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Archive for December, 2008

Happy New Year, everyone!  For anyone wanting to add last-minute appetizers to their spreads tonight, I highly recommend this lovely NYT article from last December that features 101 simple appetizers ready in 20 minutes or less.  Last year we made no. 38 (marinated mushrooms) and they were divine and delightfully simple.

We have much of our menu for this year planned (we’re prone to stay in on NYE as a rule, and the fact that another six inches of snow is falling today is solidifying those plans), but we’ll likely go out after lunch to pick up the remaining pieces:

  • Fennel salad (fennel is cut using a mandoline) with fresh oranges and shallots
  • Squid ceviche with grapefruit, orange and lime juice, interpreted from Andrew’s (of Top Chef season 4) winning recipe
  • Black or red lumpfish caviar with Havarti cheese and likely crackers
  • Seared scallops
  • Chorizo, potentially with homemade salsa (provided Romeo’s has decent tomatoes)
  • Homemade focaccia
  • Marinated mushrooms (again!)
  • Grapes to eat at midnight

We also have quite a few wines on hand, including three sparklers:  a bottle of Asti Spumante (to remind ourselves of visiting the city), a bottle of Prosecco, and a bottle of California extra-dry.

Anyone else planning fun NYE dinners?  I know Diana and Penny are…

And for no reason other than wanting to post a photo, here is some grilled chorizo and salsa we served last year (on ciabatta rolls):

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I know I’ve been away from the blog for a while–my mind is very much in job-hunting mode and that, along with the holidays, have zapped me of inspiration.  But tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, and the husband and I are going to celebrate as we usually do–making lots of food, drinking wine, watching movies and playing board games–and we’re going to add a new player to the lineup:  a homemade focaccia loaf.

With the exception of two cookie baking episodes, our Artisan stand mixer has laid primarily dormant, mostly because I hate baking sweets (because then we have to eat them).  But our journey to Italy opened me up to the wonders of a simple focaccia, and since we’ve been back I’ve made well over five loaves, including one we brought to a Christmas party a few weeks ago.  It’s an insanely easy recipe that I’ve adapted from an Emeril recipe, and the results are fabulous:

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See what I mean? (more…)

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Buon natale!

Happy Christmas, and a happy holidays to all!

Some of my favorite Christmas moments of 2008:

  • Watching the first season of Weeds with my mother-in-law;
  • Playing Trivial Pursuit with my brother and sister-in-law and parents, and hearing the latter really enjoy themselves for the first time in a while;
  • Giggling over how slow the guitarist plays during Christmas Eve Mass;
  • Also giggling at the gaggle of parents in the pew behind us talking loudly before the service, then talking all throughout Mass as if it was social hour at the pool, especially after the confrontation between them and a couple looking for a seat ended in a bit of a screaming match;
  • Finding out that the husband and I are going to be auntie and uncle soon, as my brother and sister-in-law are having a baby!

All in all, a good holiday.  I wish the same can also be said for yours!

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Not sure where we picked it up, but neither Michael nor I have been feeling all that great this week…hence the lack of activity.  That said, we’re expecting our first signficant snow since February (the one that derailed me in the wilds of Chicagoland for a weekend), and therefore are expecting to be relatively shut-in save for a trek to Archie’s tonight, and venturing out to Romeo’s for provisions for our meals for the rest of the weekend.

Fortunately, even though the snow hasn’t started yet, CT DOT has been out in force treating the roads, which should hopefully make plowing later significantly easier.  We’re lucky in that all of our major needs are within two blocks, and we have a watering hole a little further out if we get sick of only talking to each other.

A bonus, though, is that being housebound over a weekend is that it encourages you to indulge in activities that during the week seem a little lazy to engage in–because if you’re not at work, you’re glued to your computer looking for work.  Now I can look for inspiration instead, so look for more activity to come.

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I caught the annual airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas tonight, and something hit me anew as I was watching the famous interchange between Lucy and Schroeder as she tells him to play “Jingle Bells”; that is, the fact that his beloved piano’s keys were painted on and in theory did not produce music.  Was it the power of his imagination, combined with his love of Beethoven that made the music come through on his piano?

Ponder with me, if you will, the infamous “Jingle Bells” exchange: (more…)

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From Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook, page 69:

How to Hard-Boil a Freaking Egg:

Put your eggs gently into a small pot filled with cold water.  Bring the water to a rapid boil.  As soon as the water is boiling, shut off the heat and put a lid on top.  After 10 minutes, remove the eggs and slide them carefully into ice water to cool.  When cool?  Peel.  Here’s how you know if you’ve done it right:  if the egg is cooked through, the shell peels off cleanly, and the yolk is not surrounded by an unsightly gray ring.  Gray ring?  Try again.

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Well played, Bourdain.

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Ah, the bridal shower:  a chance for a bride-to-be to gather with her friends and loved ones and open presents and catch up with people you haven’t seen in forever.  Mine was held back in July at my godmother’s gorgeous house, and it was a fun afternoon–albeit on a stinking hot day.  So hot, in fact, that I welcomed a crisp glass of pinot grigio (and later prosecco and some Italian sodas) in lieu of a pinot noir, and the food we enjoyed was simple and refreshing and perhaps most importantly, easy to eat when the heat drains one of a hearty appetite.

It did, however, make a reference to our delight in food thanks to the favor designed by one of my bridesmaids (and now recently-engaged dear friends) Jess:  a jar of Italian seasoning or dried basil (we had our choice), with a custom label on it, in Helvetica, naturally.  Her influence was felt throughout much of the day as she is an amazing party-planner, and I’m so excited for her to finally get all of that doting attention lavished onto her as she prepares to marry her awesome fiance.

But I am getting ahead of myself–let’s get back to the episode!

When we last left our cheftestants, Alex was let go for not making a creme brulee, and he, Melissa and Jamie were the bottom three.  Landing there has clearly shaken both of the surviving ladies up, and winning the challenge has bolstered Ariane’s confidence significantly (even though she’s clearly assumed the “mom” role of the house as she’s sweeping up after those no-good kids).  Stefan is revealed to have a big crush on Jamie–he showers her with little “presents” like pants for her stuffed rabbit made from a Calphalon dish towel, and Jamie is torn by his arrogance and his charm.  Hey Jamie:  that’s how I feel about you!

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The blushing bride to be!  Photo from Bravotv.com

Real spoilers after the jump. (more…)

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