October 27, 2012

Oktoberfest for George

I am obsessed with my daughter: meet George, my miniature dachshund.  Greg and I are pretty pathetic in our love for her!  George recently turned ten and I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate her and her German heritage than with an Oktoberfest themed birthday party (with sausages, of course!).  Greg turned our backyard into a German beer garden with blue & white Oktoberfest pennant flags and a long beer hall table, scattered with beer coasters and white pumpkins.  While I don't normally rush to big party stores for my decorations, for this theme, a little kitsch felt appropriate.  Greg's other major contribution was a festive playlist that took me right back to my debaucherous weekend in Munich: e.g. Hey! Baby, 80s power ballads & Fliegerlied (I may or may not have been dancing on the table by the end of the night, possibly due to a few too many Oktoberfest brews!).  Amy further set the tone by making thematic signs and food cards; she also created a craft station for the kids, complete with George coloring books and dachshund stickers.  Though I'm not usually a costume person, I really wanted to dress as a beer maid!  However, all of the options out there were creepy, sexy versions (what's with all of the slutty costumes?!!).  Instead I focused on the food with a classic Oktoberfest menu: sausages, pretzels, mustards and more.  For George's birthday dessert, I made Ina Garten's outrageous brownies with her German chocolate cupcake frosting: a winning combo.  I got a lot of flak for my 'please no dog policy' but the day was really all about George and she's a people dog!  

The Menu


assorted german beers


homemade spicy pickles: green beans, baby zucchini, purple carrots, cauliflower & beets

salami, cheese & german brown bread

radish & turnip crudites


german sausages & sauerkraut

soft pretzels & assorted mustards

german potato salad with cornichons

maple glazed carrots & fennel

creamy cucumber dill salad

winter greens with fuji apples & cider vinaigrette


german chocolate brownies

pretzel shortbread cookies

haribo gummy bears

October 8, 2012

Moroccan Feast

I want my next big trip to be to Morocco.  So I was beyond thrilled when Jenni Kayne called me to help her plan a Moroccan-themed 30th Birthday.  Researching for the party got me even more intrigued with the sensual culture which is full of hospitable rituals and exotic flavors.  Jenni was an amazing collaborator.  Her taste is impeccable and her insanely gorgeous home is the perfect space for any gathering.  Setting a Moroccan vibe was a massive group effort.  We sourced lanterns, poufs, brass tables and Moroccan tea glasses from Zeen Designs.  Then Chloe and Blake used all of these great finds to create a sprawling picnic-esque layout of low seating & pillows atop dozens of beautiful rugs.  Maurice of Bloom and Plume contributed a layer of pretty with arrangements of roses & mint, plus buckets of white rose petals.  And finally, Amy, who was sadly away but consulted from afar, added her signature special touch with gold embossed henna-motif food cards and cutlery tags.  Mint mojitos and lavender champagne cocktails got the night started alongside passed hors d'oeuvres on silver trays.  As for the food, Jenni and I wanted to create a vegetarian Moroccan feast.  Spicy tagines, lemony couscous and a plethora of vegetable dishes lined the buffet (for a squash tagine recipe and the full menu, see below).  My most excited moment might have been seeing Blake's runner of silver tea pots & tea glass votives down the long table.  After dinner we served hot mint tea in the Moroccan tradition, meant to cool.  Mashti Malone ice cream--creamy rosewater, ginger & saffron--was the birthday dessert.  So until I take my vacation, I'm grateful to Jenni for letting me get my Moroccan fix.  For even more photos check out Jenni's stylish lifestyle blog Rip + Tan.  



The Menu


moroccan mojito
vodka, mint, lime, soda

lavender sparkler
sparkling, lavender simple syrup, lemon twist


ricotta & gingered marcona almond stuffed figs

kabocha squash & mozzarella skewers with chili & mint

spiced flatbread with chickpea spread

savory, buffet

chickpea, butternut squash & sage tagine

lentil, carrot, tomato & cinnamon tagine

couscous with currants & scallions

beets, fennels, olives, ricotta salata & orange blossom water

eggplant bread salad

sauteed kale with preserved lemon & slivered almonds

brussel sprouts & roasted grapes

tangerines, pomegranate seeds, candied pistachios, dates & arugula

cucumbers & yogurt

spicy harissa


mashti malone ice cream trio:
lavender, creamy rosewater & saffron rosewater

ginger cookies

moroccan mint tea

Gingered Squash, Chickpea & Sage Tagine
serves 8

2 kabocha squashes (butternut and acorn squashes are great alternatives)
1 pound of dried chickpeas
1 sweet onion, sliced or diced
1 red onion, sliced or diced
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and diced
1 T. tumeric
1 t. fennel seeds
1 t. cumin
1 bunch of sage, chopped, reserving a few leaves to garnish.
1 quart of chicken or vegetable stock (water also works--add a little extra of the spices)
extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper

side dish:  couscous with currants & scallions

condiments: plain yogurt & spicy harissa 

Roasting the squash and using dried chickpeas add extra steps, but they are well worth the effort.  Both the squash and the chickpeas can be prepared the day before making the tagine.  And in a pinch, canned chickpeas and diced raw squash can certainly be used, just make sure the squash gets cooked through on the stove.  The same recipe can used with different vegetables and legumes:  a carrot & lentil version would be great with a dash of cinnamon.  It's really just a method.

