Showing posts with label parties. Show all posts
Showing posts with label parties. Show all posts

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Menu Today

Big cookin' day at the farm. People from all over the county comin' over for supper. Mom enjoying playing sous geek. Some from the garden out back. Some trucked in from the market in the City, some from the local stores. All made with love in the kitchen at the farm house. Slowly. Some prep last night, some chopping after breakfast today.

Here's the menu -

Citrus & Garlic Braised Pork Shoulder Tacos with Ginger, Peach, Tomatillo Salsa. Corn Tortillas. Lime, Radish, Sweet Onion, and Cilantro Garnish.

Cremini and Monterrey Jack Quesadillas with Hot Brandywine Tomato Salsa

Corn and Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Cumin and Cilantro

Homemade Tortilla Chips with Serano Guacamole

And because I don't trust myself to make a flan in this oven -

Blueberry Peach Clafoutis

I think we're at 12 people coming over at the moment. We'll see. More on the farm and the ebb and flow of eating here later. Just wanted to induce some drool.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

All that Remains are the Wine Stains

"Every time you have a big party, all that remains are the wine stains. And sometimes it's beautiful." ~ Daniel Boulud.

The laughter too. The laughter remains. I hope that part doesn't ever fade. For two Saturdays my house rang with laughter. The hearty kind that comes from friendship and wine, story-telling and comfort, lives led in pursuit of more than just happiness and good food.

I should write two posts here because there were two dinners. Or maybe because there are two styles of writing that need to be employed to get you into the room with us. Or perhaps because there was just so much going on.

Instead, I'll try to mash it all together and you'll just have to believe me when I tell you that it all happened...and that you missed one hell of two dinners.

And I'll share some how to.

We begin with the geek in his natural element, standing in the middle of throngs of asparagus-seekers, my stalks already selected, the shitakes from the mushroom lady in my man-purse-European-carryall, and the thought of NY Strip sliced thin and cooked hot with a dash of soy in my mind. I heard a voice.

"So what time are we coming over?"

And with that, it was dinner party season again.

Sue doesn't live here anymore (and that's all her fault) but she pops in to town about once a month for work. That is frequently enough to see and be seen. And to hear that the kitchengeek likes to cook. And she's bold. And I was talkin' about good food.

It started, you see, at a market. I am convinced that food is not the only thing you bring home from Waverly anymore. Coaches talk about the intangibles, pollsters the "it" factor. I just looked around a table full of friends old and new for two weeks and reminded them that but for the corn meal (WV) and some pantry staples (butter, broth, salt/pepper/etc.) this week and the balsamic vinegar and pantry last week, everything was fresh. Not just from the market, but from as close as I could get it. The asparagus and the strawberries in each week's dinner were from the Shore ('hon). The potatoes were Baltimore County grown this week. The beef and the chicken used to graze and scratch less than 100 miles away from where I type this very moment.

The wine? That's another story. Cava for bubbles at an auspicious occasion such as the first spring dinner, Louis Latour that pops brought at Christmas Eve that was never consumed (HOW did that happen?), Brian Carter Cellars with Termprenillo blends & Petit Verdot blends last week and a Riesling/Vigonnier blend last night. What? Pocahantski brought more Cava for the second weekend? The Quiet One (who was in attendance and NOT living up to her name at last night's dinner) graced us with her presence and some seriously amazing Bordeaux (Chateua Thebot from 2001) and a 2006 St. Innocent Pinot Noir that disappeared much too quickly for me to have a taste.  That's okay, Kim warned me to take some salad when I finally sat down for the the second dinner and I told her I'd get some later...I didn't pipe up when I saw Ms. Vertical scooping the final leaves out of the bowl.

There were improvements (not on the food or company of course, but on the logistics). There was that moment when we finally realized we needed someone to bring still and sparkling beverages NOT made from fermented grapes. Thankfully there were two more people at dinner week two so there were two more things that could be asked of guests.

Ms. Kim got water duty. Scored big by bringing the lemon and lime to go with the waters. Bueno, Kim. Bueno.

