Wednesday, December 21, 2011

a note fromm mabel

Mabel heer.

Mommee told me wot a creest-mas is, so i wont to weesh you a mery creest-mas with manee bones and kookies and tumy skreetches and leezards and al the theengs you wont. And laying on the bak of the cowch as much as you wont. And if you dont have a creest-mas at your hous, I hope you get manee treets aneway.

Hapy new yeare!


Monday, December 19, 2011

how i learned to stop worrying and love ham hocks

Throwing a dinner party is like learning to ride a bike. With practice, you get over that initial shakiness and stop worrying about crashing and (literally) burning.

I have plenty of practice, so it's not often that I am wracked with uncertainty about dinner parties. But then my friend Casey and I made plans for dinner on a Wednesday night and I had no clue what to serve.

a salad for all places

Maybe you’re expecting a detailed account of everything I cooked for Thanksgiving. If so, I am sorry to disappoint you. My mother-in-law hosted and made a lovely spread and I hardly cooked at all. Between writing about turkey for a solid month straight, traveling with an excited little dog, and being plain exhausted, I fell short in the cooking department this year. Of course I tried—I had a slight hissy fit about not being able to make my favorite cranberry sauce. (Mom beat me to it with her own spiced version, delicious in its own right.)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

italian pickled vegetables

It’s holiday gift time! Like you, I have joined the bleary-eyed mob, searching for sweaters and scented soaps and anything that seems remotely “gift-worthy,” as the lady mags say. While it can be fun picking things out for people, all of this consumerism gets to me and I have to counteract it with some made-from-scratch presents.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

a note fromm mabel

Mabel heer.

Peepel hav askt me to rite agen so I wil tel you my doings. So Mommee and Daddee put me in a smoll bag, very ruff-like, and we went in a noysee thing to a werm gud-smelling place calt floreda for theenks-geeving.

I stil dont know wat a theenks-geeving is, but manee peepel wer ther. I jomped on them to say hello and sneefed the fud but did not eet any becuz I am gud now. Mommee and Daddee made me go to skool--we lernt about beeing gud. I get manee treets so I dont mind. I dont try to bite peepel, ownlee small dogs and burds and sqorels. And sumtimes peepel hoo make suden mooves.

I will tell you wot is reelee xciting, tho: Leezrds!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

sweet potato ravioli with cheese broth

As my furry correspondent reported, dinner did not go so well the other weekend. You know, biting and all. But it was her first dinner party so I chalk it up to nerves.

It was still fun, however. We drank many gin and tonics and listened to the new Wilco album (very good) and celebrated some great news and marveled at the cuteness of Mabel and ate one of my favorite dishes in all of Brooklyn: sweet potato and sage ravioli in parmesan broth from Frankie's Spuntino.

At Frankie's, you get about half a dozen ravioli floating in a bowl of steaming hot broth that smells like butter and cheese and sage. The pasta is thin and super tender with the bright orange sweet potato showing through. I've ordered this dish many times at Frankie's, so you'd think I would have figured out what was in it by now, but I was pretty surprised when I found the recipe on Serious Eats.

Friday, November 11, 2011

a note fromm mabel

Mabel heer.

I now I am just a dog but I ned to tel yu peeple what hap-end. Most nites, I stay with Mommee and Daddee. They eet their fud on the grownd and I sneef and sneef and they say, "No, Mabel!" but I can smel wot they are eeting. And then we sit on the cowch very klos and it is so nise and I fall a sleep.

But the other nite, two more peeple came in my house. One was very loud, one smelled gud. They sat on my cowch. Mommee and Daddee sed "No, Mabel!" wen I tryed to say helo by jomping on them, frendly-like. I dont kno why peeple dont undurstand this.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

a better brunch

Friends in town for the weekend usually equals brunch. For cooler folks, I guess it equals drinks and maybe dancing on tables, but for various reasons, Dan and I are brunch people. The thing is, I don't like going out for brunch. I don't like paying $10 for eggs. I don't like waiting in line. I don't like being rushed through my meal. And I really don't like those cheap, "bottomless" mimosas.

Recently, Dan and I went out for brunch at a place run by a former Top Chef contestant whom I will not name. Dan ordered a glass of orange juice, thinking it would be fresh-squeezed. This restaurant is not a diner, it's a pretty respectable-looking place. The kind of place where the word "artisanal" is thrown around a lot. And we watched the bartender pour a glass of Tropicana straight from the plastic bottle. We looked at each other like, damn. Can't you at least put that in a carafe and attempt to fool us? We have that juice at home...where we don't have to pay $4 a glass for it.

Brunch at home, however, is a different story.

Monday, October 24, 2011

dinner in doggieland

So there’s a new guest at our table. Well, under our table, I guess. Or sometimes on the couch when she is good.

