The Gift of a Dinner Party

Sharing a good meal with friends is a wonderful gift. And when the hostess is a talented florist, the event is beautiful as well as delicious.

Kelly Norvell, owner of Bridal Blooms Florist, loves to cook and entertain. And when she does, she uses flowers to turn her table into a lovely palette of colors and textures. “A vibrant table setting with really pretty flowers tells your guests that they are important,” says Kelly. “It says that you spent time and thought to turn what could be a regular dinner into a special event. You can often use greenery from your own yard and add interesting flowers you pick up at Central Market.”
The food must be visually tantalizing as well, and so Kelly chooses an interesting fish stew, called Seafood Cataplana. The dish is named for the pan it is cooked in — a clam-shaped copper vessel that is originally from Portugal. This pan is filled with ingredients, then tightly closed and placed to simmer on top of the stove. Serving directly from the cataplana adds even more fun and conversation to the dinner experience. (If you can’t get your hands on a cataplana, a Dutch oven will work fine.)

Seafood Cataplana
Yield: 8 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 each, red and green bell peppers, cut into thin strips
3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups dry wine
1, 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes with juice
2 cups fish stock (available frozen at Central Market), or bottled clam juice
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
Pinch dried chili flakes
12 small new potatoes, scrubbed and trimmed but not peeled
1 pound chorizo, removed from casings, crumbled and cooked (Central Market’s meat counter)
2 dozen uncooked mussels
2 dozen large shrimp, uncooked
2 pounds firm white fish, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 pound squid tentacles, uncooked
½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
In a Portuguese cataplana or Dutch oven, heat olive oil and sauté onions, bell peppers, and garlic for 1 minute. Remove to a plate and set aside. Add white wine and boil for 2 – 3 minutes to reduce slightly. Add tomatoes, fish stock, bay leaves, paprika, chili flakes and potatoes. Simmer uncovered 15 minutes.
Add chorizo, mussels, shrimp, white fish, and squid. Cover and simmer 8 – 10 minutes (don’t overcook the seafood — it will continue to cook as you call guests to the table and do last minute things to prepare to serve). Stir in parsley and serve.


Mixed Salad with Lemon Herb Vinaigrette
Yield: 8 servings
1 English cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup sliced, pitted calamata olives
1 quart tri-colored cherry tomatoes, each cut in half
1, 15-ounce can black-eyed peas, drained
Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe below)
About 10 handfuls mixed green lettuces or field greens
In a large bowl, combine cucumber, bell pepper, olives, tomatoes, and black-eyed peas. Gently stir in Lemon Vinaigrette and marinate up to 30 minutes in refrigerator.
Serve on top of green lettuces.

Lemon Vinaigrette:
Whisk together ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon dried Italian herb blend, 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Continue whisking while slowly pouring in ½ cup olive oil. Taste for salt and pepper. Refrigerate up to 1 month.

Almond Custard Tarts
Yield: 18 tarts
1, 17.3-ounce package Pepperidge Farms frozen puff pastry
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup milk
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon each, vanilla and almond flavoring
Sliced almonds for garnish, about ½ cup
Preheat oven to 375º.
Unwrap puff pastry and cut each piece into 9 pieces. Line 18 muffin cups with pastry, folding and pressing to make the pastry fit. Place in freezer while making the custard.
In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar and cornstarch. Whisk in milk and place over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Simmer 1 minute, until mixture thickens.
Place eggs and egg yolks in a medium bowl. Slowly add ½ cup hot milk mixture to eggs while whisking constantly. Repeat. Then add this mixture back to the saucepan, still whisking constantly. (This technique slowly cooks the eggs and keeps them from curdling.) Again, cook and whisk mixture over medium heat 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and almond flavoring.
Fill prepared pastry shells and top each with a pinch of sliced almonds. Bake 15 minutes or until crusts are golden brown and filling is set and lightly browned on top.


Sardine andGarlic Spread

Yield: serves 6 as a spread
on crackers
Rich and robust, this spread is addictive. Spread on bread or crackers.
2, 3 - 4-ounce cans quality sardines, packed in olive oil, drained (reserve oil)
1/4 cup roasted garlic cloves
juice of 2 lemons, or as needed
1. Place drained sardines and garlic cloves on a large plate and use a fork to mash the two together, forming a smooth paste. Add lemon juice until you get a good, spreading consistency.
Liver Pâté
Yield: 8 – 10 servings
with crackers
1 stick butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup brandy
1 – 1 ¼ pounds chicken livers, well trimmed
1 cup chicken stock
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon pepper
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until onion is tender. Add brandy and simmer until reduced almost completely. Add livers and stock and simmer 15 – 20 minutes, until livers are cooked through but still tender. Remove from heat. Drain livers and onions (reserving cooking liquid) and place in food processor. Add ¼ cup reserved cooking liquid.
Process mixture until smooth; add more cooking liquid as needed to create a smooth, spreadable paste. Add dry mustard, salt, and pepper and process to combine well.
Place in serving containers, cover, and refrigerate up to 3 days. To serve, allow to sit at room temperature 15 – 20 minutes and serve with crackers.