What did we ask Scott to bring? We just asked Scott to take the damn Tupperware of potatoes home with him.

When you're invited before the host knows about it and agree without paying attention to what city you'll be dining in that get a gold star from this crew. Or a container of roast new and red-skinned potatoes that baked under a covering of chicken quarters with a head of garlic, a mountain of chopped fresh thyme, and touch of fresh-squeezed lemon juice for 90 minutes.  Waxy potatoes that are creamy with thyme and lemon; soft having poached in chicken fat and olive oil for an hour and a half; steaming with the aroma of crispy skin and soft roasted garlic. Yeah, you get that...

Week before that the prize was given to Jeff. Jeff got to learn how to make whipped cream (chill the bowl people. chill the bowl) and a balsamic reduction. His lady pal got to talk to the other lady friends and howl with laughter while we whisked and stirred in the kitchen.

When we were done, there was dessert bruschetta. A crispy rosemary ciabbata wafer topped with mascerated strawberries from Preston on the Eastern Shore, some of that just-made whipped cream, and a drizzle or three of balsamic reduction. At the end of it all, there was Ms. Vertical and her joy, or the licking of the reduction pan.

Balsamic Reduction

Take 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar and 1/4 cup sugar. Put over low heat to combine, raise the heat until a simmer reduces the liquid by more than half. Whisk away until the liquid begins to thicken, remembering (REMEMBER) that the liquid will thicken more as it cools...

And apparently reductions and whipped cream make some marriages evolve into Muppets. Apparently 'beepbeep' is a sound that people make. Apparently, it's a good noise to evoke in your spouse. It is possible this portion of the evening's entertainment would have been better served during the second dinner party...where there was water to go with the wine...

Pam and Jeff, this one's for you.

Our second Saturday featured some polenta with a dash (or several cups) of shredded Parmesan next to roast potatoes (you heard about those above) next to roast chicken that had until just before dinner served as the chapeau of the potatoes. Hence the bath of chicken fat and olive oil. And the flavor. The cheese in the polenta was, if you believe in such words, potentially excessive. And it was the real stuff (Thx Pocahantski). I haven't made polenta since the first UGK back in the day. Just re-read some of that and realized it might be time for Fruited Coucous Salad with Tarragon/Buttermilk dressing again soon. Just sayin'.

Creamy Parmesan Polenta

Enough for eight - and this is by sight/feel so don't ask for exact measurements. Get comfy with watching your food to know when you've added enough.

One box chicken broth and 2 T butter brought to a boil
Add Approx. 1 lb. yellow corn meal while whisking (this is THE key. you have to whisk while you add)
Turn the heat down to low
Add in 1/3 cup of whole milk or cream
Stir in 2 cups grated fresh parmesan cheese
Serve it up

But we digress to telling you about the food that has already happened.

The first meal was about the first fresh asparagus and the first local strawberries. But it was also about a memory for me. Sarah, Daniel, Jake, Amber or any of the others there probably don't remember this dinner. It was a summer day circa 1994 and we were heading back from Blue Hole. There was a grocery store run. Before I knew about technique or farming; before I ever owned my own pan or knife. We all headed back to my house and I whipped up a massive pile of stir-fried freshness that turned a couple of heads. I guess all that chopping and stirring for Mom paid off earlier than I thought.

There was ginger there, and there was ginger here last week. I knew it was in the fridge but not how much I'd rely on it until I took a glance at the volume of soy sauce remaining in my small bottle. Right...marinade for the steak goes the soy. The veg gets close to a cup of minced fresh ginger and almost the same amount of minced garlic.

I'll leave you with dessert. As I should. The final course in this two-Saturday extravaganza separated only by  short flow of time and a quick trip to pick up my new dining room chairs and bar console.

I'll leave you with the knowledge that tripling the recipe for Raspberry Clafoutis in the April 2010 Food & Wine magazine, transferring it to a 9x13 baking dish, and substituting strawberries and rhubarb is STILL the same dessert as the magazine. But forgetting the confectioners sugar makes it your own creation. Substituting real pistachio ice cream from the same folks who brought us multiple pounds of chicken leg quarters and NY Strip Steaks? Priceless.