Dan and I adopted Mabel about three weeks ago and I have to say I haven’t given all that much thought to cooking. I’ve baked a few loaves of pumpkin bread, tested some recipes in the great new Jamie Oliver cookbook, made many cups of coffee and tea. We’ve eaten, and eaten well, but I’ve got my eye on that adorably scruffy face, not on what's on my plate.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

pumpkin bread

It's that time of year again, folks! Time for the annual dusting off of my favorite pumpkin bread recipe. It has been proven to win over friends, loved ones, and co-workers alike. Hope you enjoy (again)!

Fall is here. The leaves are starting to turn and drop onto the sidewalk. I traded my sundresses and sandals for long sleeves and boots. And we finally put our air conditioner unit in storage, the true mark of the weather turning cooler.

I love feeling the brisk air and watching the leaves change. I love walking through our neighborhood and smelling the first lit fireplace of the season. I love pulling on a cozy sweater, needing to wrap an afghan around my shoulders while watching TV. But there's something melancholy about fall. As I watch the piles of leaves grow larger and larger, I can't help but think about the months of winter ahead--dirty, slushy snow, and sweating under a puffy coat, and the way our neighborhood turns from lush and leafy to drab and barren. I think winter kind of sucks, if you couldn't tell already.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

jamie oliver on cooking dinner

I don't get starry eyed over too many chefs, but Jamie Oliver is an exception. I've been a fan of his recipes since those weird early "Naked Chef" days and have been constantly impressed with all of the work he's done since then, from his London restaurant that employs at-risk teenagers to his efforts to end childhood obesity here in the U.S. His various projects are more than good P.R.; I think he really cares.

A few weeks ago, I interviewed him about the philosophy behind his new cookbook, Meals in Minutes. I have to say, this book is great. Even if you have many Jamie Oliver titles lining your shelves (and we certainly do) this one is different and worth seeking out. Instead of individual recipes, Meals in Minutes is based around three- and four-course menus that you can make in about 30 minutes or less -- which is ideal for dinner party-throwing, but also those I'm-hungry-what's-for-dinner weeknight meals.

What I like most about Jamie Oliver is his unpretentiousness about food. Unlike other well-intentioned people in the food industry, he doesn't get hung up on everything being just-so. In the interview, he talks about putting cutlery in a jar and having people set a place for themselves at the table, and how he makes scrambled eggs for dinner when time's tight and his family is starving. If he can cop to eating and entertaining like that, it should make us all feel better about our own sometimes-flawed methods.

It's not about being perfect, it's about making the effort.

[Photo: Meals in Minutes]

Monday, October 10, 2011

baby brunch

I'm not the type of person who coos over babies on the street. I'm a dog person. Nothing pleases me more than passing a cute dog on the sidewalk. I'm like a horny dude in that way. Except it's not women in short skirts I'm drooling over, it's well-groomed brussels griffons. (Swoon!)

With few exceptions, babies don't have the same effect on me. And then I crossed paths with an especially sweet five-month-old and found myself in L-O-V-E.

Well, "crossed paths" isn't really accurate -- her parents invited Dan and me over for brunch. Meeting babies has become somewhat of a new hobby for us. Suddenly there are so many babies for us to meet over dinner, or brunch, or drinks. Or virtual baby-meeting on Facebook or Skype.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

dessert math

File this under "totally no-brainer," but when you're pressed for time, this is the simplest, fastest dessert idea. Or dessert equation, if you will.

One part seasonal fruit:
Fall: pears, Concord grapes, apples, Asian pears, figs
Spring: strawberries, apricots
Winter: Apples, dates, dried figs, citrus
Summer: berries, peaches, plums, cherries

Plus one part store-bought cookies

Plus one part chocolate (milk, white, or dark)

Equals the perfect dessert plate.

The next time someone asks you to bring dessert and you don't have the time or inclination to bake, here's your solution.  This also works super well for weeknight dinners where you want to serve something sweet but can't deal with anything fussy.

Monday, September 26, 2011


So maybe my last post seemed a little sad. A close friend moving away IS sad! But one of the upsides of having friends spread out all over the place is that occasionally they visit and reconnecting with them is pretty wonderful. Knowing you have limited time together creates an urgency that makes everyone talk a little faster, laugh a little more and stay up way, way later than they should.

The other week, our friend Vanessa (of Kitchen Conniption fame) and fiance Trevor paid us a visit and I made dinner for everyone on a Thursday night. Weeknight dinners aren't my favorite thing in the world--all that rushing and post-work exhaustion--but I love Vanessa and Trevor and I knew we'd have more time together if we spent the evening at home rather than being rushed through dinner at a crowded restaurant.

And, you know, I needed to get back on the dinner party wagon.

