Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lunch for a Crowd

Meals for a large group need not be daunting. They just require a bit of planning.

I was asked to prepare a sandwich buffet for a group of 15 at work. And while I opted to provide some home baked breads, it was by no means required. I would recommend at the least finding a decent bakery and adding one or two bakery quality varieties.

My sandwich buffet included the following:

Breads - Potato and Pumpernickel/Hazelnut breads provided by me, Whole Wheat from a local bakery, and Hawaiian rolls straight from the deli of a big box store.

Lunch Meats - I figured about ¼ lb per person and included a seasoned turkey (garlic/rosemary), roast beef, ham, pastrami and chicken.

Tarragon and Walnut Chicken Salad (recipe below)

Cheeses - I offered Cheddar, Muenster, Havarti and Brie.

Condiments - along with the usual mustard and mayo, I included a garlic/saffron aioli and pesto (recipes for these included below).

Misc - I provided some frisee and green lettuce, along with grapes, pickles and banana peppers

Mediterranean Pasta Salad (recipe below)

Cookie Assortment (Chocolate Chip Oatmeal, Browniedoodles, Matcha Almond Butter Cookies (Going to work on this recipe. They were fine, but I wasn’t completely happy with them).

I don’t have a lot of photos to share because I could only snap a few as I was staging things. I did the set up during a meeting, so it was a fast in and out, but I think you’ll get the idea:


¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
¼ cup pine nuts or walnuts
Juice from ½ a lemon
2 cups fresh basil leaves
¼ cup olive oil (no, this isn’t a typo - you’ll need about ½ cup total)
½ cup Parmesan or Asiago cheese (freshly grated, please)
Salt and pepper to taste

Layer the ingredients in a blender in the order they appear here (I just find that unless you have a high-end blender, you’ll have more success this way). Using a ‘Grind’ setting, or something similar, pulse the mixture until it becomes a paste. Taste for seasoning and add more oil if the mixture is too thick.

Garlic/Saffron Aioli
Note: I would have made my own mayonnaise for this, but I opted to just go for a good quality store-bought instead. No worries about raw eggs.

½ cup good quality mayo
1 Tbs white wine
Generous pinch of saffron
1 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed into a paste
¼ tsp white pepper

Pour white wine into a small bowl and add the saffron. Allow to steep for about 10 minutes. Add the mayo, garlic and white pepper and stir until well combined.

Walnut Tarragon Chicken Salad

2 roasted chickens (you can use rotisserie if desired)
½ shallot, finely minced
1 Tbs fresh tarragon, cut into a chiffonade
¼ cup white wine
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 cup good quality mayonnaise
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
½ cup toasted walnuts, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Remove meat from chickens and cut into a small dice. Add to a mixing bowl along with the remaining ingredients. Stir until well combined. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes to allow flavors to combine before serving.

If you are making this in advance, leave out the nuts and stir in at the last moment before service.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

1 lb box orzo, cooked according to directions
2 Tbs olive oil
½ cup pitted Kalamata olives, cut into quarters
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (I used an heirloom assortment)
1 cup fresh spinach, roughly chopped or torn apart
About half a bottle of your favorite vinaigrette, or make your own
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup feta cheese

Cook pasta. Drain, pour into a mixing bowl, add olive oil and stir well. Allow to cool. Add olives, cucumber, tomatoes and spinach. Pour vinaigrette evenly over ingredients and toss lightly. Season to taste. Fold in feta cheese. Serve at room temperature.

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