What is the entire hubbub about deconstructed foods served in upscale restaurants these days? Seriously, I think some executive chef, somewhere in a white-tablecloth restaurant, came into work and was informed his sous chef, head line cook, as well as his garde or salad chef, were out sick. Thinking on his feet, the executive chef decided to serve many of his dishes disassembled. This helped the kitchen in expediting the meals to the guests in a timely manner. They were promoted as nouveau dishes; the presentations were unique and creative, hitting the “wow” factor, and the guests were over the top being able to create their own dishes, from appetizers to deconstructed salads and deserts. Whatever started this craze? I see it in every restaurant. Presentation has to be spot on and the dish has to be simple enough for the guests to assemble it without much direction from the server. So here you go, from unconstructed hummus salad to a s’mores dessert tableside, complete with an upscale chocolate macaroon. Unconstructed, deconstructed or make-your-own family style, I think it is here to stay. Try out these recipes and “Please Join Our Table.”

Karen’s Marinated Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)

I just made this ... it is like unconstructed hummus

1 14-16 ounce can drained chickpeas
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin
Greek olive oil
1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely minced
1-2 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped (depending on the kick of garlic you want)
1 tablespoon fresh Greek oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3-4 anchovies chopped into big bites (optional)
1 teaspoons capers (optional)

For serving:
Pita bread triangles
Romaine leaf scoops or endive spears as scoops
Bell pepper wedges
1/3 pound crumbled Feta cheese in a ramekin

In a medium/small serving bowl mix together chickpeas, garlic, dried oregano and olive oil. Cover and chill 1-2 hours before serving. In small, individual ramekins place fresh oregano, parsley, anchovies and capers. Mix salt and pepper together and place in a ramekin. Place ramekins and chickpea marinade on a platter with a serving spoon in the chickpea bowl. Place all remaining ingredients on an additional platter. When guests arrive and you are ready to serve, start adding the ramekins of additional ingredients to the chickpeas. Mix well. Serve with the platter of pita triangles, bell pepper wedges, romaine scoops and/or fresh endive spears that can be used as scoops. Top the scoops with the feta cheese. Each guest can make their own or watch as you assemble them.

Note: If you have leftover chickpea marinade, save it to use over a tossed salad or blend it in a food processor and use it as a dip!

Unconstructed Chocolate Coconut Macaroons-Upscale S’mores

1/2 cup Bisquick
3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup flaked coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1/2 cup dark chocolate baking cocoa powder

For topping:
2-3 chocolate Hershey bars, broken into pieces or a bag of mini chocolate chips, poured into a bowl
1 jar marshmallow cream

Combine all ingredients and pour into a 10-inch square buttered pie pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes until custard sets. Remove from oven. When cool enough to touch, cut into in squares or circles to fit into the bottom of individual ramekins. Give each guest a ramekin with a macaroon in it. Pass the chocolate pieces and invite each guest to place chocolate pieces evenly over their macaroon. Melt marshmallow cream in microwave on low for 1-2 minutes. Remove from microwave; it will be hot. As the host, you pour the hot marshmallow cream over each serving. Enjoy! Top with more chocolate and/or a shot of Kahlua if desired.

Karen Boughton
Author: Karen BoughtonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I grew up in a big, Greek, cooking family. I married my high school sweetheart and soon had three daughters. My husband and I worked in the family’s Greek restaurant, “Zorba’s,” for several years before moving to Baton Rouge and eventually Corpus Christi. There I taught microwave cooking classes for Amana.in studio and on television for three years before moving to Kingwood in the late '80s. I reached out to learn more about regional and international foods, spending 16 years in management in private athletic/dining/country clubs for ClubCorp, where I embraced health and cooking. In 2008 I joined the Tribune Newspapers as food editor, the same time that I became a nutrition advisor and USANA Health Sciences Associate. These two passions have given me better health and the freedom to live life my way.

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