to prep chickpeas:

cover chickpeas by an inch of water and let soak overnight.  in the morning strain the chickpeas and add to a stock pot.  add twice as much water as the chickpeas and bring to a boil.  cover and simmer until tender, about an hour.  once cooked, drain and reserve the chickpeas.

to prep the squash:

cut the squash in half horizontally and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  line a cookie sheet in tin foil and place squash skin side down on the sheet and into a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork.  once the squash cools slightly, peel and cut into 1'' chunks.

to make the tagine:

heat a few tablespoons of oil in a stock pot over medium heat.  add the onions, ginger and a few pinches of salt & pepper and saute until soft, 8-10 minutes.  add the turmeric, fennel seeds, cumin, sage, drained chickpeas and squash.  add stock and bring to a boil.  cover and reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes, letting the flavors meld.  

to serve:

spoon the tagine over couscous and garnish with sage leaves.  cool yogurt and spicy harissa are the ideal condiments.

Photos by Christopher Beyer

October 1, 2012

Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter & Hot

Sometimes the space informs the kind of party one should throw, as well as the type of food that should be served.  Such was the case at my friend Kelsey's birthday dinner.  With a yard filled with palms, birds of paradise and a pergola (perfect for hanging paper lanterns), the home screamed for a Southeast Asian inspired meal.  These spicy flavors are some of my favorite to cook with.  Growing up, my dad hated dressing up, or fussy restaurants, so Thai food, often, was the extent of my dining-out experience (save for the frequent post-soccer game Round Table pizza party).  And a cooking class in Vietnam a few years ago, solidified my interest in these dishes that are dominated by lime, chili, fish sauce and copious amounts of herbs: namely, Holy Basil, mint & cilantro.  In LA, I'm spoiled by Silom Market and Thai Town for sourcing all of these ingredients (I take a little help with pre-shredded green papaya!), but, luckily most can be found at any major grocery store.  Kelsey and Brittany set a beautiful table with chopsticks, simple touches of blue & white and arrangements of palms & bamboo.  These and lots of white paper lanterns can all be found in Chinatown, or on Sawtelle.  To please my friend Leanne, and sharpen up my recipe writing skills, I'm including a recipe for parchment wrapped fish below the party post.  This is the perfect entertaining dish because it can be prepped totally ahead of time and simply popped into the oven twenty minutes before dinner.  This food is casual, delicious and fun to make: a solid combination for an easy dinner party.  
The Menu


The Kelsey

vodka, lime, ginger, soda, egg white

The Beach

silver tequila, coconut water, pineapple, lime, thai chili


mini duck banh mi sandwiches with hoison & sriacha

herb salad rolls with vietnamese dipping sauce

chicken satay with peanut sauce

to share

parchment wrapped halibut with lemongrass, ginger & shitake mushrooms

chicken larb with lettuce cups

coconut-cilantro sticky rice

green papaya salad with cherry tomatoes, green beans & peanuts

sauteed farmers market greens with garlic & sesame

mango with chili & lime


vietnamese ice cream sundaes:

coffee ice cream, sweet condensed milk, coffee & peanut brittle

fortune cookies

party favor

thai gummies

serves 8



- 8 - 6 oz. skinned and deboned portions of your favorite white fish, such as halibut or seabass (tilapia makes for an economical choice).
- a thumb of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced 
- a few handfuls of shitake mushrooms, about 1/2 a pound
-2 stalks of lemon grass, roughly chopped
-2-3 cloves of garlic
-1 shallot, peeled and quartered
-1 T. of curry powder or turmeric 
-2 thai chilis, optional
-1/4 C. of fish sauce, plus more for dousing
-2 T. of olive oil, plus more for drizzling
-one bunch of basil and/or cilantro
-2 limes, thinly sliced
-sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
-lime wedges, served alongside

-steamed white rice

specialty equipment: parchment paper & kitchen twine

to make the sauce (can be made up to two days ahead of time and refrigerated):

-combine lemongrass, garlic, shallot, thai chilis (if you like a little kick) curry powder or turmeric, 1/4 C. of fish sauce, 2 T. of olive oil, salt and pepper in a food processor.  add a little more fish sauce or oil to reach the consistency of a creamy paste.  if making in advance, cover and refrigerate.

to assemble the fish packets (can be made the morning of the party and kept refrigerated until baking)

-cut parchment paper into 14' x 14' squares and lay out on the counter top.

-place one piece of fish in the center of of each packet and season generously with sea salt and cracked black pepper.

-working in an assembly line divide the rest of the ingredients amongst the 8 packets, layering on top of each other.  the following order works: ginger, a dollop of the lemongrass sauce, shitake mushrooms, several sprigs of herbs and sliced lime.  to finish, drizzle each packet with a little oil and a few shakes of fish sauce.

-in the same fashion that you would gift wrap a present, fold the parchment paper around the fish.  fold opposite sides into the center and then fold the remaining sides into the center. secure with twine, as seen in the photo.

-bake on a cookie sheet in the oven at 375 degrees for 15-18 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.  after 15 minutes, check one of the packets for doneness.  halibut should be just cooked through.

-serve the packets on a platter, family style, along with steamed rice, vegetables and extra lime wedges.


Note:  This same method can be used with any flavors that you like.  For a more Mediterranean feel, you could simply add lemon, thyme, cherry tomatoes and olives to the packets.