I'd never cooked rhubarb before. Not too shabby. Glad I read first an learned the leaves are toxic and to cut them off. Real glad. I'm usually a 'leave the leaves in with whatever you're chopping because it's fresh and will add more of the flavor of the ingredient.' That flavor? Oh, that's just a touch of Oxalic Acid. Yeah, it's all the rage in the Swedish/Moroccan fusion place around the corner...

I started off with wine stains and laughter. And that's what I'll end with too. The place mats are in the wash, the wine bottles (all of them) are on the curb in the blue bin (filling the whole thing), the dishes are put away, and the new chairs are keeping the table company in the almost finished dining room. I think, perhaps, that it's only ever really 'finished' when there are smiles and glasses, laughter and forks, stories and stains painting the walls. I like to think that starts in the kitchen or at the market when I smell something, taste a new crop of something we haven't seen fresh and local in a year, or read a recipe and think 'I bet X and Y would love that.' I like to think that. I also know with a little smile for the stains I know I didn't get out of the place mats, that it's really at the table where it all finally comes together.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Life is good when you send out a Facebook update at 5pm telling the world you have kielbasa and wine and inviting folks to come watch the game...and they come and watch the game.

Life is stunning when you had homemade Lithuanian kielbasa dropped off at your favorite pub by a friend who just really wanted you to try it.

Life is beyond explanation when other friends text and say "Word is you're having a party? I just spent all weekend baking lasagna...three batches...I can bring some."

I know all of this because it happened to me!!!!

The kielbasa was mild, almost like a weisswurst, and smooth. It was a perfect foil for some vinegary goodness played admirably in this show by red cabbage, yellow onions, and cauliflower simmered in apple cider vinegar and chicken stock with thyme and smoky paprika. Uh, huh. Go get some!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Superbowl Party

Only I would pack my camera, my cast iron skillet, and my cowgirl creamery cheese in the European male carry-all as I walked out the door to meet Greco at the store to prep for the bar's superbowl party.

Sausage Rolls
Queso-Chorizo Dip
Steak Soup
Brunswick Stew
Scrimps (that's right, SCRimps)
Vege-Dipping Goodness
The Manwich Tortilla Bar

Get there kids. Get there.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Jamaican Meat Pie Party

So Wendy and I threw a dinner party. Started simply enough. We were out at happy hour talking about the nothing I was doing with my life and how much I enjoyed it.

We decided it was high time we reprised the Easter Supper feast from the spring and invite all sorts of buddies over for an informal night of wine, Red Stripe, and food.

It turned into a spread of:

Curried Pork Pies with Cilantro Chutney and Mango Yogurt Sauce

Dirty Rice with Black Beans and Ham

Red Cabbage/Pineapple slaw with Cilantro, Mint, and a Citrus Buttermilk Dressing

Lime Sorbet Raspberry Layer Shots

Wendy popped the swine into the crock pot with some Jamaican Curry rub, broth, and quartered onions for the day.

Then she made the curry paste with some prepared curry powder, fresh ginger and garlic, and other bits she'll have to tell you about. It was HEAVEN.

I showed up about 3:30 to start making the sauce, slaw, and rice.

Take a blender, pour in mango, milk, sugar, yogurt, and mint. Blend. Refrigerate.

Really, you could also pour it into a glass and call it a smoothie. Damn tasty stuff.

About this time I decided it was time to the Jamaican Hand Grenade of a Red Stripe. Friggin' tasty beer. Do what Dave Thomas taught me one day and throw a lemon wedge in there. Better than lime in a Corona.

Then shred the cabbage, dice the pineapple, chop some red onion, dice a Granny Smith apple, shred a few carrots, and rough chop cilantro and mint. Dressing was buttermilk, mayo, orange juice, lime juice, lime zest, and salt. Dress it about 45 minutes before dinner to get the juices flowing and soften the cabbage just a bit. The citrus keeps the apple from discoloring, so you're safe there. Fantastic crunch and sweetness.

