Now that summer has arrived, I feel comfortable in saying that readers should expect a plethora of posts and photos. (At least in comparison with what they’ve been seeing lately) Summer is finally here, and I have 3 months off to enjoy it this time! I don’t have many far away travels scheduled this time around, but that does mean that there will be plenty of culinary experimentation on the homefront!
My first foodie event of this summer, was an afternoon tea party. I hadn’t had one for about two years, and I definitely learned some lessons with the first one. A major thing that I did right with the first that I continued with in the second, is to prepare the tea ahead of time. I used large coffee pump pots (the ones that keep the liquids hot) and brewed up three varieties of tea so that guests had their options along with their instant gratification. This go around I made iced tea as well, being that it’s already so warm out, and also made a lovely Lavender Ginger Lemonade. How do you get the flavors of lavender and ginger into a lemonade, you may ask? Easily, with a syrup. What you do is heat sugar, water, crystallized ginger, lemon zest, and lavender buds on a stove until the sugar is melted and the concoction has had a little while to steep, about a minute more on the heat. You later add this into your lemon juice and water, and voila! An elegant drink suitable for an elegant event. They all loved it.
For this get together, I decided to take my tea party a step further with the addition of scones and lemon curd. My goal was to make two kinds of scones, but with time constraints I was unable. I made Cranberry Orange Scones, a recipe from Barefoot Contessa, and I used flower shaped cookie cutters to make them into more of a snack size. I will say that the orange flavor wasn’t very prevalent, so the next time around I may add a little bit of the orange juice into the batter rather than just the zest. The lemon curd was also delicious. I used the recipe that I was given during my culinary conference classes last summer, and it made a perfect amount. I am now addicted to the substance, and find myself smearing lemon curd on all sorts of breads.
The main event, the finger sandwiches, are best kept fairly simple. I would say that they are the easiest part to assemble of the whole tea party. I made Cucumber sandwiches- a classic. All I did was mix a little bit of the dill paste that you can find in grocery stores into the cream cheese, cut circles out of the slices of bread, and top them with a couple cucumber slices. Fresh dill is also wonderful, I just happened to have this tubed dill on hand and it made things even easier. Another sandwich I made used to be the most popular at my local tearoom before it went out of business: the Ham & Apricot sandwich. These are just as simple- you combine half a cup of cream cheese with half a cup of apricot preserves, mix them up, spread it on the bread, and top with some thin slices of ham. I cut these ones into triangles. One sandwich was just me winging it, and I call it the Caprese. I cut out bread rounds, and topped them with a thin slice of soft mozzarella cheese, a basil leaf, and a slice of tomato. Simple yet refreshing. If you wanted to kick them up a notch, you could potentially drizzle them with olive oil and top with salt and pepper. The fourth sandwich I made was with a new recipe. I made Tarragon Chicken Salad and added a lettuce leaf onto the tiny rectangles. One problem I encountered with my last tea party, was that I made way too many finger sandwiches. I was stuck with tons leftover, and even with tupperware, they were all stale by the next day. What I would encourage, is to only make about two finger sandwiches per person. This time I just filled my serving platters which made about that amount. It’s easier to just whip up a few more than it is to have to throw away about 60 finger sandwiches that you put your time, money, and ingredients into. I tried a new trick this time in attempts to keep the sandwiches softer until the guests arrived. After placing the sandwiches on a platter, a dampened a paper towel and wrung it out, then placed it over the sandwiches. I then covered the platter with plastic wrap, and when I served them they seemed almost fresher than when I first made them.
Onto the most anticipated part of any meal- dessert. I prepared a Lemon Yogurt Cake, and cut enough slices from the loaf for each person to have one, and arranged them on a long and narrow serving dish. I then added some strawberries at the end of the plate for some color and to take up some space. It was excellently moist, fresh, and just right for the occasion. The additions of yogurt and oil into the recipe are what make this cake so delectably moist and tender. I was in a very lavender mood, so I also made a Honey Lavender Frozen Custard and finally used the honey that I bought at the Queens County Farm in NY. This I found a bit too sweet for my liking, and it was very rich, but the guests loved it. It was also more time consuming than a typical ice cream. First I need to cook about half of the cream, the honey, the lavender buds, sugar, and vanilla bean on the stove. Then whip 10 egg yolks into a frenzy, and pour the cooled cream mixture into the mix. Then I needed to cook it all again on the stove, but not so much as to scramble the eggs, to 175 degrees. Then I had to strain it and move it to an ice bath to cool it down before adding it into the ice cream maker. I had some delays between steps, but it seemed a bit more involved than I’d like for an ice cream. However it did wow the guests, and they kept saying how professional it seemed, so maybe I’ll give it another try someday with a bit less sweetness. Comment if you’d like the recipe posted!
It was a very pleasant meal, and I’m hoping to host another tea part sometime in the next couple of months! Photo credit goes to my dear friend Mayaneli Brown!