Ocean City Today

Mediterranean wreath dip recipe

Food For Thought
By Deborah Lee Walker | Dec 07, 2017

(Dec. 8, 2017) The philosophy of difference is a continual reminder that cookery is subjective and therefore variance is understood.

Chefs have different styles and personal preferences which are the source for competitive cooking. Predictability is not an option if one wishes to flourish in a profession that is constantly changing.

Christmas is quickly approaching; detailed menu planning, endless hours in the kitchen and sleepless nights are standard protocol. I do not know what brings about more pressure, the preparation that leads up to the big event or the actual day itself.

There are options that can alleviate the stress of celebratory occasions. The term “buffet” originally referred to the French sideboard furniture where food was served, but eventually became applied to the self-serving style that we know today.

Buffets are an efficient way to feed a large number of people; food is strategically placed so guests can serve themselves. The practical aspects of buffets make them advantageous to virtually any type of celebration. Hotels, restaurants and home cooks incorporate this approach into their repertoire of options.

There is much more that goes into creating a successful buffet than meets the eye. As a result, the basics of preparing and presenting buffets need a detailed review for optimum results. On that note, let us begin.

There are four distinct phases that one must consider when organizing buffets. The first consideration must be centered on developing a theme for the special occasion. Each stage of the buffet progression should reinforce this particular idea.

Menu development is a process aimed at crafting a menu that satisfies the guests and creates a budget that is acceptable to the host. During this second stage, you will want to continue with the theme of the party.

The third segment should focus on what type of tables, tables cloths, serving platters, serving utensils, plates, etc. are going to be used. This can be set up several days before the actual event; anything that can be done in advance should be done.

The final stage consists of preparing the actual setup of the buffet. The biggest mistake inexperienced cooks make is not to incorporate height, color and texture in the actual layout.

A host can take advantage of many opportunities to enhance the presentation and at the same time add to the guests’ experience. Planning a design before arranging a spread greatly enhances the visual appeal and practicality of a buffet presentation.

That being said, do not forget the function of a buffet is to serve the guests. Guests typically expect that a buffet will provide a wide array of choices as well as the option to take as much as they like. The design of a buffet should support this expectation.

Food’s natural color should be taken into consideration and balanced when preparing a spread. The surface of food will have a tendency to either reflect light or absorb it, making some foods glossy and others matte.

In closing, take care of the practical considerations as you incorporate these elements into your overall design. Taking notes daily will keep you organized. Take a walk around the buffet and observe it from your guests’ point of view.

Take notice of the buffet up close and from a distance. You will be surprised how much more you will notice. But the most important advice is to enjoy and learn from this experience. This is the only way you will grow as a successful host.

An edible Mediterranean wreath is an appetizing dip that consists of cream cheese, olives, marinated artichokes, roasted peppers and sun-dried tomatoes.

Following are two alternatives to the basic recipe. The first version is a very simple dip for those who prefer straightforwardness.

The second one requires a little more time and finesse since you will be making the dip to look like a wreath. A three-cup bundt pan is necessary for this recipe. Amazon has them on sale for $11.72.

Adding a gelatin mixture to the cream cheese dip will stiffen the dip so it holds its shape. The design of the bundt pan creates the impression of a wreath. Garnishing with fresh holly adds to the festive occasion. Enjoy!


Edible Mediterranean Wreath


3 tablespoons canola oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ sweet onion, finely chopped

2 packages (8 oz.) cream cheese

½ cup grated three cheese Italian blend

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

¼ cup chopped marinated artichokes, drained

1/8 cup green olives, chopped

1/8 cup kalamata black olives, chopped

3 teaspoons capers, drained

4 tablespoons roasted peppers, chopped

2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

¼ cup water

unflavored cooking spray

fresh holly as a garnish

favorite crackers


Simple Dip

1. In a small pan over medium-low heat, heat canola oil. Add garlic and onions and sauté for 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. Combine garlic mixture, cream cheese, grated cheese blend, fresh basil, artichokes, olives, capers, roasted peppers and sun-dried tomatoes until thoroughly blended. Place in serving bowl and wrap in plastic wrap.

3. Refrigerate for 4 hours.

4. Remove plastic wrap, garnish dip with fresh holly and serve with favorite crackers.


Advanced Dip

1. In a small pan over medium-low heat, heat canola oil. Add garlic and onions and sauté for 7 minutes.

2. Combine garlic mixture, cream cheese, grated cheese blend, fresh basil, artichokes, capers, roasted peppers and sun-dried tomatoes until thoroughly blended.

3. In a small bowl, combine gelatin and water. Let bloom for 5 minutes. Microwave gelatin/water for 5 seconds, pause for 20 seconds, and microwave for another 5 seconds.

4. Combine cream cheese mixture with gelatin mixture.

5. Spray bundt pan generously. Fill bundt pan with dip, pressing down to make sure the dip is completely against the wall of the bundt pan. Wrap bundt pan in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours.

6. Unwrap bundt pan and invert onto a large plate or platter. Artistically arrange crackers and garnish with fresh holly.


Secret Ingredient - Feasts. “All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.”

— Kahlil Gibran

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