Wednesday, March 30, 2011


If left to my own devices, I would probably put something on a piece of toast and call it dinner every single night. To me, there's nothing finer than crunching into a slice of baguette topped with something delicious.

And sometimes the best topping ideas seem to come out of nowhere. For our dinner with Dan's dad Larry, I knew we'd need something to snack on before the main event hit the table. So I grabbed an avocado and mashed it up in a bowl with a squeeze of lemon and a good hit of salt. I spooned the makeshift guac onto the baguette slices and drizzled everything with some olive oil. Sounds stupidly simple, but it was really delicious. A good avocado can almost stand on its own. You don't necessarily need lime, and jalapeno, and cilantro. (Although that never hurts.)

On the other side of the plate went a goat cheese-sliced pear-honey crostini. The key to this combo is lots of fresh ground black pepper. Like a tiny bit more than you think you'll want.

What are your favorite things to put on sliced bread? Enlighten us in the comments. I, for one, need more ideas!

Monday, March 28, 2011

comfort food

Just because I blog about dinner parties doesn't make me a picky pants when it comes to food. When dining at someone's home, I'm probably the easiest guest at the table to please. You could serve me almost anything and I would gobble it up with pleasure and ask how you made it, where you found the recipe, and any other number of questions until you start to think twice about inviting me again. Being fed in someone's home is a very special thing. I am so excited when someone offers to cook for me that the food itself is almost secondary.

But if my friend Audrey is in the kitchen, it really is all about the food. Although her sparkling personality and sweet fiance Will don't hurt.

Friday, March 25, 2011

dinner party in remedy quarterly

Remedy Quarterly is a very cool independently-published food magazine by Kelly Carambula, of the equally cool blog Eat Make Read. Every issue includes stories, recipes, home remedies, and the latest edition, which is themed around celebrations, also includes an essay by me on birthday dinners. I am super excited to be a part of something so well-designed and thoughtfully produced. You can order a copy--only $7.50--here.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

healthy-ish dinner for three

Healthy eating is something I reserve for normal weekday meals, not dinner parties. Not that I'm using Paula Deen levels of butter in everything, but I'm more concerned with things tasting good than watching my calorie or fat intake. Because there is no fun at all in that.

But when Dan's dad Larry joined us for dinner two Sundays ago, it was following a day where we ate a lovely lunch (and several tasty cookies) at Bouchon Bakery then a pretty rich dinner of steak frites. I woke up the next morning with a food hangover. Which is worse than an actual hangover because you don't even get the chance to go wild.

Anyway, when planning our meal for the evening, I wanted something light, simple, and artery de-clogging. In situations like this, I often make chicken Milanese (pan-fried or simply grilled) topped with an arugula salad and big shavings of parmesan. Which is delicious, but also sort of boring. And then I thought about a chicken dish I made a few years ago that takes that basic idea to a higher level of deliciousness.

Monday, March 21, 2011

what's for dinner, sara kate gillingham-ryan?

Is there a more useful, more comprehensive, more thought-provoking food blog than The Kitchn? If so, I haven't found it. Part of the Apartment Therapy family, it is one of the most popular food sites on the web, covering topics ranging from kitchen makeovers to unusual ingredients to weeknight dinners. The Kitchn is run by freelance food writer and cookbook author Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan. Her newest book is the dinner party-centric Good Food to Share: Recipes for Entertaining with Family and Friends, which is full of casual yet simple menus. Today, she shares some of her entertaining wisdom with us. Thanks, Sara Kate!

1. Name, occupation, and city

Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan, founding editor of Apartment Therapy's
The Kitchn, freelance food writer, and author, New York.

2. When was the last time you threw a dinner party, and who was invited?

If cloth napkins, candles and warm plates mean it's a dinner party, then I am having dinner parties almost every night when I cook for my daughter and husband. The time before that was last week when we had our friends Stephen and Haidy over to talk about summer vacation ideas.

3. What is the best menu you've ever made for company?

I think my summertime cooking is best because I feel most free with the ingredients. We entertain a lot in the summer; I'm thinking of a dinner last summer with lobster from a nearby dock, local corn, heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo and a huge salad from my garden.