Greco was there. You're not surprised.

You're also not surprised that I have video of karaoke happening. What will shock you is that I don't intend on posting it.

I like having friends AND keeping them.

About 35 minutes out I started the dirty rice. Dice a Spanish White Onion, saute it in some oil and add some prepared sofrito, add in the rice and stir through to develop a bit o' starch. Add in the veggie broth and the ham, bring it to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and walk away.

When it's all done, remove the ham, dice it, and throw it back in. Add in the black beans with a bit of their liquid, and stir through a bunch of chopped scallions.

Plating was aided by some chopped flat leaf parsley.

Wendy made the dough. It was simple and delicious. And we didn't pay attention to sealing the meat pies.

So we had meaty dough clams. A dollop of prepared cilantro chutney and a spoonful or two of mango yogurt suace on top.

A spoonful of dirty rice, a pile of slaw, and a fork complete the plate.

Dessert was originally going to be lime sorbet on coconut tarlets with raspberry puree. The sorbet didn't set, so we improvised and put Greco in charge. Triple layer glassed with lime sorbet on the bottom, raspberry puree in the middle, and a splash of chilled Grey Goose floating on top. Really flippin' delicious.

And the coconut was chopped up and treated like bar peanuts instead. Sweet, chewy goodness. I think Ed and I polished most of it off.

Recipes later y'all.

UPDATE: More Photos HERE

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Peanut/Pecorino Crusted Halibut with Cranberry/Cinnamon Goat Cheese

Pictures of the whole day at my flickr page.

Here's the creme de la crust of the day. Greco's idea to partially recreate a dish we'd had of, at all places, the dog track. There it was potato crusted halibut. Here, we go nuts (oh, schnap, i did go there).

Here's the deal...And I must stress here that this dish was awesome, and only one part of the alaskan crab leg, stuffed custard-baked tenderloin, five-cheese baked mac n' cheese, mussels in spicy vodka marinara day...

Peanut/Pecorino Crusted Halibut with Goat Cheese

  • 4-6 1-inch think halibut steaks (sub if you need, firm, white steak-fish);
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups crushed unsalted peanuts;
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups grated pecorino romano cheese (we went $20/lb version here, and you could tell, but grated Kroger Private Select would taste good too);
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (Italian, plain, whichever);
  • flour, salt, n pepper for dredging;
  • 4 eggs and heavy cream for dredging;
  • 4-6 oz. goat cheese, softened (ours was cranberry/cinnamon, and ROCKED);
  • Olive oil and butter.

  1. Mix the peanuts, pecorino, and breadcrumbs in a shallow dish. Same with flour, salt and pepper. Same with eggs and cream (beat this);
  2. Set up a three pan dredge station with flour/salt/pepper, then beaten eggs/cream, then breadcrumb/peanut/cheese mixture;
  3. Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel;
  4. Dredge in flour mix, then egg mix, then coat completely with peanut/pecorino mix;
  5. Place on buttered baking sheet;
  6. Drizzle 1 t olive oil and place one small pat of butter on each steak;
  7. Into the oven for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees;
  8. Out of the oven to get smeared with goat cheese on top. Use the goat cheese to cover over any spots on the fish that are close to burning;
  9. Back into the oven to broil for five minutes or less. Check the cheese on top. When it's melted and then set to crust over a little on top, pull it.

We severd this with plates and forks. You could also choose a nice wild rice dish.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Getting Back to Cooking

Getting back to cooking. I'm still not cooking in my new apartment, but will be soon. The stove's hooked up, the renovation is mostly done, and the fridge should be delivered soon.

Until then, I have Sunday Funday, Mark and PG's compound, a smoker, and Mark's kitchen.

Greco takes care of the swine. Julie was on potato salad, Alex on her curried couscous salad, and Ryan on round one of mac n' cheese.

I got my kitchen geek on with black-eyed peas, collard greens, bacon cheddar jalapeno cornbread, jalapeno cilantro slaw with buttermilk lime dressing, and two trays of mac and cheese.

