What Makes a Great Brunch?

Thursday evening we hosted a casual dinner for friends. Chicken wings, baked beans, potato salad… we opted for Kofta instead of burgers and we added a Tabbouleh just because we could. It was a reunion of friends who had not been together for a while so when the evening ended, Barbara said, “If everyone is free on Friday why don’t we continue all this conversation over brunch? I’ve got some eggs and bacon, and I think there is some fruit in the fridge.” This worked for us and our out-of-towners didn’t have any obligations till that evening. We volunteered to pick up some cinnamon bread and so it was set.

When we arrived the next morning the wonderful aroma of bacon greeted us. But that was only a hint of the delightful meal awaiting us. When my friend said she had some eggs, I was expecting some scrambled eggs but instead we had a wonderful Egg Bake.

Egg Bake a la Barbara

Then there was the fabulous oven-fried potatoes (white and sweets), bacon and fruit. The Raisin, Walnut, Cinnamon bread we brought fit right in and it tasted great with the Cloudberry Preserves from our Bellingham friends.

White and Sweet potatoes

BACON!!

Strawberries, oranges …sorry, this was taken before the blueberries were added.

Raisin, Walnut, Cinnamon Bread from Uncle Mike’s Bakery

Cloudberry Preserves

This was  accompanied by coffee. The food was all wonderful but you know what really makes a great brunch? The people you share it with. Here we are in deep conversation about the issues of the day or maybe it was just a discussion about the latest Scandinavian Noir mystery series we watched on Netflix?

The Brunch Bunch minus the photographer.

Below is the recipe for the Egg Bake. So simple yet sooo good.

Egg Bake a la Barbara (feeds 6 – 8 hungry people)

11 large eggs
1 cup milk ( 2% is fine)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Dash cayenne pepper, to taste
1 1/2 Cups White Sharp Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

•  Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 2 quart shallow baking dish ( about 2″ deep)
•  Whisk together the eggs, milk, S&P, and Cayenne till smooth, then whisk in the
cheese
•  Pour mixture into baking dish. Bake until puffed and golden, and the eggs are set.
Check at 20 minutes. Time seems to vary 20-25 minutes.

A very versatile recipe. You can try it with fresh herbs or different cheeses. Makes a great presentation for your guests if you can time it to come out of the oven just before everyone is seated.

 

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Plan in Place, Dinner Party in Action

Dessert cakes were done the day before. Morning of dinner, butterscotch sauce was made. Corn soup with Indian spices finished before noon. Brioche pudding in oven.

By 1:00 PM we had a strong start on what would be five courses. Guests were due in five hours.

I am sorry to say actual pictures will be few since we got so caught up in cooking and greeting and serving that the camera was forgotten. So I will use some pictures from the cookbooks. Our food looked exactly the same (smile).

The appetizers are pretty self-explanatory. Suffice to say once we decided on the Chicken Livers with Sherry Glaze we found a ton of recipes on the web. It was more common than we thought. So just Google it. Once guests arrived we quick grilled them and the Pears and Prosciutto.

Dinner began with Corn Soup w/ Indian Spices from David Tanis Market Cooking. The spices included garlic, ginger, turmeric, cumin, black mustard seed and cayenne. It had a wonderful tang over the creamy corn flavor. It may be the first time we’ve done a soup puree but it turned out quite nice. A tablespoon of whole milk yogurt and some chives topped it off. The yogurt in the photo seems to have cayenne in it.

photo from David Tanis Market Cooking

The Fennel, Radish and Mushroom Salad was from the same book. The lemon/olive oil dressing had been made ahead and the vegetables were all cut so it was any easy job to combine, plate and serve. We used watermelon radishes which looked so nice with the pale fennel and mushrooms.The main course was from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Nopi. The original recipe was Chicken Supremes with Roasted Garlic and Tarragon Brioche Pudding. We substituted duck breast. Because the brioche pudding is so different from anything we have made before I am including the recipe here. If our guests read this I think the ingredients may surprise them. It is very rich.

Tarragon Brioche Pudding

2 heads garlic
1/4 C olive oil
4 eggs
1 1/4 C heavy cream
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp grd cinnamon
1/2 oz. finely chopped fresh tarragon
2 tsp unsalted butter, melted
14 oz. crustless brioche loaf, trimmed and cut into slices
Sea salt and Black pepper

Cut off the tops of the garlic cloves, place on a square of foil. Drizzle w/ 2 Tbls olive oil, sprinkle w/ salt, wrap up the bundle and roast for 35 minutes. Once done and cool to the touch, squeeze out the insides of the garlic and crush to a fine paste.