Friday, March 18, 2011

being thankful

This was not my favorite week by far. Every day seemed to bring a new awful surprise or annoyance. When a woman rudely pushed past me to get off an elevator the other day, I almost broke down and cried. It was a stupid, meaningless thing but the week had done me in at that point. And then I read yet another article about Japan and quickly gained some perspective. When truly horrific things are happening in the world, it feels self-indulgent to mourn your own trivial problems. But real tragedy can also remind you to be thankful for what you have, to pull your loved ones close, to get over whatever small thing is bothering you, to give your money and time. This weekend, I'm planning to sit around a table with friends and drink and eat and appreciate their company and the luck of living where I do, when I do. And be very, very grateful for that. I hope you'll do the same.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

guest post: coq au vin (with a side of guilt)

Today, we have the epic tale of a dinner party thrown by my friend (and famed playwright) Colin P. Delaney. I promise I did not pay him to write these nice things about my cooking. --Lisa

What’s best about having a friend who’s a food writer—more particularly, a writer whose blog is centered around throwing dinner parties—is that you get invited to a lot of wonderful dinner parties, where your cocktail is continually refreshed, the amuse-bouches are plentiful and your entrĂ©e is served entirely gratis (nonetheless, I like to think I “tip” with my ever-charming repartee).

However, there’s a corollary to all these dinners, which, cutting to the quick, is guilt. Because for all the times Lisa’s hosted you in her lovely home, you’ve reciprocated precisely never. At first, it’s just a little fluttering that you easily bat aside, thinking “Well, she likes to do these things, ” a denial that eventually frog-marches into “Really, it’s me doing her a favor­—otherwise, what would she have to write about?”

But every dog, as they say, has his day, or in this case, dinner. Emails were exchanged, times were proposed and a date was decided on. Now! What to make?

Oh, hell.

Monday, March 14, 2011

dinner party 3.0

It was time for some sprucing up around here, so Dinner Party got a little face-lift. Nothing drastic--just a new change of clothes. Special thanks to illustrator extraordinare Caroline Hwang who made my new logo. I hope you like it.

And an extra special thanks to all of you for reading and commenting over the past three plus (!) years. I would have you all over for a big celebratory meal if I could, but my apartment is really tiny. And I really like the idea of all of us sharing a table together in this virtual space.



Friday, March 11, 2011

sunday night spaghetti and meatballs

I've always loved the concept of Sunday sauce. There's something very comforting about a leisurely assembled, long-simmered ragu made every week. Maybe you store the sauce in the fridge and eat it all week long, or maybe it gets consumed all at once by a table full of hungry friends and family. I'm half Italian, but never grew up with a grandma who did this sort of thing, which is probably why it appeals to me.

I've written before about how Sunday nights are the most sacred time of the week for me. It's the tail-end of the weekend, right when that horrible dread of returning to work rises up in the back of my throat. Sunday nights are about being at home and soaking up every last bit of comfort before the weekday routine starts all over again.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

smoked salmon on puff pastry

Smoked salmon, creme fraiche, dill, and a shower of lemon zest. What's not to love? And it's pretty nice-looking, to boot.

Continuing the "Dan's favorite foods" theme, this appetizer is inspired by lox and cream cheese on a bagel, but uses a puff pastry base. So it's sort of a bagel, pizza, puff pastry hybrid. Which equals delicious!

All you have to do is bake a sheet of puff pastry according to the package directions (about 15 minutes at 400 degrees), then spread on a layer of creme fraiche (let the container sit out for 30 minutes or so, so it softens up) and top with smoked salmon slices, a few sprigs of dill, and the zest of one lemon. Slice it up into pretty little squares and serve while still warmish.
Don't like smoked salmon? I'd substitute prosciutto and basil, with maybe some minced, dried figs on top? Don't like creme fraiche? You could use any number of soft, spreadable cheeses, or even cream cheese in a pinch. For a vegetarian version, you could top the puff pastry with roasted mushrooms, or pickled red peppers, or sauteed greens. The charm of this recipe is that it is infinitely flexible. And edible.


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