DON'T HIRE A CATERER: SENSATIONAL PASTA SALADS

By Georgette Farkas

Georgette Farkas is officially our Culinary Ambassador at Great Performances, but we’ve also crowned her our Hospitality Maven. Drawing upon her experiences working at leading restaurants and spearheading her eponymous Rotisserie Georgette, she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. In addition to everything she does at GP across all teams, she also regularly entertains at home, creating incredible dishes with that extra special touch that makes food even more memorable and delicious.

In this series, Georgette shares tips from the caterer’s tool kit to make entertaining at home (almost) effortless. From time saving shortcuts and grocery store secrets to garnishing hacks and presentation magic, she’ll help you host a party that’ll make your guests feel extra special and that you’ll actually be able to enjoy.

She’s also curated recipes for you, highlighting the tips she’s shared. Each month look for dishes and ideas that would be delicious on their own, but that together make up menus that will have you entertaining like a pro.

This month, Georgette keeps it cool with some make ahead pasta salads that use summer’s freshest produce and that qualify as show stoppers – without having to spend hours over a hot stove. Simple tricks like serving the pasta salads in a shallow bowl and reserving some of the add-ins to pile on top of the pasta turn these dishes from an afterthought to a star dish.

I like to make summer entertaining as bright and colorful – and as effortless – as possible. Fresh and healthy are also top priorities. Summer farm stand produce is the inspiration behind these pasta recipes. By all means, adjust them to what you find in your local farm stand, green market or CSA.

As for the pasta shapes, for these room temperature dishes, I suggest short pastas such as gemelli, rotelle, radiator and other bite sized varieties. I would simply avoid tube pastas such as penne or rigatoni, and long pastas such as spaghetti or fettuccine.

These can be made one day ahead, with only minor last-minute assembly, leaving you to spend time with your guests and not in the kitchen at mealtime. If you are making ahead, toss cooked pasta in olive oil and store separately from garnishes. When ready to serve, toss only about 2/3 of the vegetable garnishes into the pasta, leaving the remaining garnish to arrange over the top or around the sides. The exception is the pasta with pesto, for which all the roasted cherry tomatoes should be arranged over or around the pasts, as opposed to mixed in.

As with most dishes made to be enjoyed at room temperature, if making ahead, we suggest removing food from the refrigerator about an hour before serving. The flavors will come to life more readily when not ice cold.

Finally, arrange pasta on serving platters rather than in deep bowls. This enables you to feature the vegetable garnishes on top, rather than having all the best bits get lost at the bottom.

Check out the recipes below or download the recipe packet by clicking the button below. 

RECIPE: RED, WHITE AND GREEN GEMELLI PASTA SALAD

with Pesto, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Toasted Pine Nuts

Servings: 4 – 6

Ingredients

For the cherry tomatoes

  • 3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the pesto

  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 Tbsp pine nuts
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, finely grated

Garnish

  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese, in shards

For the pasta

  • 12 oz gemelli pasta

Procedure

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400֯.
  2. Prepare the tomatoes. Thinly slice one clove of garlic. On a sheet pan, toss halved cherry tomatoes with sliced garlic, thyme sprigs, and ¼ cup olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake approximately 20 minutes, until the tomatoes are softened and beginning to caramelize around the edges. Set aside and let cool.
  3. Prepare the pesto. Reduce oven temperature to 300. Place pine nuts on a sheet pan and toast, tossing occasionally until golden brown.
  4. In small sauté pan over low heat add ¼ cup olive oil. Add garlic cloves and simmer gently, but do not brown. Set aside and let cool. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add basil and blanch briefly just until leaves are wilted. Shock in ice water, drain well, wringing the leaves to remove remaining liquid. Add blanched basil to bowl of food processor along with parmesan, cooked garlic and its olive oil and half of the toasted pine nuts. Process until smooth. Add additional olive oil as needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  5. Prepare the pasta. Cook pasta in boiling salted water to al dente. Drain and while still warm, toss with pesto. Place on a serving platter and arrange roasted cherry tomatoes around the pasta. Arrange remaining browned pine nuts and thinly shaved parmesan shards over the top (optional).