The short window of time between the end of summer and early fall is amazing for produce and I wanted to make the most of all those beautiful late-season tomatoes and sweet corn. Throw in some deviled eggs, a little grilled steak, some chimichurri, and you've got the perfect summer menu that's quick enough to toss together for a post-work dinner. We sat down at the table and passed around a colorful tomato and mozzarella salad, dug into the buttery sauteed corn. The window was open, blowing in the cool night air. It felt like the perfect convergence of summer and fall.
When we hugged goodbye, close to midnight, I wished we could do this sort of thing all the time with Trevor and Vanessa. But maybe the night was so special because we hardly ever see them. Maybe there's an upside to long-distance friendships.

Late summer dinner
Deviled eggs
Radishes with chive butter
Flank steak with chimichurri sauce
Sauteed corn
Heirloom tomatoes with mozzarella and arugula
Cookie plate

Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
From Mark Bittman via Food & Wine
(Serves 4 to 6 people)
2 cups chopped parsley
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic
2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 lbs. skirt (or flank) steak 

In a food processor, combine the parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and crushed red pepper. Process until smooth. Pour the sauce into a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add extra lemon juice, if needed. 
Season the skirt steak with salt and pepper and grill on a grill pan or cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat, until the meat is charred on the outside and rare within, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the meat to a carving board and let it rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice the steak across the grain. Serve right away, passing the chimichurri sauce at the table. 
Tomato and mozzarella salad with arugula
(Serves about 4 people)

1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. olive oil, plus extra
salt and pepper
2 large beefsteak tomatoes, sliced into rounds
2 small plum or other small-sized heirloom tomatoes, sliced into rounds
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (mixed colors are prettiest)
1 cup mozzarella, either small balls cut in half or one large ball cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cups arugula

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the Dijon and vinegar. Slowly stream in the olive oil, whisking until it emulsifies and forms a nice dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Arrange the large slices of tomatoes on a large platter. Sprinkle the cherry tomatoes and smaller tomatoes on top. Add the mozzarella.

Place the arugula in the salad dressing bowl and toss the greens gently until they are coated. Place the greens in a mound in the center of the platter. Drizzle a little extra oil over the tomatoes and sprinkle a little extra salt and pepper.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

good riddance

Another month, another friend leaving New York. Over the past few years, we’ve watched our friends take off in different directions – Vermont, Washington D.C., Austin, San Francisco, Anchorage(!) – for new jobs, homes, cheaper rent and a different sort of life. Living in New York is hard. It’s expensive and can wear you down, and for those reasons and others, our circle of friends is getting smaller.

Monday, September 19, 2011

hi there

I'm back! Did you miss me? I made you these deviled eggs to apologize for my absence. (I'm sorry if you were expecting cookies.)

I didn't intend to be away for so long. But sometimes you go on vacation, and then the computer dies, and then you get really busy with work. Which means not a lot of blogging, not a lot of dinner parties.

To be honest with you, my new job has been keeping me even busier than I expected. Which is fantastic. But to be really, really honest, being a food editor and thinking about food all day long and even in my dreams (ask Dan--I was sleeptalking about tomatoes last weekend), has put a bit of a damper on my food blogging appetite. I'm still going to post here, but maybe not as frequently. Maybe only when I have something really exciting to share or an especially great or disastrous dinner party to write about. Which will hopefully be quite often. (Not the disastrous part.) And I hope you'll still visit and comment and enjoy this space. Thanks, as always, for reading.

Classic deviled eggs

My go-to, never-fail recipe. You can easily dress these up with fresh herbs, curry powder, chipotle, five spice powder, pesto or anything else your deviled egg-loving heart desires. This is just a jumping off point.
(Makes 12 deviled eggs)

6 eggs
1/4 cup mayo, or more (or plain, low-fat Greek yogurt)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

Put your eggs in a saucepot and fill the pot with cold water until the eggs are covered by an inch of water. Place the pot over medium heat. Once the water comes to a boil, let the eggs cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and cover the pot with a lid. Let the eggs stand for 10 minutes. Drain the eggs and let them sit in cold water for five minutes. Crack the eggs and peel off the shells. Slice the eggs in half diagonally and remove the cooked yolks into a small bowl. Using a fork, mash the yolks into a paste. Add the mayo and mustard and stir until smooth. (If the mixture seems a bit dry, add a little more mayo.) Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the filling into each egg half as neatly as possible. Place the filled eggs on a plate and sprinkle with paprika before serving.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

link-o-rama: labor day edition

This weekend is summer's last gasp, so time to live it up, folks!

Okay, there's actually a few more weeks of summer before fall actually starts, but Labor Day marks that bittersweet end-of-summer feeling, at least for me. I always feel a little pressure to have big fun before fall comes and we all have to get serious and eat root vegetables again. Or something.

With that in mind, here are links to inspire you for that grand finale picnic or potluck or cookout or whatever you're planning over the long weekend. Have fun!

