January 24, 2011

A Parisian Baby Shower (in Lavender)

Two years ago for her wedding, my dear friend Jen, had us, her bridesmaids, wear purple; I hemmed and hawed (not my most flattering color). For her baby shower I put aside my hue biases and embraced lavender. With a Parisian theme and menu, we kept the day simple with thoughtful touches like iron-on napkins. A French brunch buffet included tangerine mimosas, quiche, brie, baguette, salads and plenty of french pastries. (The very ones that contributed to my significant weight gain during a semester in Paris where a macaroon a day gradually became a bag of macaroons a day. They're just too enticing.) And I'm not afraid to admit that the majority of our spread came from San Francisco's famed bakery Tartine. Sometimes it's fun to focus on the other details and take a break from the kitchen. Our theme developed with a playlist of Edith Piaf, Pink Martini and Brigitte Bardot. The game: a who's who guessing game with all party guests' baby photos pinned up on a clothes line. For favors: bars of lavender soap from the farmer's market with Jen's due date as the tag. Now we're all excited to meet baby Charlotte and get her in some Petit-Bateau.
The Menu

a buffet

tangerine mimosas

croissants, pain au chocolat, almond croissants
strawberry and fig jams

parisian ham and vegetable deep dish quiche

wedges of brie with baguette

green salad with champagne vinaigrette

fruit salad with satsumas, pomegranates, kiwi and blueberries and yogurt

cafe au laits

assortment of french macaroons

lemon cream tart

frangipane tart


Winter's Citrus

I'm bored. I reluctantly admit this as I've always believed that if one is a bored person they are, in fact, a boring person. Stay curious! But the last few weeks at the farmer's markets have felt same old, same old; I get it, root vegetables and dark greens. So I sought out inspiration from my array of seasonally arranged cookbooks and remembered the life of winter's party of produce: citrus. Blood oranges, pomelos, meyer lemons, tangerines, grapefruits and sweet limes add zip and freshness. So for a dinner party this week, I dressed up some staples with citrus flair. And thank god I did, or I never would have discovered this insane gluten-free meyer lemon olive oil cake (see note below); Greg has decided he wants this cake for his birthday for the rest of his life (from a chocolate, gluten loving guy). MAKE THIS CAKE!!!
The Menu

moroccan spiced carrot soup with cilantro, lemon zest and creme fraiche

wild black cod miso
braised elephant kale with young garlic
gingered forbidden black rice
pomegranate, blood orange, tangerine, sweet lime and lucque olive relish

gluten-free meyer lemon olive oil cake
pistachio gelato and candied pistachios

GLUTEN-FREE CAKE NOTE: I substituted 3/4 C. brown rice flour, 1/2 C. almond flour and 1/4 C. ground almonds for the flour in recipe. Incredible, delicious texture.

January 12, 2011

Soup's On. A Method.

My mom's go-to diet is to eat soup for lunch every day for a week. Not too difficult. It's a New Year so I'm motivated to eat healthy and satisfying meals. And it's January so the soul needs some warmth and comfort as well. I make soups all the time and they are a major go-to for entertaining. It's a great make-ahead first course, awesome in shot glasses for hors d'oeuvres and a generous hostess gift. I always use the same method, substituting vegetables, spices and herbs, depending on my mood and the season. It goes a little something like this:
1. Saute one diced onion, with a pinch of salt and pepper, in 2 T of extra virgin olive oil for 5-10 minutes, until soft. Optional additions: chopped garlic, ginger, leeks, fennel, celery
2. Add your chopped vegetables or legumes. I usually eyeball the quantity, it's about 3 C. or 2 packages of frozen vegetables or 2 cans of beans
3. Add spices (e.g. curry powder, ground ginger, dried herbs, rosemary, thyme), around 2 T. Plus, I almost always add a dash of cayenne pepper.
4. Next, cover the vegetables with about 3 C. of chicken stock or water and bring to a boil
5. Once boiling, cover and simmer on low for 30 minutes
6. Add any fresh herbs (mint, parsley, cilantro) and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. (If you don't have an immersion blender, get one!! In the meantime, use a regular blender and puree soup in batches. Careful not to blend super hot soup.) At this point taste for seasoning and add more spice or salt if needed. If you prefer a thinner soup, add more stock or water until you get the texture you prefer.
7. To serve, ladle and garnish as much or as little as you prefer. I love creme fraiche, yogurt, herbs, lemon zest, seeds, nut, dried fruit, etc.
Some of my favorite flavor combinations...
lemon ginger carrot soup
curried mint pea soup
roasted garlic-rosemary white bean soup

January 6, 2011

For Four

For dinner with our old friends James and Dominique, I made a simple mediterranean menu with some help from my favorite falafel place, picking up their incredibly smooth hummus and delightfully sticky baklava. Fresh herbs in terra cotta planters seemed to fit the theme. Now, I've said it once, and I'll say it again, games are so much fun!!! I was psyched when the evening turned competitive with board games. While British James got away with a lot of 'They have it in England' in Scattergories, I have to commend him for his 77 point Scrabble word: 'lintiest'. Kudos to you James.
The Menu

pink champagne

radishes, carrots, pita chips, hummus, spicy greek olives


red and golden beets, spinach, french feta, mint with a blood orange vinaigrette

grilled lamb meatballs with garlic tzatziki

parsely and lemon quinoa tabouili

grilled zucchini