Rosemary and Thyme, Garlic and Lemon

I keep thinking about the garlic-lemon aioli that I made for Christmas Eve dinner. It was SO yummy that I desperately want an excuse to make it again for another dinner party, and I found one in these heavenly rosemary-thyme oven fries. Wouldn’t they be tasty dipped into garlic-lemon aioli? I love all those herbs and spices together.

The flavors in both components are strong, so serve them with salmon cooked simply with salt and pepper, your favorite vegetable and a nice bread. Or, to make the menu gluten-free, just leave the bread out. It’s a casual family-style dinner, but you won’t be able to make it ahead. To make up for that, prepare dessert earlier with something easy, like cookies.

Rosemary and Thyme, Garlic and Lemon Menu

Main Courses:


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Americana Dinner Party Menu

Using potato chips as appetizers for a dinner party has been intriguing me since yesterday. I’ve been mulling over a dinner party menu that would go well with them – especially with the potato chip and a slice of banana idea. It’s such a classic American snack that it almost begs for a classic American menu to go with it – one that’s whimsical and casual like potato chips, but made with high quality ingredients and a feeling of specialness that makes it fun to create for guests.



Americana Menu


  • Thick-cut potato chips (homemade or store-bought) with thin slices of ripe banana on each one

Main Courses:

  • Homemade burgers (whatever kind of burger you prefer; I would make turkey burgers) with toppings such as brie, gorgonzola, heirloom tomatoes, avocado, sprouts, arugula and whole-grain mustard. You could even put a fried egg on top for those who want!


  • Classic banana splits with multiple ice cream options, sauces and fun candies

Serve this to friends with whom you can be casual and get messy! Keep the table fairly clear to make room for all the topping options, and serve family style.

Casino Inspiration

casino2All photos ©United International Pictures (UIP)

I saw Scorsese’s Casino for the first time the other day and LOVED the design ethos. The textures, the technicolors, the glitz and glamour of old school Vegas make me want to a) immediately fly to Vegas for the weekend, and/or b) immediately throw a fantastic Vegas-style dinner party.

Preferably both. Immediately.


Have I told you that I love Vegas like it’s going out of style? Which, OK, it kind of is; but still, it is my disneyland in the desert, where life only exists for the purpose of fun and lying by the pool in the sun.

I especially look forward to the flight in, because you fly over a whole lot of nothingness for a long time and then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, below you is a glittering man-made oasis with nothing but sand surrounding it that could not exist without our extraordinary ability to make something out of nothing. It’s a giant paean to the gluttony and consumerism – and capitalist ingenuity – of our culture, and there’s something beautiful about people being able to create a place that is entirely, solely, exclusively only for our own enjoyment of those sins. I love it.

And I don’t even gamble.

casino4I love the crazy colors and the glitter and sequins, the fact that you can walk around at 7am in a cocktail dress and nobody thinks a thing about it. People say you can do that stuff in New York without anyone caring, but you can’t. (Not that I’ve tried it – what, lil ol me???!)

I love the fact that everything is an extreme high or low: the temperature, the prices, the winnings. Everyone I know either loves Vegas or hates it – there are no feelings in between.


So what would a Vegas-style menu be? I think it has to be a little be a little classy, a little bit trashy, a little bit over the top and a lot of fun.

I’d start with a big round of cocktails and appetizers. Vegas is into wine these days, but old school Vegas liked their cocktails stiff and large. I’d serve classic martinis (vodka or gin as you like) with blue cheese stuffed olives (traditional with a twist), Cosmopolitans (because Vegas just is), and have some home-spiced bar nuts to munch on.

For the meal, steak is the obvious choice, and a perfectly good one, but it isn’t my thing. I’d make delicately poached salmon with creme fraiche and caviar, creamed spinach as a side, and serve a huge gooey dark chocolate fudge cake with a good port for dessert.

Soooo decadent, I love it!

This menu is clearly not the only way to go  – I know you guys have some juicy Vegas stories and can come up with some great Vegas-esque menus. What would your trashy, classy, over the top decadent menu be? Leave ’em in the comments!

New Ways to Use Pantry Ingredients


Cooking Light came up with some ways to use classic ingredients in new ways: cinnamon, soy sauce, peanut butter and several others.

My favorite idea of theirs is to use thyme and Parmesan cheese in savory waffles or pancakes – how yummy and unusual for a dinner party! I would top them with sauteed mushrooms, maybe in a creamy sauce with a little chicken, if you like that sort of thing, and a dollop of creme fraiche on top. Mmmmmmmm!! Of course, you could leave the chicken out for a vegetarian meal, or even replace it with some soy veggie crumble for a little heartiness.

I can’t find a recipe I like for what I have in mind – I’m just going to have to try it out and see if I can get it right. This one is closest, though I wouldn’t fry the chicken first: Creamy Chicken with Mushrooms.

Lucky Meal for the New Year Dinner Party

Happy New Year!

I have a strong feeling this is going to be a good year. I feel it. I wish the best for each of you with a fresh start and renewed energy, and I look forward to sharing many gorgeous and yummy things with all of you here in the next year.


