Sunday, April 18, 2010


I hosted a PartyLite show, aka a Candle party. I had never heard of one, but apparently I'm in the minority. When I asked people to come to my Party Lite Party, the reply was usually, Oh yeah, a candle party! Very occasionally someone would say, Is that the jewelry party?
This is my kind of party, heavy hors d'oeurves, punch, cookies and brownies.
I made a ranch dip, from scratch and next time I'd eschew the chives in favor of scallions. It seems chives need to come directly from your garden moments before you use them, or they need to be replaced with scallions.
I made deviled eggs which were pallid, but very tasty, very much exactly what you recognize as the deviled egg you have always had. I wouldn't go so far as to call them the Platonic ideal of the deviled egg, but if someone else were to call them that, I wouldn't argue.
And I made hot crab and artichoke dip; mayonnaise, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, roasted artichoke hearts, crab meat and buttered, seasoned bread crumbs. My brother in law, who is a real chef, read the recipe and said, "you don't even need the crab, or the artichokes." It was as amazing as it always is. Is there a person on the planet, or at least in America, who doesn't like hot crab and artichoke dip?
And I made Punch, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, lime juice, simple syrup, cognac, (I never have the appropriate liquor so I had to substitute Armagnac. Maybe that would work in the butterscotch pudding too) white wine and cut up lemon, lime and orange chunks. Then add a bottle of sparkling wine at the end. I thought it was wonderful. No one had so much as a small tumbler. I don't really drink socially, but after everyone had left, I had my own small tumbler over crushed ice as I did the dishes. I looked for extra dishes and wiped down all the cabinets, even though it was whole hours past my bedtime, just because I wanted to have more punch. It was that good!
Then I made oatmeal and dried cherry cookies and OMG brownies. The OMG brownies have lost none of their luster. The only downside I can see to the OMG brownies is that I will never experiment with another brownie recipe, ever probably for the rest of my life. I don't think brownies can have a platonic ideal because of all those people out there liking them cakey (sounds of retching) or unfrosted (why would you?) but the OMG brownie is my ideal brownie. It may not be just my ideal brownie, it might be my ideal food, my ideal housemate and travel companion.
Other than the dip and the punch and brownies, the best part of a Party Lite Party is that, after all the fun party prep is over, and all that remains is the daunting actual party, your Party Lite rep arrives and takes over. I barely uttered a word other than, Punch? Dip? Brownie?

butterScotch pudding

One of my sisters just visited. I was telling a friend about her impending visit and my concern about what to make for dessert. I said, "She's gluten-free so I am at a loss. No cookies, cakes or pies. I don't know what to do!?" My friend was not all that helpful, although very interested in the gluten-free lifestyle. At the end of the conversation she said, "so what will you do while she's here, other than avoid gluten?"
I decided on Butterscotch pudding. She likes Butterscotch pudding and there is a recipe in The Blackberry Farm Cookbook that I have wanted to try. You mix egg yolks and brown sugar and Scotch. I had to use Bourbon because the only Scotch we had wasn't opened and I didn't want to open it for 2 TB and what difference does it make anyway? Then you caramelize sugar, no water, just sugar in a pot and watch it melt and brown. Swirl the pan, try not to panic. Add loads of heavy cream, then add that to the egg yolks and cook it all in ramekins in a water bath.
I did all this at 5 AM because that was the time I had and cooking that early, even as the coffee slowly seeps into the very dead brain, is a 3x slower than my already slow pace. Look at the recipe, 8 egg yolks, go to the fridge, look in the fridge, no idea what I need here, back to the recipe. Oh yeah, egg yolks. Get the eggs, put them on the counter, back to the recipe, how many egg yolks? Right, 8. OK what happens next, do they go in a pot, a large bowl? What about the whites? I could freeze them, but then what would I do with them. I could cook them. Right now? Aren't I doing enough? OK, set them aside for cooking later. Go to the cupboard to get a bowl. Wait, what size bowl do I need? How many eggs? Back to the recipe.
It takes forever, but by some grace of the Pudding Gods, I didn't leave anything out, or read 1/4 tsp salt as 1/4 C salt and I didn't even burn the sugar.
And I didn't overcook it which is what almost always happens to the chocolate pudding.
Served with whipped cream. It was very good, but the Bourbon was overpowering to me and I'd reduce to 1 TB next time. Or maybe Scotch would be better.
My sister was very complimentary, but thought it was a little too dense and rich and would improve with some lightening. Not sure if I could stove top cook and stir or maybe chill and then fold in whipped cream.
Even as it was, I didn't miss the gluten at all!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Do I get a promotion?

