Dinner Party of Blue, White and Chocolate – Part II

Here is my appetizer table from my most recent dinner party! I love presenting apps on a simple wood cutting board.



Click here for the recipe for the puff pastry tarts, adapted from Ina Garten.  This is a very Barefoot Contessa-heavy menu because her recipes are just soooo good and I can’t help it.

Instead of the large puff pastry rounds she recommends, I cut smaller squares from the rolled-out puff pastry and tucked them into muffin pan cups that I had sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. I pricked the bottom of the puff pastry with a fork so it wouldn’t rise, and then layered the onions, tomato and cheeses according to the recipe.


Blue Cheese Crackers (adapted from Ina Garten)

Really these are thicker than most store-bought crackers. They have more of a Melba toast crunch to them.

  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature – make sure the butter is very soft.  Microwave for five seconds if you have to.
  • 8 ounces Stilton cheese, crumbled (about 12 ounces with rind), at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 extra-large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Using a mixer, cream the butter and Stilton together for 2-3 minutes, or until smooth and fluffy. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour, salt and pepper and mix until it’s in large clumps, under 1 minute. Add a few more tablespoons of flour if it is still extremely creamy (as mine was). Add 1-2 tablespoons of water and mix until it all sticks together (gather it together with your hands to see if it holds).

Dump the dough onto a floured board, press it into a ball, and roll into a 12-inch long log. Brush the log completely with the egg wash. Spread the walnuts in a square on a cutting board and roll the log back and forth in the walnuts, pressing firmly so the walnuts are pressed into the dough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 4 days.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the log 3/8ths-inch thick with a sharp knife and place the crackers on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 15 minutes, then remove pan from the oven and flip all the crackers, and return to the oven for another 15 minutes. Cool and serve at room temperature with a quince or fig jam, or cheeses.

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Oscars Party

What are the Oscars without friends to shout at the screen with you when someone wears rosettes that look like they’re copping a feel? No fun at all, obviously. Lucky for me some friends got decked out in jeans and jewels (it was a casual gathering, yet with a nod to Oscar) and came to yell at Charlize Theron with me. I mean really? (with Seth and Amy). REALLY?

By Jason Merritt, Getty Images

By Jason Merritt, Getty Images

So it was a fun time.

By the way, I love love love the Fug Girls for the red carpet rundown. Check them out, if you haven’t already.

Anyway, back to the shindig: I made two kinds of tea sandwiches, lemon cookiesmy skinny margaritas and a grapefruit champagne cocktail that knocked me on the floor because it was SO tasty that I couldn’t stop myself. So tasty that I forgot to take a photo of it, even as I announced to everyone in earshot how good it was and how it was definitely going on BB&B in the morning. So tasty that I didn’t wake up in time to write this post before morning class and am now posting it well into the afternoon and frankly Ithinkwe’veallbeentheresothere. OKAY?

Raspberries on lemon cookies

Raspberries on lemon cookies


The spread

Please continue for the recipes . . .

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Potato Chip Appetizers

Photo by Appleswitch/Flickrcc

Photo by Appleswitch/Flickrcc

Putting toppings on potato chips and serving them to your dinner party guests as an appetizer is such a gorgeous idea! Simple in conception, as time-intensive as you feel like making it, and totally yummy. Either place an alloted amount on each chip for a more formal dinner party, or let your guests dip them themselves if you are creating a casual atmosphere.

From The Atlantic’s Sally Schneider, “Dress Up Your Chips“:

Here are some of my recent potato chip improvisations:

• with Robiola, a soft, mild Italian cheese that tastes like slightly fermented cream (I learned this combo from my friend Peggy Markel on the island of Elba, who designs food and culture adventures in Italy, North Africa, and India

• with sour cream and just about any smoked fish, such as smoked salmon, trout, or sturgeon

• with crème fraiche and caviar (salmon or American sturgeon, for example)

• with eggs: richly scrambled with cream, soft-boiled or fried; or imagine a tiny fried quail egg on a single potato chip (what an hors d’oeuvre!); warm, smashed hard-boiled eggs mixed with mayo andPimenton de la Vera

• with warm brandade de morue (a salt cod, potato, and olive oil puree)

• with Skordalia, a creamy Greek garlic sauce

• with warmed, shredded, slow-cooked meat like short ribs, Seven-Hour Spoon Lamb, or pot roast with a dab of sour cream

• and of course, with Real Onion Dip.

Potato chips are also a perfect dessert with a sliver of fine chocolate sandwiched between them. I like them for afternoon tea. Or dip the chips in tempered chocolate and lay them on a rack or a piece of wax paper until the chocolate hardens.

The ultimate potato chip confection, however, I learned from a reader of my blog, whose mom used to make it for her private snack: a potato chip with a slab of ripe banana—like a crunchy, salty-sweet banana tart.

Dill, Sour Cream and Onion Vegetable Dip

Watching four hours of TV – even the Olympics – makes me want to munch junk food indiscriminately and without attention to the total amount consumed by the end of the evening, so to (try) to avoid that, I made this dip and crudité in hopes of filling up on tasty veggies instead.