Place the eggs in a bowl and whisk. Add cream, nutmeg, cinnamon and tarragon with 1 tsp salt and a grind of pepper. Put aside.

Lightly grease a 9″ x 4″ loaf plan with butter and line with parchment paper. Brush a bit more butter on the paper then layer the bottom with brioche bread. Spread half of the garlic puree on top and pour over a third of the cream mixture. Another layer of bread, pushed down so it gets soaked in the cream. Then spread the rest of the garlic, pour another third of the cream and top with the last layer of bread. Finish with the remainder of the cream. Lightly press down and set aside for 30 minutes.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes at 425 degrees. Should be brown on top and a knife inserted should come out clean. Once it is cooled and removed from pan it looks like this.Cut off the end edges and slice into six pieces. Just before serving, fry the slices in a bit of olive oil over a medium heat. Here is what it looks like when served with the duck and the peas & tarragon au jus.

Brioche Pudding: photo from Nopi by Yotam Ottolenghi

It was yummy but alas the recipe serves six so there were no leftovers.

After some time of talk and laughter and wine we served dessert which was described as Sticky Toffee Puddings but in reality looked like little cupcakes with butterscotch sauce and whipped cream on top. They didn’t look great but tasted good.

So with thoughts of an early Spring I had daffodils and green napkins and a floral runner on the table. (My hopes were high but as I write this, two days later, rain turning to sleet and ice is carrying on outside.) It doesn’t matter the dinner was a success.

Afterward: It only took us till noon the next day to clean up. But being exhausted we did sleep in a bit. However it is always a high doing it and we hope your next gathering is as fun. Bon Appétit!

Dinner Party Prep or A Month of “How about this?”

We are planning a dinner party. Yes, we have done it before, many times, but it is always the same craziness and seemingly endless decision-making. The problem lies in the attitude of the two hosts. Me, who wants everything decided and organized at least a week (2 weeks would be ideal) before guests arrive and He, who says we have a whole week yet before guests arrive. Now you may think that this is because He doesn’t do the actual cooking but He is the main Chef. I’m the time, date, invitations, house cleaning, table setting and dessert person. In other words, Management.

All of this starts at least a month before the actual event. Once we settle on who we wish to invite, the dance of dates begins. We are retired but not everyone we invite is retired and everyone, whether retired or not, has a million other things they are involved in. So at least 6 dates are emailed out to guests before an actual invitation is sent and, fingers crossed, at least one works. That is the easy part. Now, what to serve?

We do a lot of talking and suggesting and mulling but finally a day comes when the cookbooks come out and a decision on the main course must be made. Once an agreement is reached, another afternoon is needed for h’ordeuvres, salad or soup or both and dessert. This time I got things started by suggesting a chicken dish we had a couple of months ago but neither of us really could remember where it came from so I just started going through some books and marking other possibilities. Most of my suggestions get rejected…but he doing the cooking so that’s OKAY, at least we’ve started looking. However this usually gets him to mark a variety of dishes and together we whittle this down to the MAIN. This time Yotem Ottolenghi’s cookbook Nopi, was the winner. (that’s it on top of the post). A day later He called an audible and substituted duck for the chicken.

NOPI -Yotem Ottolenghi

I had already found a dessert, like three weeks ago, so we were set there. He rarely questions the dessert choice and even after throwing out a few other ideas we both went back to my original dessert. This came from the Fall 2017 issue of Sift magazine.

After a lot of dancing around other course ideas for awhile, yesterday, a week before the dinner, the cookbooks came out and decisions were made.Even Martha was consulted, but she didn’t make the cut.The winners eventually were NOPI: main, DAVID TANIS MARKET COOKING: soup, PLENTY: salad, SIFT: dessert and a surprise entry, Mallmann ON FIRE: appetizer. Francis Mallmann is a culinary pyromaniac from South America. We will modify his recipe since he usually specializes in large portions.

pears and prosciutto

So now the store list gets made, I start attacking the house clutter, tableware is chosen and a plan of action for cooking day is developed. Hey, we’ve got a whole week. Ultimately it is all about food and friends and we enjoy every minute.

PS: Post dinner I will write about our successes and near misses.

Wow! It Suddenly got Quite Fragrant Here

I’ve been upstairs in the office working on various projects.

