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.


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