Money's tight? Let friends come to dinner dish in hand

HITTING THE POTLUCK

November 01, 1992|By Ginger Mudd Galvez | Ginger Mudd Galvez,Contributing Writer

In these economically stressed times, many Baltimoreans are finding their passion for entertaining dampened by the state of their finances. Not everyone is willing to forgo their parties, however. In fact, some think that you never need the gaiety and lift of seeing friends more than in a recession. For starters, everyone can commiserate about job security -- or the lack of it -- over the clam dip.

But the problem remains: how to keep entertaining without declaring personal bankruptcy? For many people, an old-fashioned idea, thoroughly out of style during the opulent '80s, makes sense again. A potluck event, with friends each bringing an assigned dish and the host or hostess providing the venue and the drinks, is making a comeback. Cheerfully going potluck has even taken on a certain chic. It used to be that one lacked the time to pull together all the elements of a smashing evening; now one lacks the funds. Even if you don't cook, almost everyone can afford an offering from the gourmet prepared food counters at places like Morton's, Sutton Place Gourmet or Eddie's.

We asked a half-dozen local Baltimoreans, recognized for their culinary expertise or personal style, to share their favorite recipe for a potluck dish. The only prerequisite was that the dish be a real winner, the kind that everyone wants the recipe for afterward.

Rudy Miller, WMAR-TV morning personality and editor of Maryland Family magazine, likes to bring this buttery hors d'oeuvre to friends' houses. "All anyone ever says about this spread is 'Bring it!' " she says. "It's disgustingly rich, and everyone just sits around with French bread and if you're not careful, you'll ruin your dinner."

Basil cheese spread

You can use commercially prepared pesto sauce if you don't have fresh basil available. Surround with slices of French bread or crackers.

Serves six as an appetizer.

1/2 pound cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 pound goat cheese, at room temperature

1 pound sweet butter, at room temperature

1 cup pesto (see below)

basil sprigs, for garnish

pine nuts, for garnish

In a food processor, cream cheeses and butter. Line a 1-quart souffle dish with damp cheesecloth, allowing it to hang over the sides. Spread 1/4 of the cheese mixture, followed by 1/3 of the pesto. Repeat, ending with cheese. Fold ends of cheesecloth over top. Chill 3 hours until firm. Unfold and garnish tops and sides with pine nuts and basil.

Pesto

2 cups fresh basil

4 tablespoons pine nuts

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup olive oil

1 garlic clove

Place all ingredients in food processor and mix until smooth.

Dr. James Albrecht loves to cook, and as vice president and managing director of the International Group for McCormick & Company, he is involved in plenty of research about what makes food taste good. He travels all over the world, sampling new dishes as he goes, but when at home, this bachelor prefers hearty American fare like chili.

Jim Albrecht's chili

Serves six.

3/4 pound Italian sausage (sweet or hot, as preferred)

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

1 teaspoon McCormick seasoned salt

3/4 green pepper, chopped

2 medium onions, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (optional)

2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

1 16-ounce can stewed tomatoes

1 dash monosodium glutamate

1 can kidney beans, drained

Brown meats and vegetables (in optional oil, if desired). Add all the remaining ingredients and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Serve with nacho chips or oysterettes.

Professional baker and caterer Pam Tate and her partner Heather Bathon, co-owners of the Bakery at the Broadway Market in Fells Point, like to bring this make-ahead pasta salad to parties.

Pasta Aegean

Serves six to eight as an entree.

1 pound penne pasta

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

2 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped (or a 20-ounce and 16-ounce can of chopped tomatoes)

1 tablespoon oregano

1/2 tablespoon rosemary

3/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled

1/2 pound pitted Greek or French black olives

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds boneless, skinned chicken breasts

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley

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