Catching up on emails, monitoring the weather, drafting a blog post (not this one) and working on a woodblock design, when what to my wondering nose should appear the smell of onions closely followed by curry and other smells I couldn’t identify.

My husband is downstairs experimenting in the kitchen.

I immediately had to investigate the source of all this olfactory stimulus. It was Vadouvan, a spice blend recipe. So what I was smelling was a combination of onions, shallots, garlic, fenugreek, curry, cumin, cardamom, brown mustard seed, turmeric, nutmeg, cloves, red pepper flakes and vegetable oil. By the time I arrived it had all been ground and combined and placed on parchment paper and was now in the oven browning.

Curt had seen one of the home cooks on the Masterchef television show use it and Mr. Curiosity had to know more. Basically it is, or will be, a ready-to-use blend of spices that is a French derivative of a masala. A masala is a South Asian spice mix. If it is a success we will be enjoying it on our chicken thighs tonight with a side of cilantro/vinegar/oil dressed potatoes.

For now, with the house closed up because of the heat and the impending storms, I feel like I am living in a spice market somewhere between France and South Vietnam.

Revuelto, a spring Migas of sorts

This week David Tannis, food writer for the New York Times reprised a recipe for Spanish Asparagus Revuelto from an article originally published in 2014 titled Asparagus, Spanish style.  The inter-web tells me that revuelto is Spanish for scrambled eggs.  So, Spanish asparagus and scrambled eggs.  Sounded good to me.

In reading through the recipe, it struck me that this revuelto sounds a lot like a variation on Migas, which we wrote about several years ago.  A comparison of that Migas to this Revuelto reveals a similar approach in preparation but with more vegetables, without the chickpeas and with eggs scrambled in rather than cooked separately and presented on top of the other ingredients.

I followed Mr. Tannis’ recipe but roughly cut it in half except I used 4 times the amount of pimentón that he called for and double the amount of chorizo.

The end result was very tasty but the eggs didn’t exactly scramble, rather they formed more of a sauce that coated the other ingredients.  I think the asparagus brought a lot more moisture to the dish than I had anticipated, making for the sauciness.  Yummy none the less.

Asparagus Migas

1-1/2 Tbs. olive oil
2 peeled garlic cloves, whole, plus 1 small clove, minced
1 cup day old bread (baguette or ciabatta), torn into 1/2″ pieces
Salt and pepper
2 oz. Spanish chorizo, cut into matchstick pieces
3/4 pound thin asparagus, cut into 1″ – 2″ pieces
1/2 bunch green onions, chopped
4 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp. pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
2 Tbs. Italian parsley, roughly chopped

Saute the whole garlic in olive oil until lightly browned, remove and discard.

Saute the bread in the oil until lightly browned and crispy.  Remove from the heat and add a pinch of salt, some pepper and 1/2 tsp of pimentón.  Remove from the saute pan and allow to cool.

Saute the chorizo a minute or two to release some of its oil, add the asparagus and saute for several minutes until the asparagus is tender but still firm.  Add the green onions and saute an additional minute.

Beat the eggs with 1/2 tsp of pimentón and a pinch of salt and some pepper to taste.  Add the eggs to the asparagus mix and cook, stirring until the eggs are just soften and creamy.

Divide the revuelto onto two plates, top with parsley and croutons.  Serve immediately.

Big Everything

We recently had a fabulous week in Montana, specifically Glacier National Park. Everything is big out there. Big sky, Big mountains, Big bears!

montanaOn Sunday morning Sept 4, as we were getting ready for our shuttle ride to the airport to come home, Curt complained that his throat was scratchy. He did a little salt gargling but I think resigned himself to the fact that he was probably getting a cold. Well we have since found out that Montana also has Big Germs that produce really Big Colds! By the time we landed in Wisconsin his nose was stuffy and Monday morning the coughing started. It is now a week later and the coughing has not let up, nor the sneezing, nor the blowing, well everything that goes with a cold but multiplied 5 times. Seems like 10 times.

For the first few days I made jokes about Man Colds being worse than Woman Colds, and for the most part that is true.

The Man Cold Vs The Mom Cold

But as this continued without a break I felt bad about joking, he was really miserable and so was I, so I finally got him to go to a doctor yesterday. Was it pneumonia? Well no, it’s is just a whopping big virus so no antibiotics for him. No, no, no! So we wait it out.