RECIPE: FARM STAND ZUCCHINI AND LEMON PASTA

with Roasted Yellow and Green Zucchini, Chives, Lemon, Toasted Pistachio, Ricotta Salata

Servings: 4 – 6

Ingredients

For the zucchini

  • 2 whole yellow and/or green zucchini, cubed -or- 10-12 baby green zucchini, halved lengthwise -or- 10-12 patty pan squash, halved
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 3 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced

For the pasta

  • 12 oz rotelle pasta, cooked al dente

For the salad

  • ⅓ cup pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 oz riccota salata, shaved

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 400֯.
  2. Prepare the zucchini. If using full size zucchini, cut zucchini in ¼ inch thick lengthwise slices. Cut each slice into long strips and then into small cubes. If using baby zucchini and patty pan, simply cut in half lengthwise.
  3. On a sheet tray, toss zucchini, thyme, garlic and scallions with just enough olive oil to coat lightly. Season with salt and pepper. Roast vegetables until a little softened and caramelized around the edges. Remove from oven and grate lemon zest over the vegetables. Add the juice of the lemon, salt and pepper to taste, toss well and adjust seasoning as needed.
  4. Prepare the pasta salad. Cook pasta in boiling salted water to al dente and drain. Toss pasta with approximately 2/3 of the vegetables and half the ricotta salata. Arrange pasta on a serving platter and spread remaining vegetables, ricotta salata shards and toasted pistachios over the top.

RECIPE: SUMMER IN SARDINIA PASTA

with Roasted Sweet Yellow Peppers, Tomatoes, Capers, Black Olives, Yellow Raisins, Anchovies

Servings: 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp capers
  • 2 Tbsp yellow raisins, soaked in warm water and drained
  • ¼ cup flat leave parsley, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup basil, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup pitted black olives
  • 4 anchovy fillets (in oil)
  • 2 yellow bell peppers, seeded and julienned
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ⅓ to ½ cup olive oil
  • 12 oz radiatore pasta

Procedure

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400֯.
  2. Coarsely chop together garlic, capers, pitted black olives and anchovy filets. Transfer to a sheet pan and toss together with yellow pepper, cherry tomatoes, yellow raisins, parsley, basil and 1/3 cup olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Salt lightly, given that the capers, olives and anchovies are already salted.
  3. Roast vegetables approximately 20 minutes until vegetables are softened and slightly caramelized around the edges.
  4. In the meantime, cook pasta in boiling salted water to al dente and drain. Toss pasta with approximately 2/3 of the roasted vegetables, adding a bit more olive oil, as needed. Arrange pasta on a serving platter and place remaining roasted vegetables over the top.

DON'T HIRE A CATERER: SUMMER BARBECUE

Georgette Farkas is officially our Culinary Ambassador at Great Performances, but we’ve also crowned her our Hospitality Maven. Drawing upon her experiences working at leading restaurants and spearheading her eponymous Rotisserie Georgette, she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. In addition to everything she does at GP across all teams, she also regularly entertains at home, creating incredible dishes with that extra special touch that makes food even more memorable and delicious.

In this series, Georgette shares tips from the caterer’s tool kit to make entertaining at home (almost) effortless. From time saving shortcuts and grocery store secrets to garnishing hacks and presentation magic, she’ll help you host a party that’ll make your guests feel extra special and that you’ll actually be able to enjoy.

She’s also curated recipes for you, highlighting the tips she’s shared. Each month look for dishes and ideas that would be delicious on their own, but that together make up menus that will have you entertaining like a pro.

As the weather heats up, we can’t help but want to take the cooking outside. A couple summers ago, I hosted an online class, World Tour Brochettes. I stand by these recipes – they are timeless, delicious, and infinitely adaptable. Best of all, they are perfect for effortless summer entertaining.

Call them brochettes, skewers, kabobs, as you like. It all comes down to assembling well-seasoned ingredients on a stick to grill over open flames, ideally with a little char around the edges. Of course broiling is an option for city apartment dwellers. These recipes take you on a journey without ever leaving home. We could have chosen flavors from countless destinations, but landed in the South of France, Southern Spain and then Thailand.

