This is the story– with a recipe, of course– of how five ‘tweens from the Bronx prepared and served fabulous, gorgeous, healthful hors d’oeuvres at the very exclusive Mansion on Madison in the center of New York City.
The kids were there for the closing day of the Kips Bay Decorator Show House— the design event of the season. (aka the Academy Awards of Interior Design.) Designers come from all over the country at great expense to have their work seen in the show house, and each room is more luxurious then the next. (Check out photos of this year’s show house here). Decorators who aren’t given the honor of participating in designing the show house flock to see what their colleagues are doing, often bringing clients with them. All of them pay entrance fees (sweet ca-ching!) and all the funds raised by the show house go to the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Clubs in the Bronx.
You know where this story is going: the kids who made the impressive hors d’oeuvres belong to the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club. These club houses are really something. They give kids a safe place, free of violence and drugs, to go after school. They expose the kids to all kinds of opportunities to expand their horizons, build their self-esteem, and learn to follow their dreams. Just ask Kips Bay alumni JLo (who happens to be giving a free concert in the Bronx tonight ) and Kerry Washington, who credit the club’s performance and dance programs for providing the springboard for their careers.
The culinary superstars you see below– Atalaya, Danae, Gian, Alexa and Amber– are between 11 and 13 years old. They are students in the cooking class I started about a year and a half ago. I should have known, I suppose, but I really wasn’t prepared for their finesse and expertise: they blew me out of the water.These five kids prepared and served over 150 hors d’oeuvres. Seriously, all I did was toast the bread ahead of time. (And only because the beautiful Dacor oven in the kitchen was not hooked up).
The kids paid meticulous attention to detail, using their 8-inch chef knives (thank you, Anolon!) to quarter cherry tomatoes, chiffonade basil and slice scallions; they mashed avocados, squeezed limes, and more–all while keeping their work stations (thank you, Oxo!) clean and orderly.
The guests, most of whom have eaten in New York’s finest restaurants, loved the hors d’oeuvre. In fact, many asked for the recipe, which you will see just below my (cell phone) photos of the kids. Better photos will be available down the line, thanks to show house sponsor, Hearst Design Group of magazines, ( House Beautiful, Elle Decor and Veranda) who videotaped, and hopefully photographed, us at work. You can bet I’ll share them! And I’m warning you now, I’ll post more photos of more kids after the program re-starts for summer camp.
A couple of the kids you see below may be ready to move up to become Chef Assistants. And pay attention, because after that…well, you may be looking at the next Top Chefs!
Tomato and Black Bean Crostini with Avocado Mayonnaise
1 16-ounce multigrain baguette, cut in about 36 (¼-inch thick) slices 1 avocado ¼ cup light or canola mayonnaise 1 teaspoon lime juice 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin 1/8 teaspoon salt 1 pint red grape tomatoes 1 pint yellow cherry tomatoes 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (about 4 scallions), green parts only 1 15-ounce can low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed 1/8 teaspoon salt 20 basil leaves, thinly sliced
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the bread in a single layer on the pan and bake in the oven until lightly golden and slightly firm, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely. These may be made one day ahead.
- Mash the avocado with a fork; add the mayonnaise, lime juice, cumin and salt and mash vigorously until fairly smooth with occasional small chunks. Cover by laying plastic wrap directly on the surface of the avocado and refrigerate for up to one day.
- Quarter the red and yellow tomatoes lengthwise; toss with the scallions, beans and salt; stir in the olive oil and, if serving immediately, the basil. When making the tomato salad in advance, add only half the basil initially and stir in the remaining basil just before serving. The tomato salad may be made up to one day in advance.
- Spread about 1 teaspoon of the avocado mixture on top of each bread; top with the tomato salad and serve immediately.
Makes about 36 servings Nutrition for each crostini: 61 calories, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 3 g protein, 9 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 80 mg sodium