Archives for the month of: December, 2010
It’s December 27th and I’m still thinking about the neighborhood holiday party I went to last night. The amazing thing was that I didn’t realize just how many neighbors I had! Random acts of food turned into random acts of kindness as everyone brought something extraordinary to share. There was salmon wheels, venison sausage, all types of cheeses, crackers and fruit, croissant and ham sandwiches, tamales, ham and bean soup, parmesan twists, mushroom strudel, waldorf salad, luscious Petits Fours and cranberry shortbread bars. And of course lots of holiday spirit both in character and in liquid form.
I brought the cranberry shortbread bars.  Here’s the recipe:

Cranberry Shortbread Bars



12 Oz. Fresh Cranberries
2/3 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Oz. Water
Zest & Juice from 1/2 Orange (about 1 oz.)

Place above ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until reduced down to thick syrupy consistency. Take pan off of stove and put on a rack in a cool place while you are preparing the dough.



1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour

1/2 Cup Cornstarch

1 Pinch Sea Salt

8 Oz. Unsalted butter

1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar

1/2 teas. Almond Extract


Preheat oven 375 F.

In a separate bowl sift the flour with the cornstarch. Add salt and whisk together.

In a kitchen aid (or by hand if you must), cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the almond extract. Gently add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Let rest covered in refrigerator for about 20 min.

Press 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of a 8 X 8 pan and bake for 15 min. or until the edges of the crust become a light brown. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes then spread the cranberry filling over the shortbread crust. Crumble the remaining dough on top of the filling. Place back in the oven and bake for an additional 25 min. or until top is golden brown.

Let cool before serving.

If you’re in a jam and tight for time here are some things you can get from your local deli, supermarket or specialty store:

Crudités (raw vegetable tray) – Choose unique vegetables such as heirloom or baby veggies, asparagus spears or green beans. Blanch them quickly then dunk them in an ice bath. This will keep them bright in color and crisp. For a dip you can choose anything from garlic yogurt sauce, a spicy Thai dipping sauce to a basic vinaigrette.

Cheese and Crackers – Here’s an old standby that everyone is familiar with. Don’t be boring, get unique types of cheeses that range from pliable slices to soft and spreadable, mild in flavor to bold. Pair them with some nice artesian crackers.

Antipasto – we’re talking olives, cured meats, mushrooms, anchovies, artichoke hearts, etc. Don’t skimp on quality. Go for out of the ordinary items and this classic tray will be a hit!

Enjoy the holidays!


Chef Trusan

On my way to a recent four-day retreat catering, I noticed the brakes on my Jeep were going out. Not a big problem, just drive slower and time the traffic lights to make it through the intersections on the green light. Of course I had enough to stop in an emergency and for stop signs. (I’m not that crazy to drive with totally zero stopping power.) The scenario reminded me metaphorically how I can cook sometimes and how that drives creativity in the kitchen.

Caterings are especially subject to thinking on your feet. Changing a recipe at the last minute because the on-site stove burner just quit working, the sheet pan is an inch too wide to fit in the oven, or your assistant that you just sent to the store brought back the wrong ingredient or only half of what you needed. When I am at a catering it’s like driving without breaks, there’s no time for kitchen stop lights or traffic jams.
I am constantly observing obstacles and skating around them like an Olympic slalom skier. It brings with it an awareness that otherwise is overlooked. That’s when creativity kicks in: What am I going to do with all these extra Asian Eggplants? What about the chopped tomatoes and onions left over from yesterday’s meal? Knowledge of what ingredients might go well together and a good imagination is what creates new dishes. Here are just a few as an example:

Roasted Asian Eggplant Tapas

Makes 36 tapas


3 Asian Eggplants
1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 TBS ea. Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
1 Pkg. Fresh Basil Leaves
4 Slices Mozzarella, Muenster (or any mild cheese) 1/4” slices
2 Pints Cherry or Grape Tomatoes
36 Frilly Picks


Pre-heat oven to 400f. Peel and cut off the ends of the eggplants. Make sure you have 36 pieces of fresh basil leaves whether small whole leaves or the bigger ones cut smaller. Chop the leftover basil and use it in the marinade. Cut eggplants into 1/2” coins and marinade in olive oil, salt, pepper and basil for at least 20 min.

Place the eggplant coins on a sheet pan and roast in the oven until the bottom side becomes crisp. Turn the eggplant coins over and continue roasting until that side is now crisp. Remove from oven and let cool. Pat off excess olive oil with paper towel.

Cut 18 of the tomatoes in half lengthwise and hold. Cut the cheese into nine pieces per slice. Assemble on the frilly pick in this order:

Whole cherry tomato
Cheese square
Basil leaf
Eggplant coin
Half tomato (flat side down)

Serve at room temperature.

Spicy Gazpacho

Makes 6 servings (about 1 1/2 cups each)


3 LG red tomatoes (about 3 cups)
1 LG cucumber
1 Colored bell pepper (the more variety, the more colorful)
1 LG red onion
½ Cup Sliced green onion
1 LG Jalepeño
3 Cloves Garlic
1 1/2 12-oz. Can hot-style vegetable juice cocktail
1/3 Cup Chopped fresh basil
1/4 Cup Fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
1 TBS Extra VirginOlive oil
1/4 Cup Fresh Lime juice
3 TBS Balsamic vinegar
1/4 teas. Sea Salt
1 Dash Fresh ground black pepper
1 Dash Hot sauce
Thin slices of cucumber


Peel, seed and dice the cucumber (saving some thin slices for garnish), seed and dice the tomatoes, dice the bell pepper and onions. Seed and finely mince the jalapeño and garlic. Chop the basil and parsley. Add the vegetable juice cocktail, olive oil, lime juice, vinegar, salt, pepper and pepper sauce. Combine all the ingredients in a non-reactive (stainless steel or glass) bowl and mix. Add half the mixture to a food processor bowl and blend until nearly smooth. Add that back to the bowl. Cover and chill at least 1 hour before serving.

To serve, place thin slices of cucumber on top each serving.



Chef Trusan