A season full of parties is great for catching up with friends, but there’s a downside. “With so many, it’s like, ‘If I have one more rich plate of food, I’m going to explode,'” says Curtis Stone, host of TLC’s Take Home Chef. When it’s your turn to host, Stone suggests going against the brie-and-cupcakes tide by serving refreshing, healthy foods: lean chicken and grilled beef, salads and a fruit-based dessert. The menu that he created for PEOPLE follows his year-round approach: “You can eat cheese and chocolate but also eat vegetables, meat and fish.” Another rule? Don’t stress. Says the Los Angeles-based Aussie: “Cooking should be chilled out.”
• Pear Martinis
• Salad of Baby Beets with Goat Cheese
• Bibb Lettuce “Beggar’s Purses” with Chicken, Blue Cheese and Grapes
• Rosemary-Skewered Steak with Pesto Sauce
• Apple-Butterscotch Compote with Brandy-Soaked Dates and Yogurt
Makes 4 martinis
6 Bartlett pears
2 tbsp. honey
6 tbsp. lemon juice
1 cup good quality vodka
Zest of ½ lemon
1. Peel 4 pears and slice into ½-inch. pieces, avoiding the core.
2. Sauté slices over medium heat (in a nonstick pan) for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until just turning light brown. Remove and cool pears in the refrigerator.
3. Mix honey, 2 tbsp. lemon juice and ¼ cup water.
4. Peel last 2 pears, then, using a melon baller, scoop balls from the fruit. Marinate in the honey mixture for 10 minutes, then place 3 balls each on 4 small skewers.
5. In a cocktail shaker, add cooled, cooked pear slices, 4 tbsp. lemon juice, vodka, ½ cup of ice, lemon zest and 2 tbsp. of the honey mix. Shake well, allowing pear to break up, then strain into 4 chilled martini glasses. Garnish with skewers.
Salad of Baby Beets with Goat Cheese
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 bunches baby red and golden beets with leaves (about 12 beets)
1 head frisée (or other) lettuce, leaves separated
1 sprig fresh thyme
½ cup soft goat cheese
To make the dressing:
Whisk 3 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar in a large bowl. Slowly add ¼ cup of the olive oil, whisking constantly until the vinegar and oil are emulsified together. Season the dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
To prepare the salad:
1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat.
2. Trim the leaves from the beets, leaving about 3 inches of the stems on the beets. Cook all the leaves in the boiling water for 15 seconds, or until bright green. Transfer the leaves to a bowl of ice water to cool them quickly. Drain the beet leaves and pat them dry. Cover and refrigerate the beet leaves and lettuce while preparing the beets.
3. Preheat the oven to 350º. Wash the beets carefully; using a small brush to ensure there is no sand or grit remaining. Cut the beets lengthwise in half. Arrange the beets on a baking sheet. Drizzle of the remaining 1 tbsp. of the oil over the beets and season with salt and pepper. Remove the thyme leaves from the stem and sprinkle the leaves over the beets. Cover the baking sheet with foil and bake the beets in the oven for 10 minutes, or until the beets are almost tender. Remove the foil and bake the beets 15 minutes longer, or until they are tender and begin to caramelize. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
4. Toss the beets, lettuce and beet leaves in a large bowl with enough dressing to coat. Season the salad to taste with salt and pepper. Divide the salad among 4 plates. Using 2 small knives or 2 small spoons, place 5 or 6 small pieces of the goat cheese over each salad. Drizzle with a little more dressing and serve.
Bibb Lettuce Beggar’s Purses with Chicken, Blue Cheese and Grapes
¼ cup vegetable oil plus 2 tbsp.
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
kosher salt, for seasoning
1 shallot, quartered
1 clove garlic, cut in half
1 cup red wine (Shiraz is recommended)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
12 leaves Bibb lettuce (about 1 head)
½ cup crumbled Roquefort blue cheese
½ cup red skin seedless grapes, quartered lengthwise
1 green onion, greens only, thinly sliced on an angle
1 green onion, greens only, split lengthwise into thin strands
1. Preheat oven to 350º.
2. Heat an oven-safe medium sauté pan over medium high.
3. Add 2 tbsp. oil, season chicken on both sides with kosher salt and sear smooth side down. Cook for 2 minutes or until light golden brown.
4. Flip chicken over, add shallot and garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes stirring occasionally.
5. Remove pan from heat, add wine and thyme, and return to heat. Cook for 1 minute and move pan to oven, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until chicken is cooked through, turning the chicken every 3 minutes in the oven. Remove from oven and allow chicken to rest in juice for 5 minutes.
6. In a mixing bowl, combine ¼ cup of the cooked red wine and 2 tbsp. of red wine vinegar and whisk well. Slowly whisk in 2 oz. oil, and season to taste with salt and black pepper.
7. Thinly slice chicken and cut each individual slice in half.
8. Arrange lettuce on a work surface and place 3 to 4 slices of chicken onto each leaf. Add 5 to 6 slices of grapes, a few small crumbles of blue cheese, and a small pinch of the sliced scallions to each leaf. Season lightly with salt and black pepper.
9. To tie the purses, fold the bottom or stem end of each leaf up and wrap the sides in tight leaving the top open. To serve, arrange purses onto serving dishes and drizzle a little of the vinaigrette into each one.
Rosemary-Skewered Steak with Pesto
16 oz. prime sirloin, sinew and fat trimmed, and cut into 1 ½ in. diced pieces
8 strong woody branches of rosemary (bottom half leaves removed from branch)
4 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat grill or barbecue
2. Drizzle olive oil over diced steak. Skewer 3 pieces of beef onto each rosemary branch. Place beef over hot grill and cook for one minute on either side until beef is medium rare.
3. Serve on a platter with pesto sauce (recipe follows) for dipping.
1 ½ bunches fresh basil leaves
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Grind the basil, pine nuts and grated Parmesan cheese with a mortar and pestle until a smooth paste forms. (Or use a food processor instead.)
2. Slowly add ¼ cup of olive oil, mixing until a smooth sauce forms.
3. Season with salt and pepper to taste
Apple Butterscotch Compote with Brandy-Soaked Dates and Yogurt
Serves 6 to 8
32 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
5 tbsp. brandy, Armagnac or cognac.
4 Granny Smith apples (about 2 lbs.), peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp. water
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
½ cup butterscotch sauce (store-bought or your own recipe)
Candied orange peel for garnish (optional)
1. Combine the chopped dates and brandy in a heavy small saucepan over medium-high heat.
2. To cook off some alcohol, you have two choices: Either (a) carefully ignite the brandy with a long match to create a flambé. Allow it to flambé until the flames die out and the dates are hot but not mushy, stirring often with a large metal spoon. Or (b) Mix the chopped dates and brandy in a small saucepan with ½ cup water. Simmered for about 10 minutes until most of the water has evaporated.
3. Set the date mixture aside to cool completely.
4. Combine the apples and 2 tbsp. water in a heavy medium saucepan. Using a small knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the apples, and add the vanilla seeds and bean to the apple mixture. Cover and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the apples are very soft and resemble a puree. Take apples off heat, and then stir in butterscotch sauce. Set the apple compote aside to cool completely.
5. Whisk the yogurt in a bowl to blend.
6. Spoon the date mixture into the bottom of martini glasses or small dishes. Spoon half of the yogurt over the dates and gently tap the glasses to help spread the yogurt over the dates. Gently spoon the apple mixture over the yogurt. The mixtures should form 3 distinct layers. Spoon the remaining yogurt atop the apple mixture.
7. Top each with some candied orange peel and serve.
All recipes courtesy Curtis Stone, host of TLC’s Take Home Chef