The Boss' Boss came to dinner 2 nights ago. Grilled salmon marinated in equal parts run, soy sauce and honey for an hour or so, roasted asparagus, steamed new potatoes and salad with lemon vinaigrette ( 2 parts olive oil to 1 part lemon juice, toss with salt and pepper). Strawberries and Fair Trade, Organic, Locally Produced Chocolate Bars for desert. Nothing burned, nothing that induced allergies, ample supply of a very good rose (rosay, since I don't know how to do accent ague in this program). But no offer. Is it halitosis?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I Ate This!

I took a brief foray into food logging. My bf told me about The Daily Plate, an activity, I guess you could call it, offered on the Livestrong site. It is your basic on-line food diary. You type in what you ate and a drop down menu appears. Type in banana and you get six pages of -banana medium, banana mashed, banana fritters, banana ruby, banana split and as you scroll you come to meet local hot girls. Then onto the next page -banana pie Sara Lee, banana large. There is room to cheat (that banana was small, and also unripe, and if you hunt around you can find a banana that only costs 50 calories) After you have chosen a banana that suits you, then you have to click a large yellow button that says I Ate This.
Apparently, it's all about taking responsibility, owning your behavior.
This is what happens when I food log.
I eat the whole banana even though I don't want it, because I am going to be "charged" the full 80 calories. The flip side of that, is that I eat only 3 squares of Toffee Interlude, instead of my usual four, bc three is a serving size and easy to calculate.
I make my poor old terrier, who, I later learn, has only one fully operational heart artery and lots of leaky valves, walk briskly so I qualify for the "Walk-brisk pace" activity category, which refunds a lot more calories than the "walk-moderate pace."
I start searching the foods for things I might eat and what they will cost me. Cold Stone Creamery, Love It, Cake Batter Catastrophe, only 687 calories? I should have one right now! (I imagine that if I were to type in Dunkin Donuts bavarian cream, 1 dozen, instead of an I Ate This button, a flashing red "Good Lord, tell me you didn't eat this?!" would appear, or maybe "are you trying to break my heart?"
I can't wait to fill in my log every day, discussing it with my bf until he edges away and turns the music up. I tell everyone about it, recommend it to friends, show off my extensive familiarity with the caloric content of just about every brand of granola, every variation of an orange.
The best part of the daily plate is the bar graph. This has a red line showing where your net calories should be. Then there are yellow bars for each day reaching up toward that line and some times extending past it. I became obsessed with keeping my yellow bar far below the line.
This is what I learned. If I could cut out cream from my coffee and honey from my tea, I could be well below that line without any effort. But who wants to live without cream and honey?
After a week I had to give it up. When you eschew activities with friends because you have to get home to log that meal, when you can't decide if a pat of butter on your spinach is worth the inching up of the yellow line, when you contemplate lying on your food log and regularly fudge the activity log, it's time to reassess.

A final word about cold stone creamery. Those of you who frequent this establishment know that instead of small, medium and large, they list their sizes as Like it, Love it, and Gotta Have it. The bf and I have renamed these, Deeply ambivalent, Codependent and Hand over the ice cream and no one gets hurt!

Dinner Party

First dinner party in the new house. Granted we've been living in the house for almost a year, but clearly there's not been a lot of entertaining. We invited a handful of neighbors, none of whom we know really well. One we know well enough to know that she is a VERY GOOD COOK, who cooks a lot and easily. In fact, we first met her 14 year old daughter when she came over to borrow some Chinese 5 spice for the duck stew she was making. The 14 year old, not the mother.

You can see that the ingredients for a pressure-filled experience were all there. First dinner party, guests you want to make a good impression on, at least one excellent cook in the group. I wanted to make something that was delicious, fool proof and that didn't require lots of last minute tending. Solution? Salmon leek pie, roasted asparagus, butter lettuce salad with grapefruit vinaigrette and lemon meringue cake from Nigella Lawson's Feast. Here's the run down:

Salmon leek pie from Gourmet February 1999. I've had it in my little falling apart book since then and it is pretty darn amazing. Simple to make, bake at the last minute, looks beautiful and tastes fantastic. Serve it at the table so people can see how pretty it is. Skip the sour cream sauce.

Grapefruit vinaigrette – a few weeks ago my sister and I met in New York city and went to a swanky lunch at the cafĂ© on the top floor of Bergdorf Goodman. I had a seafood salad with a grapefruit vinaigrette that was truly delicious. Tart and acerbic without overpowering the mild flavor of the lettuce. I made a variation of that with 1 part each grapefruit juice and white wine vinegar to 2 parts olive oil. It was good but not as good as Bergdorf's.

Lemon meringue cake – OMG this is a fabulous cake. Not super easy to make, since you have to make lemon curd and then cake and then meringue, but so worth it. I recommend employing a non-cooking inclined partner to stir the curd while slowly adding small chunks of butter. This makes them feel engaged and proud, and gives you one less thing to do. It is light and crunchy and sweet and tart and melts in your mouth. Unbelievable. Really.

My only regret from the evening is that there weren't leftovers. Which is not a bad thing.