Cooking with Kay: Getting prepared for upcoming guests

By Kay Harrod Published:

Thousands of years ago, two Chinese poets, Tu Fu and Li Po, were somewhat rival writers, but friends. The words of Tu Fu, learned in my literature studies in college, have remained with me all these years.

“How can I travel farther than a friend’s love,” Tu Fu wrote after a journey in his aging years to visit his friend.

The words have resonated with me as I have prepared for the arrival of friends from my youth. There are times during a year where we all entertain family and friends. This week happens to begin my journey.

Harrod’s Hotel is officially open. I leave the light on and will be offering three meals a day to guests and family who will be in and out. I also offer shuttle service to and from airports, bus stations, wherever the destination may be.

Unfortunately there is no valet parking – just find a spot. But there are televisions in bedrooms, free WiFi and fresh flowers.

My friend Cathy Kring coined the term “Harrod’s Hotel” years ago as my friends and family came and went. Then my friend Fran Roberts got in on the act and actually monogrammed towels with “Harrod’s Hotel.” So far, no guest has ever stolen one.

In getting ready for the arrival of guests, I practice what I preach in this column – get your act together and you will enjoy what’s ahead as much as your guests, whether it be the day, the event, or, in this case, the next four weeks.

While I was never a Girl Scout, I do follow the motto: “Be Prepared.”

SIMPLE APPETIZERS

Olive-Nut spread

1 8-oz block cream cheese, softened

15 small olives with pimentos, sliced

½ cup coarsely chopped pecans

Put all together in bowl and mix together. Add a heaping tablespoon of mayonnaise and four to six shakes of Tabasco. Mix again. Refrigerate.

Serve with bread rounds or crackers. This is so southern. Ratio depends on how much you are making.

Goat cheese log

(This should be made only several hours before serving.)

1 medium log (about 11 oz) fresh goat cheese

2 T extra virgin olive oil

¼ t crushed red pepper

In microwave bowl, mix the extra virgin olive oil and crushed red pepper. Cook for about 1 minute until fragrant.

Then mix together:

1 cup toasted nuts, finely chopped (use nut grinder or food processor).

2 t herbs de Province or Italian seasoning herbs

1 t lemon zest

¼ t kosher salt

¼ t coarsely ground black pepper

Spread mixture on wax paper and roll goat cheese log until it is covered. Place on platter. Slice into thin rounds and drizzle pepper oil over. Serve with crackers, bread or fruit.

Cheese Wafers

1 cup all purpose flour

½ t salt

1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts

1 t cayenne pepper

2-3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, room temperature (best to shred from block of cheese)

½ stick butter, softened

Mix all ingredients in bowl – using hands is best.

Take half the dough and shape into roll about an inch thick. I shape on top of wax paper and then use the wax paper to shape the long roll. Twist ends and refrigerate. Repeat.

Chill at least two hours or longer. Could make a day ahead and keep chilled.

Spray cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice rolls into ¼-inch slices. Place on cookie sheet and bake for 12-17 minutes, depending on oven.

These will keep in an airtight container several days. Optional: When baked, shake a little salt and/or cayenne pepper on them.

Serve alone or with some pepper jelly on the side.

A SUMMER SUPPER

With these hot days, I have tried to keep it light and fresh.

Shrimp Salad

1 lb shrimp, tails removed. (I like the 25-31 count.)

Purchase thawed from the fish counter or thaw frozen shrimp in the refrigerator – I think it’s better than thawing in a colander under running water. Remove from fridge, rinse, remove tails and pat dry.

Put shrimp in bowl and add:

1 cup thinly sliced celery (Chop and add a few of the inner celery leaves.)

½ cup green onion, white and green thinly sliced

1 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup black olives, cut in half or sliced

½ lb blanched, chilled fresh asparagus, cut into bite-size pieces. (Optional. If you use it, the thinner asparagus is better for this recipe.)

3 T drained capers

1 t cracked black pepper

½ t sea salt (can omit if capers are real salty, or just add salt after it’s mixed with dressing)

1 t dried or fresh thyme

A few pinches of fresh or dried dill

Toss gently together.

For the dressing, in a small bowl, add:

Juice of ½ a lemon and zest of the whole lemon

1 cup mayonnaise

2 t Dijon mustard

Several dashes of Tabasco

Mix together and pour over salad. Using a rubber spatula, fold dressing into salad. Cover and let chill.

I served it on leaf lettuce with chilled, small fresh beets, grape tomatoes, a slice of cantaloupe and hot bread. If you haven’t tried them, he Sister Schubert Pretzel Rolls are delicious. I rub a bit of olive oil on top before I put them in the oven and shake kosher salt over them.

DESSERT

Kentucky Bourbon Cake

I may have given you this recipe, but it is a great go-to dessert, serves many and will last for several days. Plus, it is so Kentucky.

I found this recipe in “Truly Kentucky” (McClanahan Publishing House) and have only made one change.

1 butter cake mix I prefer Duncan Hines

3.4-oz package vanilla instant pudding mix

4 eggs

½ cup oil

½ cup water

½ cup bourbon, I use Ancient Age 90 proof

1 cup chopped pecans (I use more.)

Grease a Bundt or angel food pan. This is my change: I finely ground the nuts and put them in the bottom of the pan; otherwise, chop the nuts and stir them into the batter.

In a mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients. With an electric mixer, mix all until moist. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 50-55 minutes.

Sauce

½ cup bourbon

½ cup butter

½ cup sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil until the sugar is completely dissolved. Invert the cake and poke holes in the top using a wooden pick. Pour the warm sauce over the cake. Serve with freshly whipped cream.

Around the table

On Saturday, Cathy and Phillip Kring were our hosts for a mouthwatering dinner that featured the many varieties of tomatoes grown in their garden.

Phillip, the master griller, did a perfectly prepared flank steak to go with Cathy’s fresh white corn fritters and a garden tomato relish, along with a salad of heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.

Her dessert, a fresh fruit croustade, was served with homemade vanilla ice cream. Mouthwatering and beautiful.

Both are pictured here.

It was another culinary adventure, blessed with friends gathered around a beautiful table.

The love of friends, both those who travel and those who reside here, reaffirm the blessings these wonderful people are in my life and I am grateful for my journey with them.

Just in case you are wondering, the light stays on until the end of August.

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