8 ways to make a margarita [via Bon Appetit]

3-ingredient summer cocktails [via iVillage Food]

A lovely looking (and sounding) peach-gin-ginger liquor cocktail, sweet summer [via Eat Make Read]

All sorts of summer party food recipes [via Food + Wine]

9 pretty summer salads [via Food52]

Easy and portable sandwiches, salads, sweets and more [via iVillage Food]

Awesome, awesome (did I say awesome?) twist on the usual watermelon-feta salad [via Lottie + Doof]

Banana split ice cream cake! [via Numnum Chronicles]

Hazelnut plum crumb tart [via Smitten Kitchen]

And from the Dinner Party archives:


The Red and the Black
Basil lemonade
Lazy margaritas
The Colonial
The Paloma
Boozy watermelon

Avocado-yogurt dip

Pimento cheese
Charred onion dip
Peach, basil, goat cheese crostini

Chili lime peanuts

Picnic meatloaf
Butter burgers
BLT pasta salad
Prosciutto, ricotta, pesto panini
Oven-fried picnic chicken

Kitchen sink summer salad
Grilled zucchini salad with feta

Best-ever brownies
Lemon bars
Chocolate-peanut butter squares
Mini frozen Key lime pies
Framboise ice cream floats

Thursday, August 25, 2011

avocado-yogurt dip

Avocados are one of my favorite foods, period. I like to think it's because I'm from Florida, but I prefer California-grown Haas avocados to the bland and strangely sweet varieties grown in my hometown. My not-so-secret shame.

I love avocados so much that when I think dinner party, I think guacamole. No matter what's on the menu it's my go-to, no-brainer appetizer along with deviled eggs. But sometimes even I want to mix things up a little bit, so for my no-cook menu, I used avocados to make a creamy, yogurt-based dip, kind of like a Green goddess dressing.

I used what I had on hand (scallions, cilantro, and lime juice) to add some much-needed brightness, and blended everything together in my food processor until smooth. The result was an herbaceous, tangy dip that paired well with crackers and crunchy vegetables like radishes, snap peas and red bell pepper strips. It would also make an awesome salad dressing, come to think of it.

This dip might not replace my beloved guac, but it's a nice stand-in when I'm craving something different.

Avocado-yogurt dip
(Serves 6 to 8)

6 oz. plain Greek yogurt
2 avocados, diced
1 lime, juiced
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
2 scallions, minced
Salt and pepper

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the yogurt and avocado. Mash the avocado with a fork until it is smooth and combined with the yogurt. Add the lime juice, cilantro, scallions and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve, for up to 1 day.

Monday, August 22, 2011

what's for dinner, andrea hubbell?

There are pretty food blogs, and there are pretty food blogs. Andrea Hubbell's Bella Eats falls into the second category, living up to its name. Not only does she have a knack for curating recipes, Andrea is a professional photographer and stylist, and her talents shine through every luscious image on her site. Her work would not look out of place in any food magazine, which is one of those things that always amazes me about blogs--that there are so many talented people out there creating amazing things just for their own enjoyment. Andrea's got a way with baked goods (caution: don't click those links if you are hungry), but today she's talking dinner parties, menus and all things entertaining-related. Thanks, Andrea!

1. Name, occupation, and city

Andrea Hubbell, photographer and stylist in Charlottesville, VA, author of Bella Eats

2. When was the last time you threw a dinner party, and who was invited?
In May, we planned a fiesta to celebrate two dear friends who were expecting their first child. It was meant to be a backyard party, but rain kept all 24 of us inside and cozy for most of the evening. Carnitas tacos and dulce de leche cupcakes were the big hits on the menu.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

the easiest summer dessert

Summer's almost over, but it would be a shame if you let the next few weeks go by without making this uber-simple dessert. It is made with just three ingredients: prosccco, sorbet, and macerated fruit.

In this case, I used ginger-peach sorbet (from Ciao Bella), diced strawberries mixed with a little sugar, and a cheapy bottle of bubbly from my local wine shop. You simply layer the fruit and sorbet (a tall champagne glass is idea for this), then pour the prosecco on top and watch it bubble and fizz between the layers of cold sorbet and juicy fruit. A word of advice: assemble the desserts on top of a dish towel because it can get a little messy.

The idea is based on a recipe from Joanne Cheng of Boston's Flour Bakery. She uses lemon sorbet and strawberries, which I'm sure is delightful. But any combination of fruit would probably work: blueberries and lemon sorbet, peaches and raspberry sorbet (or vice versa), blackberries with strawberry sorbet.

The sorbet melts into the wine making a fruity drink you'll want to tilt back and drink slowly, relishing every last drop of summer.

