Always a Caterer, Never a Bride (Featuring Fattoush with Sumac Pita Chips)
I had a dream the other night.
And in the dream, it was my wedding day. I had overslept or misjudged my timeframe because people were arriving at my parent’s house, where we were getting married, and I was naked. I had not yet even picked a wedding dress and was rummaging through my folks’ closets which contained all the dresses I have ever worn in my lifetime. I pulled on a ripped bright pink tulle skirt because it was big and big seems right on a wedding day. Then I realized I had not yet showered and went to the bathroom to find my brother, Max, standing in the shower fully dressed with muddy boots on. I told him to get out as I needed to shower because I was getting married in 20 minutes and he moved slower than molasses into another bathroom leaving a muddy trail behind him. I stood under the stream of water and filled the palm of my hand with shampoo, which turned out to be bright blue Aquafresh toothpaste.
I woke up in a pool of sweat. What could this mean???
I think it must mean that Francis and I have set a date.
Francis and I got engaged on May 8th but had left setting the actual wedding date for a later time. We both have a lot of things going on; the biggest of which is that we live in different cities. I’ll be moving to Portland, Oregon, where he lives, in January of 2016, after my busy holiday season. My mind had been more focused on the move than on our big day.
Also, I’ve always been in the “you don’t need to be married to prove your love for another person” camp. I had a moment recently when my life-philosophy shifted.
About a month ago, Francis’ mother passed away. And, as Francis, his family, and friends mourned the profound loss with my family and friends, I realized how deep our connection was. I looked across the room at this man that I love and I saw that he and I aren’t just old friends; we are family. We are solid through the soaring victories and lowest lows that life throws our way. I’ve never experienced the kind of support and trust that we share. Being there for and with Francis is what I want every single day of my life. Why postpone the party where we get to celebrate our love in front of everyone?
Plus, Amelia had found the perfect wedding spot in my parent’s back yard…
The summer months are always slow for my business. Most of my clients leave the city and both private-chef and catering work come to a standstill. This year, however, June was fantastically busy. I was exhausted, so when my schedule lightened up a bit, I decided to have a few days out of New York with my dog, Amelia. We took the train to Connecticut to see my parents. Amelia loves the country and she scurried up the hill behind my folk’s house as soon as we got there. She turned and looked as if she had something really important to show me. I followed and laughed as Amelia ran wildly from tree to tree, sniffing and snorting the way happy dogs do. She stopped at a clearing in the woods next to a large rock. She sat down and gave me a hard stare. I looked at the spot. This was it. This was the place. I felt it suddenly and surely. I called Francis and asked how he felt about October weddings.
There were years in California when I worked as a freelance chef for big wedding caterers. I used to joke time and time again, “Always a caterer, never a bride.” But here I was… finally leaping in with both feet. You have to know I was working on menus as soon as the date and location were set.
“NO ALISON, THAT’S A TERRIBLE IDEA. YOU CAN’T CATER YOUR OWN WEDDING.” My folks were firm with me.
I knew it was a bad idea, but cooking is not only my job, it’s my passion.
I pouted quietly as I started looking through catering websites. That only made me pout more. It’s all so predictable. Believe me, I know; I’m a caterer. I started to feel resentful and distant, like it was no longer a small party with our close friends and family but a big to-do event. In all honesty, it started to feel like something I didn’t even want to attend.
My dad saw me crashing and said, “I think there’s a better option. Let me think on it for a while.” My dad knows me. He knows that, while I love food, I’m not a snooty foodie. I like authentic, fresh food that’s not fussy or overblown. I’m really not a bridezilla.
“I’ve got it!” he declared and ran off to make a reservation.
What he remembered was this little Middle Eastern restaurant called Safita in Fairfield, Connecticut. We went there for dinner that night to see if it would work. It was phenomenal. It was exactly what I love- fresh, simple, exciting. Then it hit me. I could have Safita prepare the food and bring my staff, who have been the backbone of my business for years, to Connecticut to serve the meal. That way, not only would I have the best staff in the world taking care of us but I would be sharing one of the biggest days of my life with people that have become good friends of mine.
The owner of Safita, Mr. Hassoun, came over to talk with us after our meal. We explained that we were looking for someone to provide the food for my wedding. His eyes lit up. I said that my staff would be serving and he understood perfectly. He spoke with pride and with certainty about what he could do. I felt an instant connection with him as we are both authentic small business owners with confidence in our abilities. I knew we were in the right hands. Then he brought out the baklava and I REALLY knew we had chosen wisely. Ohmygosh.
Sometimes everything just falls into place. Maybe that’s how you know you’re moving in the right direction.
One of the things that we ate that night is a perfect meal for the summer. It’s called fattoush, and it’s a salad with pita bread and a Middle Eastern spice called sumac. Sumac has a wonderful sweet tartness that doesn’t overwhelm other tastes it’s mixed with. I think it’s a great elevator of flavors.
I make my fattoush with sumac pita chips, mixing my two favorite parts of this salad together. I generally make an extra batch of the chips when I’m making the salad because I hoover them up while I’m washing greens or chopping tomatoes. They’re great with hummus too!
Oh yeah, I almost forgot the most important thing…
The big day: October 10, 2015. 10/10 Wins.
Fattoush with Sumac Pita Chips and Pomegranate Dressing
For 6-8 servings
For the pita chips:
- 2 pieces of pita bread
- 2 teaspoons ground sumac
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 415 degrees.
- Cut or tear the pita into small pieces. Toss the pita pieces in a bowl with some olive oil and the ground sumac. Sometimes sumac is sold preseasoned (with salt), so taste it to see how much additional salt you’d like.
- Place on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until the pieces are lightly brown and crunchy. Let cool.
For the pomegranate dressing:
- 1 tablespoon red onion, chopped fine
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
- 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup (or oregano oil, which I LOVE. Here’s my recipe for it: Oregano Oil )
- Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and taste for seasoning.
For the salad
- Mixture of lettuces and greens- eg; Boston lettuce, arugula, baby romaine, baby spinach, even kale.
- 4 Persian cucumbers, cut into small pieces
- Tomatoes cut into small pieces or teardrop tomatoes
- Fresh Mint
- Fresh Oregano
Toss the salad with the dressing and the pita chips. Sprinkle with ground sumac.