Sicilian style mackerel

Turning up the heat: 2018 Summer menu inspiration

No matter what plans you have for the remaining days of this record-breaking hot summer, we think your best memories will be made sharing an exquisite meal with family, friends or colleagues. That could be at a backyard barbecue, a family picnic, an experience at a top restaurant or simply around your air-conditioned dinner table if the hot and steamy summer temperatures don’t relent before the leaves begin their colourful transformation and autumn’s crisp coolness returns.

Hopefully some of those meals will be produced by the team here at Kiss the Cook Catering! Our mission is to make sure that you get to live the moment and love the food, no matter the season. But summer is a particularly special time of year for our team. That’s because we have the opportunity to source the very best locally-grown ingredients from plump, juicy tomatoes to sweet, crunchy corn and mouth-watering leafy greens such as fresh kale and broccoli–the vast majority of these ingredients coming from our favourite suppliers here in Ontario. My mouth is watering just thinking about the delicious bounty we’ve already enjoyed, not to mention what’s still to come.

This is also the time of year when we love to delve into temptingly-light recipes and fire up the grill to take the food prep to the great outdoors. We look for inspiration from unlikely places, everything from the top global food trends to homegrown culinary innovations and even insights from our top suppliers. It’s the season of edible optimism, when anything is possible in the kitchen and yummy new treats are waiting to be whipped together by our chefs. On that note, our gourmet artists have been busy creating new dishes in our Food Studio, the living laboratory where we let them work their magic. This year we’re proud to say that our chefs have outdone themselves.

So, without further adieu, we present a handful of their most delicious dishes in Kiss the Cook Catering’s Summer Menu Inspiration 2018:

Sicilian style mackerel on cauliflower puree with caramelized onions, pine nuts

If you know a Sicilian, you know how crazy they are about serving exquisite cuisine that either comes straight from traditional recipes or draws inspiration from their ancient culture to add distinctive flare to any dish. Try to challenge them on how a traditional Italian dish should be prepared and you’ll soon get an earful–nessuna eccezione (no exceptions). From this devoted foodie’s perspective, anyone who stands by their food and time-honoured recipes with such passion has to be doing a lot of things right.

Because we love the smoky goodness and rich flavours that grilling brings to any dish (not to mention the fact that our outdoor time is precious thanks to long-lasting Canadian winters) we try to use our barbecue to its full potential in the hot and hazy summer months. This dish is no exception. Its cauliflower puree is a perfect complement to the grilled mackerel, while the caramelized onion and pine nuts add another layer of sweet, nutty texture. Sicily for the culinary win!

Colourful tomato salad with fresh parsley

Waiting for our garden tomatoes to ripen is a painstaking labour of love, but when it finally happens, it’s like Christmas morning in August! We like to think of every tomato plucked fresh from the vine as a delicious gift. Eat one and you’ll soon realize that store-bought tomatoes seem like an entirely different product; their flavours often compromised by early harvests as they’re left to ripen during long journeys to supermarkets in northern climes. Tasting that first, freshly-picked tomato each year literally gives me goosebumps.

In my family, a tomato salad can easily constitute an entire meal, especially when paired with a crusty Italian bread to sop up the incredible juices that collect at the bottom of the bowl. It’s a dish that’s so simple–yet so incredible to eat–that you’ll be left thinking about it the rest of the year in anticipation of summer’s harvest to come. In fact, every year we end up adding another tomato plant to our garden. Because once each perfectly-shaped ball of goodness is picked, you find yourself wishing for just one more. You won’t find this on our menu until late summer, but when you see it, be sure to order yours while it lasts!

Our version features freshly-cut parsley and pungent red onion as we let the veggies’ natural flavours take centre stage, but there are endless variations on the tomato salad. Introduce extra virgin olive oil and cracked pepper to add oily, peppery goodness to the dish. Or, drizzle on premium balsamic vinegar for an added flavour explosion (but be careful when shopping for your acidic accoutrements–not all vinegars are created equal) and add in torn pieces of creamy buffalo mozzarella and aromatic basil to turn this into a caprese salad extravaganza. There’s no better addition to your summertime dinner menu.

Rainbow lasagna with beetroot, pumpkin, mushrooms, ricotta, spinach, mozzarella

If you want to serve a dish that guests will be talking about for weeks to come, then look no further than our whimsical rainbow lasagna. Layers of roasted beet, pumpkin, mushrooms, ricotta, spinach and mozzarella snuggled in between handmade sheets of pasta make this a work of art you’d probably rather admire than eat. That is until you take your first bite. From that point on, it’s all about satisfying your taste buds and pleasing your palette.

I’m a big fan of reinventing traditional dishes and will often spend days (or weeks) thinking about ways to make the old-school new all over again.

I often take inspiration from some of the most famous chefs in the world, many of whom have found fame and international stardom from developing a signature culinary innovation. I try to let my imagination run wild and present our chefs with crazy ideas on a regular basis. Luckily, they indulge my creative side and bring their own amazing ideas into our Food Studio to create some truly awe-inspiring dishes.

While rainbow lasagna probably won’t be anyone’s ticket to worldwide recognition, it’s a fantastical and endearing dish to serve during the summer months that incorporates the best veggies the season has to offer. We actually first made this for a Pride event, giving a nod to the rainbow flag. We couldn’t have found a more perfect opportunity to introduce the dish–and both our client and their guests agreed. We originally planned to hold this one back until the Fall menu release, but there’s been so much excitement from taste testers that it couldn’t wait (we hope no one calls the seasonal menu police).

Flame grilled craft burgers

It’s already been a banner year for barbecue (special thanks to BlogTo for naming us best BBQ caterer in Toronto!). Inquire by email to receive our craft burger menu line-up. When it comes to caterers, there aren’t many in Toronto producing burgers like these at events. That said, if you’re searching for a budget BBQ, we’re afraid this menu is not for you. Burger connoisseurs only, please!

It’s important to note that these dishes are only a small sampling of what Kiss the Cook Catering has to offer. They’re meant to show off our latest and greatest inspirations, but what truly inspires us it getting to know you and creating a customized menu that’s as unique as your special event. We can’t wait to start the catering conversation!

Fia Pagnello, founder

Spring into action–let’s get your event catering booked today! Contact us now!