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.


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