Fruity fizz
(Serves 8 to 10 people)

2 pints strawberries, tops removed, cut into small slices
1/4 cup sugar
2 pints peach sorbet (or lemon, raspberry or strawberry)
1 bottle prosecco

In a small bowl, add the strawberries and sugar. Stir until combined. Let the strawberries macerate in the refrigerator for at least an hour, or overnight. When you are ready to serve the dessert, layer the berries and small scoops of sorbet in tall glasses, then pour a small amount of prosecco on top. Add extra prosecco if needed (it will be foamy at first). Serve immediately.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

peanut butter pies

I was planning to write about more no-cook recipes today, but I keep thinking about Jennifer Perillo.

If you read food blogs, you probably read about Jennie and the sudden death of her husband, Mikey. He passed away suddenly this week at just 51 years old. It's the kind of news that sucks the air straight out of your body.

Many lovely tributes were posted last week, all trying to express that sad realization that life is too short. Although we may think we have things totally under control, we really have no idea what may happen next.
I don't know Jennifer personally, but like many people, I really like her blog. Like me, she's a food editor living in Brooklyn, so it's hard not to feel a personal connection. And her graceful response to what must be the most horrible time in her life speaks volumes about what kind of person she is. When friends, fellow bloggers and other concerned people asked what they could do, she told them to bake Mikey's favorite peanut butter pie. It was something she was planning to do but didn't, thinking she surely could just make it for him tomorrow.

The outpouring of peanut butter pies has been amazing. Each pie is a little different, but each one is a reminder that we have to appreciate the people in our lives now, while we still can. Whether you bake a pie, or gather friends and family together for a meal, or just take the time to tell people you love them, it's a reminder that all of us need sometimes.

[Photo: via Tastespotting]

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

boozy watermelon

I'm a big fan of cocktails before dinner, but with this new no-cook approach (or laziness?) I wanted to make everything ahead of time. And then I remembered this overpriced tequila-infused watermelon I had at a cute little fancified Southern restaurant recently, an idea I wanted to steal and make even better at home. You've probably heard of college kids filling watermelons with vodka and letting them sit overnight to get 80 proof fruit. Well, this is sort of similar.

You slice up a watermelon into little triangles, then let it marinate in a mixture of tequila and lime juice for a few hours. To serve, just arrange the slices on a pretty plate, sprinkle with chili and salt and a little fresh mint leaves. Cocktails on a platter!

If you don't like tequila, you could easily substitute vodka, light rum, or gin. Gin would be fantastic. And mix the herbs to suit your tastes as well--basil, obviously, would be great, but so would cilantro or lemon thyme, if you can get your hands on some.

Boozy watermelon
(Serves 6 to 8)
1 4 1/2 lb. wedge of seedless watermelon
1 cup tequila
2 limes, juiced
Mint leaves from 3 stems of mint
flaky salt
Cayenne pepper

Slice the watermelon into thin wedges, leaving the rind intact. Place the watermelon in a single layer in a turkey pan or deep baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine the tequila and lime juice. Pour the mixture over the melon evenly. Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least two hours. When ready to serve, plate the watermelon (reserve the tequila for future use, if you wish). Sprinkle with a pinch of flaky salt, some cayenne pepper and the mint leaves. Serve immediately.

Monday, August 8, 2011

the no-cook dinner party

Other than a pan of brownies that we absolutely could not go on living without, I have hardly turned on the oven all summer. It's been limiting, but also kind of nice not producing workout-levels of sweat while cooking. Instead, we've been eating a lot of salads, pastas, and the usual tacos. And then I invited some friends over for dinner on a typical 90 degree day and wondered what the heck I was going to do.

I thought about breaking my no-oven rule, but then I looked at it as a fun challenge. What could I make without heat that would be dinner party-worthy?

Readers, I did it. And it was good.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

orecchiette with grilled eggplant and burrata

So eggplant probably wouldn't win the vegetable popularity contest. When cooked, it usually ranges from spongy to slimy. It has lots of seeds. It can be bitter. It takes on a weird brown color. Can you tell I don't cook it very often?

But while flipping through a copy of the new Martha Stewart Living, I saw a recipe for pasta with grilled eggplant, burrata cheese, and mint and promptly dog-eared the page. It looked so summery and delicious and you don't have to ask me twice to eat something with burrata in it. Burrata is one of the most delicious foods on the planet. Seriously.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


One of the best things about summer entertaining is that you can just throw a bunch of great ingredients and foods together and call it a meal. I suppose you could do that year-round but to me, it always feels natural for laid back summertime get-togethers. With that in mind, here are links for no-cook, no-fuss recipes.

Sugar snap salad [via Lottie + Doof]
20 summer sandwiches [via Saveur]
Peach slush [via Eat Make Read]
Easy no-cook recipes [via iVillage]
Even more no-cook recipes [via Food52]

And from the Dinner Party archives:
Pineapple salsa

Tomato mango salsa Salami-wrapped Mean Beans
Tuna-stuffed peppers
Kitchen sink summer salad
Summer melon with cucumber, basil, and feta
A heat-free dinner menu (and salmon salad)
Framboise ice cream floats

Monday, July 25, 2011

patio salad

It's too damn hot to cook. Our apartment is hovering around 100 degrees as I type this and the heat has not only killed my desire to get in the kitchen, it's killed my appetite. I just want watermelon, and smoothies, and white wine spritzers. Could you serve those things for a dinner party? Probably not.