Now in this household, he does almost all of the food prep. I know, I am really lucky. I am the cleaner upper. But now I am doing all of the cooking and the cleaning! Okay big deal, you say, that’s how most of the world works. Now I am not looking for a shoulder to cry on, but I am just out of practice and I think I am coming to the end of my repertoire of meals. We are getting very close to the grill cheese sandwich and tomato soup dinner. Yes, soup out of a can, whereas Curt would be roasting and seeding and pureeing tomatoes from the garden and making a fresh soup. He would buy the cheese but probably bake the bread.

Now under normal circumstances, this would be fine but add to this mix my scheduled knee replacement surgery for next Tuesday. I have to maintain a household while also avoiding getting near Curt and any of his germs. And work on getting the house prepped for me, the gimp, who will be going into recovery mode. So can I get a bit of a shoulder to whimper on? Huh?

 

Picadillo Alfredo

Warning! This is an experiment.

The NY Times recently published a recipe by Sam Sifton for Picadillo which he calls the ultimate Cuban comfort food.  Picadillo is a sort of sloppy-Joe kind of stew made from ground meat (picadillo means mince), tomatoes, raisins, olives and liberally seasoned with cinnamon, cumin and other warm spices.  To my taste, it sounds like a Persian inflected dish (who often combine meat, fruit and spices) via Spain (remember, that Arabs held sway in the Iberian peninsula for nearly 700 years).  Mr. Sifton suggests serving it with rice.  OK, but I couldn’t quite get my head around picadillo as a stew.

Recently Jeanne made spinach enchiladas which were quite tasty.  Her enchiladas prompted me to think of picadillo as a stand in for the filling of an enchilada-like presentation.  Of course, I couldn’t follow the typical enchilada routine by covering the filled tortillas with a tomato and chili sauce as the picadillo has plenty of tomatoes in it already.  So, why not invert the order of things?  Enchiladas often have cheese in the filling so why not put the cheese on the outside.  But I didn’t want to just bury the tortillas in shredded cheese.  How about something creamier?  I’ve got it – Alfredo sauce!  I know, it’s not Cuban.  It’s not even Latino.  But it creamy cheesy good.  And you can buy it in a jar, ready to go.

For the picadillo I followed the NY Times recipe to a “T”, just cutting it in half to accommodate our more limited table (and so as to not have too much left over in case my experiment was a bust).

Ingredients.1

Ingredients (see NY Times recipe for complete list)

Minced garlic, diced Chorizo and chopped onion

Minced garlic, diced chorizo and chopped onion

Beef, tomatoes, onions, chorizo, garlic and seasonings saute away

Beef, tomatoes, onions, chorizo, garlic, raisins, olives and seasonings saute away

Fill tortillas with a geneous 1/4 cup of picadillo mixture

Fill tortillas with a geneous 1/4 cup of picadillo mixture

Put rolled, filled tortillas in a baking dish with a thin layer of Alfredo sauce underneath and a generous layer over the top

Put rolled, filled tortillas in a baking dish with a thin layer of Alfredo sauce underneath and a generous layer over the top

Sprinkle a light layer of grated cheese (I used a Mexican blend but cheddar would be fine).  Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350˚ F. for about 30 minutes or untll the Alfredo sauce is bubbly and lightly browned.

Not pretty but pretty tasty. A little garnish would have been in order but I forgot to take this picture until I was on my second Picadillo Alfredo.

Not pretty but pretty tasty. A little garnish would have been in order but I forgot to take this picture until I was on my second Picadillo Alfredo.

Not much to look at but pretty yummy.  I think the picadillo mixture could serve other purposes – maybe an Cuban sloppy-joe?

Just a Little Nutty, vol.1

Walnut/Parsley Pesto

About a year ago Jeanne subscribed to Bon Appetit magazine. We had some extra airline miles or reward points, who knows, so she thought we would take a chance on a new subscription. I was skeptical. We have a subscription to Saveur, and in the past we have gotten Fine Cooking, Gourmet, and the much-missed Cuisine (now defunct). But for some reason Bon Appetit seemed to be equated with Good Housekeeping in my mind. But surprise, surprise, we have gotten some fine recipes out of this publication. The December issue arrived the other day and the theme splashed across the cover was “Cookies!”. So of course it was the holiday issue and I immediately said there wouldn’t be much to cook from this issue.