I’ve paired each brochette with a side dish made with the same seasonings used in the marinades. This makes for a great menu and also simplifies the market list. I’ve also planned marinade quantities so that you will use only a part of it to coat meat and vegetables, reserving the remainder to spoon over the cooked brochettes.

I recommend flat surfaced brochettes, as they will hold ingredients in place when turning them on the grill. Whether rounded or flat, if using wooden brochettes, soak them first so as to avoid burning the ends. I treasure my steel brochettes with decorative brass finials, a souvenir from long ago summer travels in Turkey.

Each of these dishes can be prepared a day ahead to lighten your entertaining load. In fact, the brochettes will benefit from marinating overnight. Just before grilling, tighten up your brochettes, making sure the ingredients are closely pressed together. Not to worry if you’re not grilling outdoors, the broiler setting in your oven will do just fine.

Check out the recipes below or download the recipe packet here: https://docs.greatperformances.com/view/1031572904/

RECIPE: HERBES DE PROVENCE CHICKEN & ZUCCHINI BROCHETTES

Side Dish: Raosted Cherry Tomatoes

Servings: 4

Ingredients

For Marinade:

  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 3 Tbsp herbes de Provence
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 1 whole lemon, zested and juiced

 

For the brochettes:

  • 4 pcs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 whole green and yellow zucchini, sliced 1/4″ thick
  • 8 whole purple pearl onions, peeled and blanched

 

For the tomatoes:

  • 4.5 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

Procedure

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400֯.
  2. On a sheet pan, toss cherry tomatoes with 1 Tbsp herbes de Provence, 1 Tbsp chopped garlic, ¼ cup olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Cook cherry tomatoes until softened and slightly caramelized, approximately 45 minutes. Remove from oven, adjust salt and pepper. Set aside. May be made one day ahead and refrigerated. Remove from refrigerator at least one hour prior to serving.
  3. In a mixing bowl combine lemon zest and lemon juice with 1 tsp salt and ¼ tsp ground pepper. Whisk together to dissolve salt. Incorporate remaining garlic, herbes de Provence and olive oil.
  4. In a separate bowl, toss chicken, zucchini and pearl onions in just enough marinade to coat. Arrange them on brochettes, sandwiching each piece of chicken between two pieces of zucchini and placing a pearl onion between each set of chicken and peppers.
  5. Marinate covered in refrigerator for at least three hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator one hour prior to cooking. Just before grilling, tighten up your brochettes, making sure the ingredients are closely pressed together, as this will make for even cooking.
  6. On a heated grill, cook brochettes approximately five to six minutes on each side, until browned and the meat has reached an internal temperature of 165֯. If cooking indoors, arrange brochettes on a sheet tray and place in an oven pre-heated to 450֯ or place under a well heated broiler on high setting. Cook five to six minutes on each side.
  7. Place brochettes on a serving platter and spoon remaining marinade on top. Arrange roasted cherry tomatoes around brochettes.

RECIPE: GINGER-MISO CHICKEN & JAPANESE EGGPLANT BROCHETTES

Side Dish: Carrot, Cabbage, and Kale Slaw

Servings: 4

Ingredients

For the marinade:

  • 4 oz rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Thai chili paste
  • 2 oz Tamari
  • 3 Tbsp white miso
  • 2 Tbsp honey

 

For the brochettes:

  • 4 pcs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 whole Japanese eggplant, cut in 1” rounds
  • 2 whole green peppers, halved, seeded, cut into 1.5” squares
  • 2 tsp white sesame seeds

 

For the slaw:

  • 5 oz red or purple cabbage, fine julienne
  • 5 oz carrot, spiral cut or julienne
  • 2 oz kale, coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp grated ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 oz sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro

