Archive for the ‘Party food’ Category

I haven’t been able to hit the park for a picnic with friends this summer because of the non-stop, scorching heat. But these two jazzed up picnic sides have made great lunch items, evoking the essence of dining al fresco without stepping foot outside.

I tossed local baby potatoes I fetched at the farmers market with olive oil, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and freshly cracked pepper and sea salt to taste.  Tossed in a bundle of chopped Italian parsley for color and bright flavor — three crisped, diced  three strips of smoked bacon. Awesome.

These baked beans are to die for:  not sweet and tangy like their classic barbeque counterparts, but light and smoky and incredibly flavorful.  The salty diced ham stews with the onion, celery, carrot and garlic — simmers with diced tomatoes and wilted chard.  The blend of white navy beans and tan pinto is delicious.  (h/t Food Network Mag)


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When I think of lemon bars, I think of my Grandma Betty, and her puckered lips and beaming smile after taking a bite of one of these tangy-sweet treats.  She loved to make a batch, usually with lemon jello or pudding mix, and then refrigerate them so they were cool.

Inspired by Betty, I made these bars for a recent picnic and barbecue. (h/t Bon Appetit 2004)  They’re a wonderful eggy-custardy texture on top, and the coconut in the crust makes adds a chewy, tropical dimension on the bottom.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar and garnish with some red raspberries on a platter — turned out great.

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¡Este pastel es increíble! Chalk it up to Mexican magic: this two-layer bundt cake by Marcela Valladolid requires you to suspend disbelief of both its incredible decadence and how it’s made.

First you prepare a rich chocolate cake batter and fill the bottom half of a buttered bundt cake pan. Then, you pour the liquid, eggy flan mixture — which includes 4 ounces of cream cheese — on top of the batter.

But while you bake it covered for an hour, the layers magically invert:  the chocolate cake rises to the top and the custardy flan sinks to the bottom. When you flip the creation onto a serving platter, the result is a beautiful creamy, vanilla-caramel flan layer atop a rich, moist chocolate cake.  Drizzle with a salty caramel sauce.  It wowed everyone’s socks off.

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When it comes to summer side salads, I’m a big fan of the tangy vinegar-based dressings over their creamy mayonnaise-based counterparts.  The bite and bitterness of the vinegar offers a great counterpoint to homemade grilled pork sausages or hamburgers, salty fried chicken, or sweet barbecue ribs.  You also don’t have to worry about the mayo spoiling easily in the heat at your outdoor picnic.

For the cuke salad, thinly slice a seedless English hothouse cucumber and half a dozen medium-sized red radishes. Then, in a small bowl, mix together a fourth cup of rice wine vinegar, two teaspoons of sugar, teaspoon each of onion powder and garlic powder, fresh cracked black pepper, and sea salt to taste.  Mix the dressing and sliced veggies together and let stand in the fridge for an hour before serving cold.

And, here’s my twist on classic German potato salad using pickled okra:

German Potato Salad

1 1/2 pounds red baby potatoes

5 slices of bacon

1/4 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup chopped celery

1/4 cup chopped picked okra

1/4 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

salt/pepper to taste

1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

(1) Cut the baby potatoes in halves or quarters and boil in salted water. Meanwhile, fry the 5 slices of bacon until crispy and dice.

(2) Saute the onion, garlic and celery in some olive oil until tender. Set aside.

(3) Combine the broth, vinegar and spices in a small pan and bring to a boil.

(4) Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, tossing the potatoes with the bacon, onion mixture, diced pickled okra and vinegar dressing.  Add salt/pepper to taste, topping with fresh parsley.

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Like lemon?  Then you’ll love these zesty and moist cakes with a sweet lemon glaze. Perfect for a brunch, picnic, or taking to the office to share.  The eggy cake batter includes 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon zest, which gives a hint of tang on the inside.  But it’s the double dose of lemon on the outside that really puts these over the top:  shortly after taking the cakes out out of the oven, you drizzle a sweet lemon syrup on top, allowing the liquid to soak in.  Later, you frost the tops with a creamy lemon glaze.   Adapted from Ina Garten’s Lemon Yogurt Cake recipe here.

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What do you get when you give a bunch of professional journalists sharp knives, a couple bottles of champagne, and instructions to work together to prepare a gourmet meal?  An incredibly lively — and dangerously unpredictable! — dinner party that you’ll never forget. Some of the best times among friends are spent in the kitchen, and this night proved that once again.  Check out this rockin’ menu we compiled and prepared with help from our friends at the DC-based cooking school “Company’s Coming:”

Appetizers: Portuguese Tuna and Beans; Goat Cheese Spread; Sizzling Lemon Shrimp with Garlic; Selection of Grilled Gourmet Sausages

Entree: Flat Iron Steak with Shallot Confit; Rissotto with Red Wine, Pancetta, and Parmesan; Boston Lettuce Salad with Pine Nuts

Dessert: Molten Chocolate Cake with Raspberries

Wines: Montelliana, Prosecco, ‘Montello e Colli Asolani’; 2007 La Carraia, ‘Orvieto,’ Classico; 2007 Banfi, ‘Chianti Classico’

And now the winning take-away recipe from the evening….Molten Chocolate Cake!  ( This is not, repeat not, a healthy dessert, but it’s a divine re-creation of a classic steakhouse favorite that I love to order when I’m out.)

Molten Chocolate Cake from Ed and Jinny Fleischman

1 cup butter

8 oz bittersweet chocolate

4 eggs

4 egg yolks (in addition to the 4 whole eggs!)

1/2 cup white sugar

4 teaspoons of flour

(1) Prepare ceramic ramekins or other small baking cups by buttering the inside and dusting with flour.  Repeat twice for each cup – this is key so the cake will pop out.

(2) Melt butter over low heat in saucepan. Add chocolate and stir until just melted.

(3) Beat eggs, yolks and sugar until light and thick. Stir the butter and chocolate together and add in the egg mixture. Quickly beat in the flour.

(4) Divide mixture evenly between ramekins. Either refrigerate for later baking or continue by baking.

(5) Place ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 6-7 minutes at 450 degrees. (Note: the center will not be firm but the sides will be set.)

(6) Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 seconds before flipping out of the mold.

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Delerium2… with a fun bottle to boot! (Check out the pink elephants!)  Delerium Tremens is a strong Belgium pale ale — 9% — brewed in Melle, Belgium, and imported to the U.S.  It’s crisp and citrusy like the popular Belgian white ale “Blue Moon” but less sweet and more potent.   My waiter at Brasserie Beck calls this his “catch up beer” — perfect for joining a group of friends who are already a few drinks down.  Turns out DT was also named “Best Beer in the World” in 1998 at the World Beer Championships in Chicago.

So, what’s the name mean?  Delerium Tremens is Latin for “trembling madness.”

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