I NEEDED to cook that much. Both for me and my soul and for the 30 or so people who showed up through the day.

So many plate combinations, so many tasty bits of pork. Greco had two crock pots full of shredded shoulder and hind-quarter goodness. And ribs on the grill.

He also had the legs, whole, put aside for later in his life (ummm, like today).

When I drove up the street at 2pm, I could literally smell the swine from hundreds of feet away, the bridge at the bottom of the hill is where I first noticed the porky-goodness.

People, I have developed pork-dar! I am the swine-y superhero we all knew was out there somewhere.

And my long layoff aparently has not resulted in cooking rust.

Ryan made the first batch of mac n' cheese, so I was just going to not make any, since we had so many other sides.

That was a poor decision, as it led to hungry pork-eaters looking at their watches asking when the damn mac n' cheese was going to be ready. Pearl demonstrates the popularity here, polishing off the last spoon-bites from my first batch.

I told Pearl I'd make her famous on YouTube, so here goes.

Beware readers, if you think someone is taking your picture today, that most of those cameras have a video function too.

Also beware this video is not PG. It's not awful, unless you hate see-food, but work-related volume control is advised.

Yes, I did go back in to the kitchen and make another batch of mac n' cheese. It was good too.

Jalapeno-Cilantro Slaw with Buttermilk-Lime Dressing

  • 1/2 head green and red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 1/2 jalapenos, sliced fine
  • one red onion, quartered and sliced thin
  • one bunch cilantro, rough chopped
  • 5-6 carrots fine chopped matchstick style
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 3 T red wine vinegar
  • juice from 6 limes (about 3/4 cup)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Chop and mix veg in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk dressing ingredients in separate bowl.
  3. Combine.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 pound large elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 pound butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 cups pound sharp cheddar
  • 4 cups asiago
  • 2 cups parmesean
  • 3-4 tablespoons seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 4 cups milk or cream
  • 3T dry mustard powder
  • 1T black pepper
  1. Cook the pasta according to the box in well salted water, draining about 1 minute early and placing in a 9x13 baking dish.
  2. In a large pan, melt the butter, add the flour and stir for a minute, add the mustard powder, add in the scalded milk and stir until it begins to thicken. Add the cheese in about 2 cups at a time until each batch is incorporated. Add the pepper and stir through. Reserve 1/2 cup parmesean for the topping.
  3. Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles and bake at 375 for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, spread the breadcrumbs and parmesean to the top and finish baking for about 10-15 minutes.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Stuffed Pork Chops with Reduction and Carrot Mint Salad

I need to just tell you the menu on this one. Suffice it to say story-wise that some friends of mine asked me to cook a full dinner party for them after hearing about Iron Chef South Charleston.

I came over with four grocery bags, my apron, and a killer menu.

I started with some crostini/bruschetta. Half were topped with baby portobellos and shallots sauteed in butter, olive oil, and garlic. I half-baked the bread and then topped and finished in the oven. The other half were topped with extra stuffing from the main course. On to that in a sec.

We then took a detour from kitchengeeking to have a soup course the host had already prepared. It was a creamy roasted eggplant soup with goat cheese crumbles, and I WILL get the recipe. It's from the sister of one of the other dinner guests.

Soup was slurped quickly by all and then we sat down to a main course of bone-in pork chops stuffed with 3T or so of a mixture of cream cheese, crab, jalapeno, spinach, and dried apricot. Each shop was stuffed, seared, and then finished off in a 375 degree oven and placed on a lake of black cherry balsamic reduction.

The stuffing was one large tub of cream cheese, one cup of lump crab meat, 1/4 cup diced, dried apricot, 1 cup chopped fresh spinach, one seeded (but not stemmed) jalapeno, and salt/pepper.

Breath. Drool more. Breath again.

The reduction was a can of sweet pie filling cherries in syrup, drained but not rinsed, 2/3 cup of balsamic vinegar, 2T sugar, 1t salt, 1t black pepper, and a whir in the processor/blender. Then onto the heat to reduce by half.