However that evening there I was with the magazine open on the counter and ingredients for a Bucatini with Walnut-Parsley Pesto gathered next to it. As I browsed past the Buche de Noel and the Ombre Rainbow cookies this recipe jumped out and I knew it sounded good and that we pretty much had everything needed to prepare it.  Of course, with some make-do substitutions.

First off, we had two sizes of bucatini, a long,hollow, macaroni-like pasta, but not enough of either size to make a meal. So, I used both. Luckily, even though they were technically of different overall diameters, the wall thickness of each was the same and so they would cook at the same rate.

noodles

Bucatini, big (right) and small (left)

Now onward to the recipe, with a few apologies to Bon Appetit.

Ingredients

Adapted to yield 2 servings

  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 2 Piquillo peppers and 2 Piparras peppers.  The original recipe called for 3 pickled Calabrian peppers or 1/2 Fresno chile with seeds.  Calabrian peppers seem to be the darling of the food world these days but we didn’t have any.  The Piquillo are sweet pimento-like peppers and Piparras are small pickled, mild, chili-like peppers.  We used Matiz brand of both.  Pimento and Pepperoncini, seeded, would be an acceptable substitutions.
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely grated
  • 3/4 ounce Parmesan, finely grated (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 – 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 3/8 pound bucatini or spaghetti (about 6 ounces), broken in half lengthwise
Ingredients measured and ready to go

Ingredients measured and ready to go

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until fragrant and slightly darkened, 8–10 minutes. Let cool.  You can do this in a dry skillet too but watch carefully so you don’t scorch the walnuts.
  • Reserve 2 Tbs. of the walnuts.   Pulse remaining walnuts in a food processor or blender until very finely chopped (but not pasty). Reserve remaining walnuts for serving. Remove stems from Piparras peppers; add Piquillo and Piparras peppers to food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Transfer walnut/pepper mixture to a medium bowl and stir in garlic, Parmesan, oil, and parsley. Season pesto with salt and pepper.  Taste to adjust seasoning.  You should be able to taste the walnuts, garlic, cheese and parsley without any one of them taking over.  Try to avoid eating the whole bowl before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.

    Ingredients, chopped and mixed waiting for the pasta to be cooked

    Ingredients, chopped and mixed waiting for the pasta to be cooked

  • Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente.   Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot and add pesto along with 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid. Toss, adding splashes of cooking liquid as needed, until pesto coats pasta and sauce is glossy.
  • Crush reserved walnuts with the flat side of a knife. Divide pasta among bowls and top with walnuts and more parsley.
  • Do Ahead: Although the pesto can be made ahead, and kept covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days, it hardly seems necessary.  The prep takes little time, there’s no actual cooking involved and the pesto will taste best when freshly make.

I usually like to add a bit of protein so with this dish I coated a few shrimp with Korean chili sauce (G0chujang ) and fried them separately.

Chopped peppers, Shrimp in Koran chili sauce

Chopped peppers, Shrimp in Koran chili sauce

Now when Jeanne cooks a new recipe it is very important that there is a picture. She measures her success on how close her finished dish looks to the photo. I, on the other hand, cook from the recipe.  Pictures are nice but not essential. In this case I think Jeanne would be pleased at how close my shoot-from-the-hip attitude matches the photo.

2plates

Left: Magazine photo from the December, 2015 issue of Bon Appetit magazine.  Right: Curt plating (before adding shrimp)

The final plates that came to our table had the shrimp. Bon Appetit!

plate1

This post begins a series that will center around nuts.  I was please with this dish and, my addition of a couple of shrimp notwithstanding, it’s a pretty simple meatless meal.  The nuts add a richness and texture that is appealing.  The recipe got me thinking about nuts in other well known or not so well known dishes.  In the future I will follow my nose and post some other nut based, flavored or inflected dishes that I hope you will like.

Like finding money in the street

banner.1
When I was a child I often had dreams of finding money in the street. Usually it was small change, nickles, dimes and quarters that I would find lying in the gutter. First a single coin or two which I would pick up, then look around to see if anyone else had noticed these unwarranted riches. Seeing no one else interested, I would look along the gutter and invariably find more coins that I would gather up. Sometimes even silver dollars. Now this dream is no doubt rife with psychological meaning. In my dream I always felt both elated at finding this money but also slightly guilty because I knew it wasn’t really mine. And why find the money in the gutter? We lived in a semi-rural area and we didn’t have gutters on our street.