Procedure

  1. In a mixing bowl combine rice vinegar, Thai chili paste, tamari, miso, honey, ginger, garlic, and cilantro. Set aside. Can be prepared several days ahead.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine cabbage, carrot, daikon, and kale. Toss with half of the above marinade, or just enough to coat. This is best made the day before. Once slaw has marinated overnight, drain off and discard any excess liquid. Remove slaw from refrigerator at least one hour before serving.
  3. Whisk sesame oil into remaining marinade. Toss chicken, eggplant, and green peppers in just enough marinade to coat. Set aside remaining marinade. Arrange chicken and vegetables on brochettes, sandwiching each piece of chicken between two pieces of green pepper and placing a piece of eggplant between each set of chicken and peppers. Arrange brochettes on a sheet tray. Marinate covered in refrigerator for at least three hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator one hour prior to cooking.
  4. Just before grilling, tighten up your brochettes, making sure the ingredients are closely pressed together, as this will make for even cooking.
  5. On a heated grill, cook brochettes approximately five to six minutes on each side, until browned and the meat has reached an internal temperature of 165֯. If cooking indoors, place brochettes in an oven pre-heated to 450֯ or place under a well heated broiler on high setting. Cook five to six minutes on each side.
  6. Arrange brochettes on a serving platter and spoon remaining marinade over them. Arrange scallions, cilantro, and sesame seeds on top. Serve the slaw alongside.

RECIPE: SHRIMP, CHORIZO, AND SWEET RED AND YELLOW PEPPER BROCHETTES

Side Dish: Orzo with Safran

Servings: 4

Ingredients

For the marinade:

  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 6 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste

 

For the orzo:

  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp saffron threads
  • ½ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • ½ cup orzo

 

For the brochettes:

  • 16 ¼”-thick slices cured chorizo
  • 12 large shrimp, peeled with tail on (size U8)
  • 1 red bell pepper, halved, seeded, and cut in 1.5” square
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, halved, seeded, and cut in 1.5” square
  • 6 cippolini onions, blanched, peeled, halved

Procedure

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup olive oil, garlic, thyme, paprika, tomato paste and chopped parsley with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. In a separate bowl toss shrimp, peppers, sliced chorizo and half the cippolini onions with just enough marinade to coast. Arrange them on brochettes, sandwiching each piece of shrimp between two pieces of pepper and placing a cippolini onion half and chorizo slice between each set of shrimp and peppers.
  3. Arrange brochettes on a sheet tray and refrigerate covered for at least three hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator one hour prior to cooking.
  4. Just before grilling, tighten up your brochettes, making sure the ingredients are closely pressed together, as this will make for even cooking.
  5. Bring salted water to a boil in a saucepan, add orzo and cook approximately 7 minutes to al dente. Drain, setting aside 1/2 cup of the pasta liquid.
  6. In the meantime, coarsely chop the trim from the red and yellow peppers and slice the remaining cippolini onion. In a medium skillet, add 2 Tbsp olive oil, remaining cippolini onion and chopped red and yellow pepper trim. Cook stirring over medium heat, until soft and lightly caramelized. Incorporate half the remaining marinade and saffron. Add orzo and just enough of the reserved orzo cooking liquid to loosen the mixture slightly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss in chopped parsley.
  7. On a heated grill, cook brochettes approximately five to six minutes on each side, until browned and the shrimp have reached an internal temperature of 165֯. If cooking indoors, arrange brochettes on a sheet tray and place in an oven pre-heated to 450֯ or place under a well heated broiler on high setting. Cook 5-6 minutes on each side.
  8. Place brochettes on a serving platter and spoon remaining marinade over them. Arrange orzo alongside.

DON'T HIRE A CATERER: SPRING HORS D'OEUVRE

Georgette Farkas is officially our Culinary Ambassador at Great Performances, but we’ve also crowned her our Hospitality Maven. Drawing upon her experiences working at leading restaurants and spearheading her eponymous Rotisserie Georgette, she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. In addition to everything she does at GP across all teams, she also regularly entertains at home, creating incredible dishes that have that extra special touch that makes the food even more memorable and delicious.

In this series, Georgette shares tips from the caterer’s tool kit to make entertaining at home (almost) effortless. From time saving shortcuts and grocery store secrets to garnishing hacks and presentation magic, she’ll help you host a party that’ll make your guests feel extra special and that you’ll actually be able to enjoy.

She’s also curated recipes for you, highlighting the tips she’s shared. Each month look for dishes and ideas that would be delicious on their own, but that together make up menus that will have you entertaining like a pro.

