My most recent professional endeavor has been as a personal chef for an uptown family that eats in a traditional European manner. Each meal begins with antipasta, followed by an entrée, a variety of sides, a small salad, and finishes with a decadent dessert and a cup of espresso. Everything is served on silver platters, sans accoutrements. One day I sent out two antipastas (thinly sliced prosciutto with fresh figs and a perfect little stack of blanched asparagus kissed with a Dijon vinaigrette). The maid returned to the kitchen several times with the asparagus in hand explaining that “The Missus” had waved the course away. After a few failed attempts at sending out the asparagus spears, the Missus came into the kitchen with a stern look on her face and proceeded to scold me for not following proper etiquette. Apparently, one never, ever has two antipastas. Back at the homestead that very same evening, my sister and I cooked up a beautiful spread of multiple antipastas: sautéed asparagus topped with prosciutto and shaved parmesan, a two-tomato salad with red onions and fresh parsley, and a cauliflower sautee with corn kernels and yellow onions. I’m not casting judgment on the old-school ways of the Europeans or the strict routines of the wealthy. I just love food, no matter what plate it’s served on.
Asparagus and Prosciutto with Shaved Parmesan (serves two) 1 bunch of asparagus
1/3 pound of thinly cut prosciutto
A wedge of parmesan
Extra virgin olive oil
Fleur de Sel and fresh ground pepper
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Fill a medium bowl with ice cubes and cold water and set aside. Cut off bottom 1/3 of asparagus spears. Set in boiling water until tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the ice water to shock. Set a few slices of prosciutto on two plates, rest the asparagus on top and shave parmesan over asparagus. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Fleur de Sel and fresh ground pepper.
Cauliflower Sautee (serves two) 1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 head cauliflower
Corn kernels cut off of two cobs
1/2 yellow onion diced
A wedge of parmesan
Red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Cut cauliflower florets lengthwise so they look like little trees. In a large sauté pan warm the butter and olive oil. Add the onion and cook on medium-low heat until transparent. Turn up the heat to medium and add the cauliflower and corn. Sauté until tender. Shave parmesan on top while still in the pan and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Serve warm.