Vegetable havest

Vegetable harvest

This is the season of harvest. I don’t always plant potatoes but this spring I found a bag with three types of potatoes that I had bought last fall at our local farmer’s market, and promptly forgot. I don’t have a picture of them as I found them but I’m sure you can imagine what they looked like; shriveled, spongy and with ghostly spindly roots and sprouts entangled with each other.

Being of frugal German stock, I thought why not plant them rather than toss them. They were already well sprouted and if they failed to grow I wouldn’t lose anything but if they did grow so much the better. Well, they grew – at least most of them did after a late spring frost – and vigorously too!

Yesterday I dug them. When I dig potatoes I’m taken back to my childhood dream of finding money in the street. Digging potatoes, to me, is magical. You loosen the earth around the plant with a fork and when you pull it up, magically, there are jewels attached to its roots. And seemingly unwarranted for the little effort on my part.

Loosening the potato vine

Loosening the potato vine

You loosen the earth around the plant with a fork and when you pull it up, magically, there are jewels attached to its roots

Jewels hidden below

Jewels hidden below

Invariably, a toad has found a resting place in the shade beneath the potato vines

Invariably, a toad has found a resting place in the shade beneath the potato vines

I don’t know what variety these potatoes are. The small beige one is probably Russian Banana, a fingerling type. The dark blue, almost black is of the type sometimes called All Blue. And the red is a mystery.

Dusty jewels

Dusty jewels

Washed jewels

Washed jewels

Cut jewels

Cut jewels

 

 

 

 

When cut they are quite the surprise. Creamy yellow, shocking blue/violet and rich pink inside.

 

 

 

One of the benefits of the season is a quick harvest lunch.  I am quite pleased to say that all the fresh ingredients; potatoes, onion and garlic come from my garden.

Potatoes, sliced and starting to fry

Potatoes, sliced and starting to fry

Fry.2The three potatoes were sliced, tossed with a little olive oil and salt and fried until barely tender. Then a sliced onion and a clove of minced garlic were added and the potatoes continued frying until they and the onion brown a little and maybe get a bit crispy around the edges.  Add salt and pepper to adjust the seasoning.  Sit down and have lunch and dream of finding riches lying in the street or hidden under a potato vine.

Guests arrive in Twenty-Six Hours

rose2I usually use this blog to talk about the aftermath of a successful meal or dinner party. However, right now I am caught up in the whirlwind of preparation for the Foodies Group dinner this coming Saturday so taking a breath and talking about what’s happening seemed like a perfect break from the action. Tomorrow will definitely be crazier as we get close to opening the door to our guests so you won’t be hearing from me for days.

The past week has been taken up with the heavier cleaning, like the floors. But that is good, because if I didn’t invite guests over every other month or so, I’d just put off the major clean up and clutter purge till spring. And it’s not like the dust is an inch thick but the papers, books, magazines, mail, etc. really starts to take over tables, counters, chairs, the floor.

Another big project this week was the shopping. I think we went over our recipes 5 times, bought the meat last Friday, did a big shop yesterday and still found out this morning that we were out of honey. So while I finished dessert prep, Curt made a final run to the grocery. When he got home he mentioned it was a good thing we picked up our flowers yesterday because today every mother’s son is buying flowers for Saturday…oh didn’t I mention, we chose Valentine’s Day for our dinner. But it will be fun and I have a color theme to work with, those red roses in the opening banner will give you a hint.

stockThis morning Curt was already working on his fish stock for the chowder, and even I, the non fish lover, thought it gave the house a nice bistro-like fragrance.

shrimpOnce I finished my breakfast it was my turn in the kitchen. I don’t do much food prep when we have these dinners; I’m the ambience and logistics manager, but with Curt doing five dishes I said I would take on dessert. At first, there was a lot of lobbying for tiramasu. After all it is Valentine’s Day and that is a luscious sweet. But I discovered the new cookbook we are using, Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi did not just have wonderful vegetable dishes but also desserts.dessertI found one that could be made ahead and assembled just before serving. Perfect. Consequently, my food contribution is already complete.

cherreisNow all I have left today is the vacuuming, tomorrow is the table setting, the bathroom, dishes from food prep, a shower, the wine, the appetizers……wheh! I need a nap just thinking about it. How did we ever do these dinners when we were working fulltime? And where did those dirty dishes come from?

cleanBtw, if it seems like I am being coy about what we are serving, I am. It really isn’t a big secret but it is fun to surprise our friends and I believe they might read this before arriving tomorrow.