But I do have a recipe for you, something I made when it was a downright breezy 85 degrees outside. It's a little dish I found on Food52 (from the blog Cooking After Five) called Patio Salad -- doesn't that sound delightful? It's more of a composed dish than a salad. There's a little tangle of salad greens, some white beans and croutons in pesto, and a little bit of salty prosciutto on the side. It is just the thing you'd want to graze on while you sit on a sun-drenched patio with a glass of white wine, wearing a big, floppy hat. Or in my case, in your hot as hell living room.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

friday giveaway: ball canning kit

If you want to try your hand at canning, don't do what Dan and I did in the beginning and use regular old kitchen utensils and burn your hands and get frustrated. Canning requires a few essential tools, like proper tongs and a strainer. Just in time for summer preserves and pickles, the nice folks at Ball are going to send one lucky reader a canning kit with everything you need to get started.

To enter, please "like" Dinner Party on Facebook (if you haven't already) or follow me on Twitter and leave a comment here. I'll pick a random winner by 6 PM E.S.T. Friday. (Sorry, U.S. and Canada residents only.) Good luck!

**According to the Random Number Generator, Carly is the winner! (Email me please, Carly.) Thanks for playing--have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Now that we're in the height of summer produce season you might want to hoard some of the ripe, juicy goodness to savor during the cold, miserable winter. If so, here are some summery canning projects to inspire you. (And if you lack the proper tools for canning, come back tomorrow for a special giveaway!)

Blueberry ginger jam
[Food in Jars]
Two takes on sour cherry preserves [Tigress in a Jam]
Strawberry conserve
[Eat Make Read]
And tips on making homemade jam [iVillage]


Garlic scape harissa [Tigress in a Jam]
Beet pickles [Food52]
Pickle recipes galore! [via Saveur]

From the Dinner Party archives:
Peach jam
Spicy dill pickles
Spicy pepper jelly

Monday, July 18, 2011

mojitos to go

When life (or your fire escape herb garden) gives you more mint than you know what to do with, it's mojito time. And if you're going to someone else's place for a summertime barbecue, as we did last weekend, it's mojitos to-go time!

This is how you do it:

Sorry, Thiis is howww we doo it! (This is how we do it.)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

vacation dinner on the fly

We specifically rented a vacation house so that we could cook a few meals instead of eating out at restaurants every night. Which always gets old and bloat-inducing after a few days, at least to me. I also like any excuse to cook in a kitchen bigger than my own, which is pretty much every kitchen.

But first we needed food. So Mom programmed the GPS to direct us to a local grocery store. We drove along many long, winding roads, not sure of where we were headed exactly. But that's part of the charm of being in the country, driving along traffic-free roads, enjoying the scenery, breaking for deer on the side of the road or a particularly crazy-looking yard sale.

Monday, July 11, 2011

fresh air

Living in a big city is great. But sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to escape it. And that's what we did. My parents flew up from Florida and we piled into a rental car and drove a few hours north to spend a long weekend in the country. As the city skyline became a distant backdrop, I could feel my shoulders relax. Fresh air will do that to you.

We rented a house, something I had never done before. Vacation houses are a bit of an adventure. There's no front desk to call when the cable goes out (which it did), no tiny soaps in the shower. But there was a comfy, overstuffed couch to sink into, a long, rustic dining table, and a pretty little backyard where we sat and drank wine almost every evening.

Friday, July 1, 2011

summer vacation

Hi, all. I'm taking a much-needed break to recharge my batteries someplace green. Be back soon!

Monday, June 27, 2011


Can you believe June is almost over? Where did the month go? Luckily, the beginning of July usually means Fourth of July barbecues, picnics, and lots of other good outdoor eating. And fireworks! Whether you celebrate the holiday or not (Hi, Canadian readers!), these recipes are perfect for summertime gatherings of all sorts.

Travel-friendly 4th of July picnic menu [via BA]

Savory summer snacks and appetizers [via Saveur]

20 festive 4th of July recipes [via iVillage]

Blueberry lemon tartlets [via Bella Eats]

Mixed berry upside down cake [via Eat Make Read]

Sour cream, cherry, tequila ice pops! [via Lottie + Doof]

Pretty summer drink ideas [via Epicurious]

Genius: summery cocktails made with only three ingredients [via NYT]

And even more drink ideas from Food52 [via Food 52]

And from the Dinner Party archives:
The Red and the Black
Basil lemonade
Lazy margaritas
The Colonial
The Paloma

Pimento cheese
Charred onion dip
Peach, basil, goat cheese crostini

Chili lime peanuts

Picnic meatloaf
Butter burgers
BLT pasta salad
Prosciutto, ricotta, pesto panini
Oven-fried picnic chicken

Kitchen sink summer salad
Grilled zucchini salad with feta

Best-ever brownies
Lemon bars
Chocolate-peanut butter squares
Mini frozen Key lime pies
Framboise ice cream floats

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

avocado-egg-radish tartines

I don't usually do dainty food. I tend to make semi-messy salads, rustic desserts, platters of things people can really dig into. Tiny canapes just aren't my style. But somehow the other weekend, I found myself fussing over open-faced sandwiches on little squares of pumpernickel. (Maybe I was subconsciously thinking of the tiny baby who would be joining us for lunch? Not that she can eat sandwiches.)

