one might think of considering the occasion, but it worked within the constraints of budget/skill levels/kitchen coordination.  In the end though, everything worked out very well.  We ended up feeding perhaps one hundred fifty people with just a bit of leftovers.  All of the guests enjoyed the food, even if I was accused of "making them eat this healthy stuff."  The biggest seller was the fig crostini, I think people really enjoyed the sweet versus savory in every bite.  It was definitely new food for the highschoolers (a long way from top ramen, they pointed out) and it was for many of the diners as well.  It was a great opportunity to introduce a group of people to new flavors and textures in a very gentle manner. 


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