I whipped this up for the Super Bowl and for the Opening Ceremonies, and it was a big hit – which is saying something when it’s competing with nachos, cake, brownies, chips, etc.


Dill, Sour Cream and Onion Vegetable Dip
Adapted from Recipezaar

Don’t forget vegetables for dipping – baby carrots, broccoli florets, red and yellow peppers, snow peas, or cucumbers are all great choices.

  • one 16 ounce container of sour cream (I used full fat, but feel free to try lower fat sour creams)
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 of a sweet yellow onion, minced
  • one small container of baby dill (about 1/4 cup before chopping)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vege-Sal

Mix the sour cream and mayonnaise together. Yes, I made this in a very unattractive plastic tupperware because I was bringing it over to my mom’s later for the Opening Ceremonies and didn’t want to dirty an extra dish. I’m practical like that.


Remove the dill leaves from the stalk.


Chop finely.


Chop the onion and add, along with the Worcestershire sauce and salts. Mix thoroughly and add seasonings to your taste.


Chop up whatever veggies you chose and dunk away!

Festive Popcorn from Seven Spoons


Seven Spoons

As much as her recipes sound tasty, and her photographs of food are tantalizing, it is Tara’s writing that I love to read whenever I visit her cooking blog, Seven Spoons. And you know how much I adore Christmastime, so this post about spiced popcorn in particular really got me.

A tree groaningly, gloriously laden with ornaments, most especially at the precise height of a three-year-old who is thisclose to turning four. A pair of slender glasses that chimed when clinked, filled with berry-hued bubbly drinks to be sipped over the quiet hours of mid night. That bite of shortbread cookie, swirled with raspberry jam and finely chopped almonds, buttery and tender and tart and perfect.

I think I’m going to make this popcorn as an easy-to-carry-on-the-subway appetizer for a dinner I’ve been invited to next weekend.

Check out her writing and recipes, you won’t be disappointed. http://sevenspoons.net/


It’s finals time for me, which means that I’m officially not allowed in the kitchen because I will procrastinate my way through many recipes and not learn what I need to learn. Cooking is my worst procrastination tool because I can justify it – I need to eat, so I obviously have to cook something anyway, and if I’m cooking anyway I might as well try something new and fun and tasty that will take four hours and require many dishes to be washed….and then half a day later I’m full and happy and utterly ill-prepared for my exams. So I am not allowed in the kitchen. I eat a lot of Subway during finals.

That said, I totally broke my own rule and made some fluffy, gorgeous biscuits.


I couldn’t help it: Smitten Kitchen put them up and they only have five ingredients! All of which were all in my kitchen! It’s my kryptonite. So easy to just throw together. Plus, a good friend was arriving from out of town tonight. PLUS, another friend was coming over for to kill some time before a date. The confluence of those events just can’t go by me without my offering some sort of homemade food!

So, I threw together the biscuits at lunchtime (using a wine glass to cut them, since I don’t have a biscuit cutter) and stuck them in the fridge so I could bake them ten minutes before everyone was supposed to arrive. I followed her recipe, so I won’t be redundant and repost it here – just click here to go to the recipe.

biscuit dough board

My dough made eight normal-sized biscuits and one baby biscuit.


I served them with an assortment of creamy butter, clotted cream, jams, honey and raspberries and oh my gosh, all of the toppings together was the best combination.

These biscuits are really tasty right out of the oven, but don’t keep very well. We made fried egg/cheddar cheese/turkey bacon breakfast sandwiches with them the next morning and they were too dry (but no matter: I just threw some extra ketchup on that bad boy and called it good!). However, they’re so easy to make ahead that they’re great for dinner parties. I would make them for an unusual dinner party appetizer with either honey butter or herb butter, or for a dinner party dessert with a fruit sauce and spiced whipped cream. So tasty.

Sweet Home Dinner


It was gorgeous and a wonderful evening. Alexis was down from Connecticut for the day and stopped by to stay hi while I was stringing the flowers for the ceiling. Of course I invited her to stay for dinner, and she was such a wonderful addition to our party – and got to hear lots of stories about Fairfield (where we all grew up) that either scared or intrigued her! Ha!

It’s an artistic group, so it was really fun to create a colorful table with bouquets of color pencils over brown craft paper that begged to be drawn on. I used it as the easiest place cards ever – just wrote everyone’s names above their plates.

DSC00963The flowers were simple, but added a punch of color. I bought four bunches of carnations in yellow and three shades of pink, and kept each color in its own vase rather than mixing them. It made the flowers look cohesive and at the same time, with the colored pencils, made the table as a whole very colorful.


I then strung blossoms on three long strands of thread and hung them from the ceiling for something more festive and with a little bit of South Asian flair.


DSC00948We made gorgeous doodles.

mosaicc029a8a12365810ee7ba98c79040ae60c68648d2And the food…Anna brought her gorgeous macaroons made with organic sweetened condensed milk, but I was so consumed with eating them that I completely forgot to take a photograph. Just imagine perfectly browned, chewy golden macaroons, and you’ll have a good sense of how lovely they were. Please continue for the post-mortem on my dishes.

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