Monday, June 20, 2011

what's for dinner, alejandra ramos?

I first met Alejandra Ramos at a party a few months ago and was happy to find that she is just as charming in real life as she is on her blog Always Order Dessert. (Isn't it nice when that happens?) What I didn't realize is how much of an overachiever she is when it comes to food. She told me about attending a food swap in Brooklyn where people exchanged homemade treats. Unlike other slackers who came bearing pans of Rice Krispie treats, Alejandra made batches of hibiscus flower syrup, vanilla bean pudding mix, Italian rainbow cookies, and smoky deviled egg salad with caramelized shallots. If that wasn't impressive enough, she packaged everything beautifully with professional-looking branded labels. Just thinking about that makes me tired, but that's how passionate she is. In addition to wowing people with homemade products, she also maintains a fantastic blog, offers a range of food writing and consulting services, and teaches cooking classes. It goes without saying that she can throw a serious dinner party too. (Check out her answer to question #3!) Here, she shares her thoughts on entertaining. Thanks, Alejandra!

1. Name, occupation, and city
Alejandra Ramos, I am a full-time food writer, food blogger, and real food coach. I also recently launched a series of dinner party-style cooking classes. I live in New York City.

2. When was the last time you threw a dinner party, and who was invited?
This is kind of embarrassing as I always think of myself as a consummate entertainer, but I just realized that, apart from my classes, I haven't hosted a dinner party at all this year! But I just launched my business and we just got married a few months ago so I think I've just been recovering from all that planning. Actually, can I count the wedding? I planned every single aspect of the menu (even giving the caterer my own recipes), and I baked the wedding cake and several of the treats on the dessert table myself. If so, then the guests were 120 of our closest friends and relatives.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

learning curve

If you ever want to feel completely inept, start a new job. Even if you are the only person in the entire world with the particular skills and talents to do said job, you'll still feel like an awkward, bumbling mess as you try to remember everyone's name, figure out a new routine, and learn the various ins and outs of your new workplace. It's just the way it goes. And eventually, once you get past this rough phase, it becomes old hat. Here's hoping, anyway!

After my first week at my new job, I felt so mentally exhausted that I almost burst into tears at the grocery store when my friendly neighborhood cheesemonger asked me how I was doing. It was so embarrassing, getting teary eyed next to the olive bar. "You can do it," he said. "I believe in you."

Fortified by his unwavering confidence in me, I continued my shopping. There was lunch to be made for friends the next day and anyway, if the cheese guy thinks I can handle it, I probably should believe in myself, right?

Monday, June 13, 2011

accidentally delicious black bean dip

Apologies for the hot-so-hot photo. The sun was going down and as you can see, my cocktail is half full, which often leads to sub-par photography. I was also rushing the "shoot" so I could grab some chips and dig into the dip. Which was very, very good. It was almost as popular as our furry houseguest.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

link-o-rama (and some news)

Today's links are all about early summer-late spring produce. It's an amazing time of year for fresh ingredients and here are a few ways to use them.

The beautiful and excellent-sounding strawberry rickshaw cocktail [via Eat Make Read]

Strawberry dishes galore [via Food & Wine]

Gorgeous "suspended in summer" strawberry conserve from the Canal House [via Bon Appetit]

Rustic rhubarb buckle [via Lottie + Doof]

Spring salad with new potatoes
[via Smitten Kitchen]

A pretty French-inspired picnic for early summer [via Saveur]

And if you're wondering what those cute little tartlets are, they are just rounds of puff pastry topped with creme fraiche and berries. Oh, and a little mint!

In other exciting news, I am now the senior food editor at iVillage! Please stop by the food site and check it out. I can't wait to work on even more stories about dinner parties and all other things food-related.

Monday, June 6, 2011

mushroom-poblano tacos (and jalapeno hell)

For our taco night the other weekend, I did a search on Epicurious (one of my favorite dinner party-planning resources) for vegetarian tacos, and I found a recipe involving mushrooms and poblano chiles. I've noticed dark green poblanos (also called pasillas) at the supermarket for years but had never actually bought them before, so I finally had a reason to try them out.