The arrival of spring means a seasonal shift in my cooking. Seasonal ingredients popping up at the market lead to trying out new spring ideas. The prospect of just enough warm air and sunshine to entertain outdoors provides added encouragement. I never need an excuse to give a party, but the Kentucky Derby provides an excellent one, even if you’re not a horse racing afficionado. The speed and grace of the thoroughbreds and the festive attire in the stands are enough for me. Mother’s Day is yet another. My own mother, Francine, is a home entertaining wizard, who makes everything as beautiful as it is delicious, which keeps me on my toes when I’m cooking for her.

I first created savory madeleines during a summer rosé festival that called for bar snack to accompany a well chilled glass of wine. My original recipe was seasoned with Parmesan and herbes de Provence. I’ve given this new cheddar – pimento version a Southern accent just right for a Kentucky Derby party. They call for madeleine pans, which I find a worthy investment. I highly recommend the non-stick version. I shared the recipe with a friend who claims they freeze well. Whether you bake ahead, freeze and re-heat or bake fresh just before serving, be sure to serve these madeleines warm, right from the oven.

The first spring peas in the market and the first sprigs of mint coming up in my garden resulted in the Minted Peas, Bacon and Endive Hors d’oeuvre. You could leave out the crispy bacon, but what a shame that would be. If you’re throwing a Kentucky Derby party, these would be delicious alongside some mint julep cocktails. There are so many ways you could serve the green pea mixture, which could be adapted to a spread or a dip or even a tartlet filling. I intend to try it in savory mini cones, which I pass to guests on a sort of artist’s palate that serves as a cone holder. The purple endive version here felt just right for home entertaining. It adds a bold color contrast and just a hint of bitterness to offset the natural sweetness of the peas.

 

RECIPE: SAVORY CHEDDAR-PIMENTO MADELEINES

Makes 75 miniature madeleines

 I first created these savory madeleines during a summer rosé festival as a tasty bar snack to serve with a glass of well chilled wine. My original recipe called for Parmesan and herbes de Provence. I’ve giving this new cheddar – pimento version a Southern accent just right for a Kentucky Derby party. Yes, they do call for madeleine pans, which I find a worthy investment. I highly recommend the non-stick version. Be sure to serve these madeleines warm, right from the oven.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup finely grated cheddar cheese
  • ½ tsp finely ground white pepper
  • 3 oz (6 Tbsp) melted butter + some to grease pans
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • ¼ cup pimento, well drained, minced
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Dash Tabasco sauce

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 375֯.
  2. Measure and sift together: flour, white pepper, tartar, baking powder, thyme and salt.
  3. Melt butter and set aside.
  4. Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat together eggs and sugar. Add dry ingredients and blend well. Add melted butter, blending until fully incorporated. Add cheddar cheese and chopped pimento, mixing just enough to incorporate evenly.
  5. Place batter in a piping bag. No tip needed.
  6. Butter madeleine pans, or spray with a non-stick baking spray. Pipe the batter into madeleine pans.
  7. Bake at 375֯ for approximately 6-8 minutes or until golden brown. Make sure to remove baked madeleines from pans immediately so they do not stick.

RECIPE: MINTED PEAS AND ENDIVE HORS D'OEUVRE

Serves 4

Seeing the first spring peas in the market and the first sprigs of mint coming up in my garden inspired me to make these simple hors d’oeuvre. Of course you could leave out the crispy bacon, but what a shame that would be. If you’re throwing a Kentucky Derby party, these would be delicious alongside some mint julep cocktails.

Ingredient

  • 6 oz English peas, shelled
  • 3 Tbsp plain yogurt, preferably not low fat
  • ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped, reserving 12 small leaves as garnish
  • 1 strip bacon, cooked until crisp, finely chopped
  • 1 head red or white endive, base timed and leaves separated
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Procedure

  1. Cook peas in well salted boiling water until tender, but still bright green, approximately 8 minutes. Shock in ice water and drain.
  2. Set aside a few peas to leave whole as garnish. Place remaining peas, yogurt and chopped mint in a mini food processor. Blend to form a smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you don’t have a mini food processor, chop peas with a knife to form a coarse paste and then transfer to a small bowl with yogurt and mint and proceed as above.
  3. Place a spoonful of minted peas in the center of each endive. This is most easily done using two teaspoons to form small quenelles. Garnish each one with crispy bacon, a few whole peas and a fresh mint leaf.