On top of it all was a shredded carrot, mint, and currant salad I found at Serious Eats.

The odd looking gizmos on the side of the plate were supposed to be Hasselback potatoes and I over boiled them in the parboil phase of things. Not a crisis. They weren't fancy fans of potato, but they were crispy, roast potatoes with ginger powder and black pepper crust and they did an admirable job of sopping up any and all reduction that slipped out from under the chops.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I Made This Last Night

I'll tell you about it later.

For now, know that it's Black Cherry Balsamic reduction; a Cream cheese, Jalapeno, Crab and Dried Apricot Stuffed Pork Chop with Shredded Carrot Mint and Currant salad on top. The Hasselbeck potatoes didn't turn out as well as I'd like, but this was NOT a bad dinner to have.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Lazy Man's Supper

Lazy Man's Supper is a dinner party for the Martha-challenged. I don't have an army of staff to fluff throw pillows on my leather couch, dust blinds and mantles, or make sure the candles are lit precisely 5 minutes before the guests arrive.

But I love to cook and spend time with my friends. So I do. And I make sure they know there aren't communicable diseases, and there isn't fine china either. Here was the cattle call for last night's dinner:

I will be taking tomorrow off to sleep and cook. The sleeping will help none of you. The cooking might.

Here's the deal, there will be two 9x13 trays of baked rigatoni with eggplant and spicy sausage. It makes Chez make the "O" face. There will be a radicchio/endive salad with some kinda orange vinaigrette. I will have a couple bottles of wine.

This is not a formal sit down dinner party. You'll be using plastic/foam plates.

I will not dust. Get over it.

The living/dining/kitchen rooms will be largely free of obstructions and there's seating for 10-12 at any given time if you're friendly.

This is not a house party for all night, just a c'mon over and stuff your face with good food before heading off to your Friday night destination.

DT/T and Chez/Jer can vouch for the goodness of the lazy man's supper, no pretense, just good peeps and good food.

Feel free to bring wine or beer of your choice. I'll make sure there's fridge room and/or a cooler.

RSVP please y'all. I'll make both trays, but I'd rather not have four pounds of leftover radicchio and endive...

The guest list was fairly large for a non-dinner party herd. E and Slim, K, M and Timmy, Chez and Jer, CW and STK, DT, PG, and Herb. PG, DT, and Herb weren't able to make it, but everyone else came in three shifts, so it all worked out. Jer had to leave early to play a gig, E, Slim, and K had to bolt for a beer tasting comedy show (I know, right, what was I doing at home?). CW and STK were the swing shift, and M and Timmy came in to finish off the second tray of pasta.

Yes Virginia, there is a group of vacuum cleaners with skin, and eyes, and mouths. And they will eat your 9 x 13 trays of baked rigatoni with eggplant and spicy sausage if you're not careful.

I started off the day by making the marinara. Simple, fresh, and extra so I can have a nice meal later in the week without working at it. Three jars of whole, peeled tomatoes (hand crushed, play with your food); three small onions, diced; 5 cloves of garlic, minced; 10-12 basil leaves, hand torn; olive oil; salt & pepper. Sweat the onions for 4-5 (salt & pepper here), add the garlic for one, throw in the tomatoes and simmer for 10, throw in the basil, stir through, reseason, remove from heat.

Once that got sorted out, Chez called and was on her way to the wine shop. I dutifully put on shoes and went downstairs to wait for my ride. I mean, I told people I would have a couple bottles of wine, and I only had three bottles of red and three of white. Clearly I was in danger of false advertising by only having six bottles in the apartment.

We fixed that but good. And having Jer as your guide at the wine shop is a treat too. Chez went straight for two of her faves, the Ring Bolt Cab and the Graham Beck's Gamekeeper's Reserve Cab.

I went a little heavier on the volume side, with excellent results. We got through both bottles of Orange River Winecellars Star Tree 2007 Cab, a very tasty 2003 Monte Antico Toscano (Check that link CY, Google tracked me down a Nashville source), and a bottle of 2007 Beaujolais Nouveau.Oh, yeah, and M drank white because she can't drink red. She was enjoying a lovely bottle of Pinot Evil Pinot Gris.