Epicurous has a lovely description of lucky foods from around the world to usher in a most lucky 2010 – and Nancy, my step-grandma, cooked the Southern ones here: collard greens for lots of greenbacks and black-eyed peas for pocket change, she said! I took hasty photos with my iphone and then lost it the next day in I’m not sure which snowboarding tumble in roughly three feet of heavy powder. So no photos from me, and I have to go buy a new phone today.

I’m a midwesterner – now New Yorker – and have absolutely no instincts in my blood for real down home cooking, so it’s all new to me. When Nancy made these dishes last year, I found out that traditionally you cook collard greens with ham hock! I never knew there were dishes with meat in them that didn’t specify that there was, in fact, meat in them. My poor little non-ham-eating heart was shocked. So she substituted chicken broth for the ham for my sister and I and it may not have been strictly traditional, but it was damn good. This year, she actually started three days before, when she cooked the collard greens and then set them in a ziploc bag in the garage to keep cool and steep. Two days before, she put the black-eyed peas in a huge bowl of water to soak, and then the day of she made grits. You could make them with veggie broth just as well, for a nice vegetarian meal.

ChampagneYou could make this lucky New Years meal anytime during the year – nothing wrong with a little luck in April or August, presented with full New Years flair of gold and silver all over the place. Anytime you need a fresh start and a little favor with the gods, it would make a great dinner party and would be so happily different from the usual holidays at the usual times. Give everyone New Years hats and noisemakers, and celebrate each person’s rebirth in whatever way they want! It could be a lovely addition to a happiness group or to cheer someone up.

Arbor Inspiration

This fall I went to the Central Park Conservatory Garden for the first time, and I was so struck by the beauty of the half-circle arbor covered in greenery.

I know it’s a slightly strange obsession, but I absolutely love arbors covered in greenery.  Flower arbors somehow don’t do it for me – too Laura Ashley, I think.  I confess that I had to even look up what arbors are called; for a while I was just calling them “those green covered things that I love,” but you know what, it’s not the name that matters as long as people get what you’re talking about.  Or so I tell myself.  Anyway, now I know thy name is arbor.

I love this arbor too, which is also in Central Park.

Arbors like these make me desperately want to host a small garden dinner party under the archway, with long wood tables covered only in white hydrangeas and potted plants, white dinnerware, rustic family-style food, and zillions of white pillar candles.  Dinner would begin at dusk, just when you start needing the candles, and there would undoubtedly be acoustic music of some kind imbuing the atmosphere without much trouble on anybody’s part.  The wine would be one of those gorgeous bottles you vow to remember the name of and always forget, and the conversation would flow beautifully amongst friends.

Large image my own of the Central Park Conservatory; images on right from Martha Stewart Weddings

Under the Arbor Menu (to be passed family style; no delineated courses)

Christmas Eve Family Dinner Party

Well, things have been a little rough around here with the passing of my grandma, who was my mom’s only immediate family besides my sister and I.  I’ve been writing pages and pages about her very interesting life and want to condense it into something readable, but am finding it difficult – hopefully will manage it soon just to make myself feel like it’s finished and I can stop writing every detail before I forget.  And I tweaked my back last week on my way to California for the funeral, so I’m right now sitting up very straight with a hefty pillow behind me.  My mom is convinced that your back’s health is a metaphor (or simile?) for how supported you are in your life, so I guess according to her I’m not supported enough – though I feel like that’s a big world of excuses just begging you to come in, and really I just picked up my suitcase wrong when getting on the plane last week.  I have lots to do for Christmas that doesn’t involve lifting or twisting; there is no snow here anyway, so I don’t feel badly about not being able to snowboard for another week or so; I have a massage therapist who is incredibly good at inflicting a lot of pain on me; and with family and friends all descending on Jackson Hole for the holidays everything is really just fine. This is even my view while I write, looking south into the valley and over the Snake River:


Plus, I’m completely obsessed with Christmas in general and love love love this time of year!  Lights everywhere, merry people, and presents galore for all the good little girls and boys – and everyone I love was very good this year ;)

I’m trying to come up with my Christmas Eve menu.  We always have fried oysters for Christmas Eve; I don’t know why, yes it is a strange tradition, and I think it just originated because my mom likes fried oysters and who goes to the trouble of such a thing on non-holidays?!

oysterbiteCoconut & Lime

So it has to be centered on the oysters, and I really want to make brussel sprouts just because they’re in season and I’m completely obsessed with them right now, plus they’re also, like the oysters, a little different and fun.  But what else?  Oysters and brussel sprouts do not a meal make.

A nice simple potato would be quiet enough to meld with the strong oyster flavor and also go well with a nice aioli sauce for the oysters.  I like this plan: oysters, new potatoes, and brussel sprouts (please continue for the recipe) for the meal.  Something like poached pears for dessert, because my mom has to have her fruity desserts, and I think no appetizers because we’re all going to be crammed into the kitchen cooking and frying until everything is hot and ready to be devoured.  Patience is not a virtue in my family when there is hot food waiting to be eaten.

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