At home, I washed the peppers and sliced them up into thin strips along with baby portobello mushrooms and a red onion. I bit into a pepper and found that it tasted really mild, almost like a bell pepper. Huh. So I grabbed a jalapeno, minced it up, and tossed it into the pan along with the other ingredients.

Fast forward twenty minutes or so: the vegetables were fully cooked, aromatic from garlic, cilantro, and cumin. And my fingers were completely on fire.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

taco night

If you're throwing a dinner party--especially during the warmer months of the year--and don't know what to serve, your safest bet is tacos. This hasn't been scientifically proven or anything, but it's basically fact. Vegetarian friend? Tacos. Friend on a diet? Tacos. Die-hard carnivore? Tacos. Gluten-free? Tacos. 

The key is to make more than one kind of taco (something with meat and something veggie-friendly) and have enough toppings for people to choose from so that everyone can customize their dinner to suit their own individual needs and tastes. Usually, I put out a few types of salsa and always, always guacamole. But this time around, I kept things pretty simple with chipotle crema and a mango-avocado slaw that could double as a taco topping or side dish.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

(kinda-healthy) rhubarb-raspberry crisp

Fruit crisps are one of my favorite desserts to make and eat. With crisps, you don't have to worry about whether the batter will rise, or roll out dough, or wait for butter to soften to room temperature. Crisps are just a tumbling together of ingredients baked until bubbly--the best sort of baking for the often-distracted, improvisational, inexact cook. That is to say, me.

It's rhubarb season and in my mind, crisps are the perfect vehicle for this juicy, tart vegetable. (Yeah, it's  a vegetable, not a fruit. The more you know!) Strawberries are the classic pairing with rhubarb, but I have to say that I don't always like the texture of baked strawberries. They get a little slimy, you know? I wanted something different. And then I clicked over to Alejandra Ramos's delightful blog, Always Eat Dessert, and saw exactly what I was looking for: rhubarb-raspberry crisp.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

giveaway! in the small kitchen

Today I'm giving away a copy of In the Small Kitchen, the just-released-this-week book by the ladies behind the food blog Big Girls, Small Kitchen. To win, please "like" Dinner Party on Facebook (if you haven't already) and leave a comment here. I'll pick a random winner at 5 PM EST Friday. Good luck!

"Il Fornaio" wins! Please email me at lisacericolaATgmailDOTcom with your address. Have a great weekend, everyone.

Monday, May 23, 2011

what's for dinner, big girls, small kitchen?

Today we've got a two-fer Q&A from the ladies behind the adorable (I kinda hate that word, but it really is adorable) blog Big Girls Small Kitchen, where friends Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine chronicle their kitchen adventures. As a fellow city-dweller with a minuscule kitchen, the make-it-work ethos of the site is dear to my heart. But even if you have a vast, suburban kitchen it's a friendly, useful resource for recipes and dinner party inspiration. This week, Cara and Phoebe are set to release their first book In The Small Kitchen: 100 Recipes From Our Year of Cooking in the Real World. Check back here later this week for a book giveaway!

1. Name, occupation, and city
Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine, founders of Big Girls Small Kitchen and authors of In the Small Kitchen, Brooklyn and Manhattan (respectively).

2. When was the last time you threw a dinner party, and who was invited?
Cara: I helped my mom throw a dinner party recently. She had invited some of our good family friends, as well as some newer friends. I made a fish dish that was great, and had a great timeline for a dinner party. First, you roast the potatoes. Then, just when everyone's finishing up drinks and appetizers, you douse the potatoes with a pungent tomato sauce and add filets of cod. By the time it's done, the flavors meld and the fish is lush. We also made sauteed broccoli rabe.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

mujaddara with spiced yogurt

While we're on the subject of weeknight dinners, I've got another gem of a recipe to share.

Lentils and rice might seem like the sort of thing you'd be forced to choke down at a vegan potluck or a hardcore yoga retreat. But when you add sweet, caramelized onions, a knob of butter, and a dollop of spiced yogurt on top, you'll find that they go down pretty easy.

The name of the dish, mujaddara, also lends a certain amount of exoticism. When you tell people that you're serving mujaddara for dinner, they'll most likely lick their lips. Saying "lentils and rice" probably won't elicit the same reaction.

Monday, May 16, 2011

crispy black bean tacos with feta slaw

Friday night is taco night at our house. Tacos (especially with a margarita) seem like a festive way to toast the start of two unencumbered days of freedom. They are also a good way to eat when it's the end of the work week and your fridge is looking a little bare. A win-win in my book.

What's inside the taco varies from week to week. I recently made some surprisingly excellent fish tacos (more on those later) or sometimes we go for the old ground beef-cheddar cheese childhood combo. But there's a black bean taco that's become a weekly staple. It's cheap, relatively healthy, and we usually have most of the components on hand, essential for those Friday nights when you're so fried from the week you can't think straight.


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