My suspicion whenever that happens is that the person is reacting adversely to sulfates the Man makes importers put in bottles of wine a preservative to save us. I always thought when I went to the town of St. Emilion I would find all of the inhabitants walking around with a dull headache at 4pm because of all the red wine they drank. But NO dear reader, nary a grimace. Unless of course the particular bottle they wanted was unavailable. They drank red wine to their heart's content.

I started off with a cooking glass of the Pinot Gris, then had a glass of Star Tree before dinner, the Graham Beck with my plate of awesome, and a glass of the Monte Antico as things wound down. Time frame, dear lush-watchers? Those glasses happened over a period of 4 hours. It was, as my e-mail advertised, "the goodness of the lazy man's supper, no pretense, just good peeps and good food."

Back at the ranch, I was frying sausages to brown them and then sauteing eggplant in olive oil to caramelize. I like the results. Makes the kitchen smell fantastic to have a fresh pot of marinara on the stove and sausages frying in the pan.

Food awareness comes slowly sometimes. You don't realize you've learned something until you've done it a dozen times. I remember the first time I realized olive oil was 'fruity.' Now every time I buy a bottle, I'll smell the raw oil before using it, and I'll notice the fruit when I pick a piece of eggplant to make sure there is enough chew left, and enough fruit imparted, to consider the sauteing completed.

Once the pasta was boiled, the sausages and eggplant finished, the marina cooled, and the mozzarella diced, into the roasting pan it went. Into the roasting pan because when you have two pounds each of sausage, pasta, and mozzarella; 4 quarts of marinara; and two large eggplants to mix together, there is not really a bowl in the non-commercial kitchen that will do the trick. All that goodness, mixed up? Fits into two 9x13s...AND and 8x8. Two and half orders. Turns out that was okay. We ate it all. Two trays minus a to-go for DT were taken care of at the apartment. The half tray went to the bar. The doorman was happy to see me.

Folks at the house also had a salad and bread. The bread was store bought, high-end, Italian-style asiago bread. The salad was a classic I don't make enough. A radicchio and endive salad with citrus vinaigrette. Dressing was the juice from two navel oranges, one lime, salt, pepper, 1 T Dijon mustard, and olive oil whisked in to emulsify it all. Probably wend 1 t on the salt and 1 1/2 t on the pepper. That was a little more than I needed for a salad that fed a few more people than were there. Saves well for a few days, so don't worry about over doing it.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Curried Pea Dip

So simple. Four ingredients (plus salt) is all it takes to make a delicious little dip that will ensure that you are the second most talked about party-goer after the host. It won't upstage, but it will make you new pals. And the host will likely get the recipe by force before you leave the party.

I would not lie to you about this.

It originally came from Real Simple magazine several years ago. I think it was Real Simple. That sounds right. One of those urban, young, hipster mags that has things like room organizing for condo owners, home projects for the suburban twenty-something with 1,800 sq. ft. and a crib, and dips for Saturday evening ladies night parties. Take the scallions and rought chop them. Throw them into the food processor with some kosher salt and curry powder. Pour your thawed peas on top.

Now, a moment of your time. I have made this several dozen times over the past four years, so trust me. Thaw the peas. The consistency will be MUCH better. Put them in a collander in the sink for an hour. Get rid of the excess moisture.Pour a bit of olive oil over it all and lid up. Make sure you have the pour spout top on. Pulse a few times to get everything going and then turn the motor on while you drizzle in about 1/4 cup of olive oil (if you're making a family size order of peas with a full bunch of scallions, that is).

What you end up with is here. It's a creamy dip, the low-fat dieter's guacamole with curry. I even sprinkled a little bit of extra curry powder on top this time. Just a little bit of contrast, not too much extra flavor.

Veggies and chips are the flavor delivery vehicles for this job. Pita and bagel chips work best, followed by red and yellow peppers. The crispy chips with their salt really matches very well with the sweet, creamy peas and the bite of the curry powder.