I love entertaining, even if I’m not as good at it as I’d like to be. I’m always a little too ambitious, where my guests find me sweating over a few simmering pots and an open oven when they arrive; too adventurous, excited to try out a brainy, untested dish over a failsafe standby; and I hate this but I sometimes I just choke in those crucial last minutes, sending rookie mistakes like under-seasoned or cold dishes out to the table. One reason I like to entertain is that it’s a muscle, and you can develop it, but more than that, hanging out at a dining table with new and old friends is one of my favorite things to do, and if I could do it every night I would.
So last weekend, after a very long dinner party hiatus, I had some friends over. I’d been rereading my Diana Kennedy books and was discovering Rick Bayless ones, so I decided a few Mexican-inspired dishes would be nice on a balmy July day. I made:
- A batch of creamy poblano rajas from More Mexican Everyday, to which I added a sheet pan’s worth of mixed roasted mushrooms; this was taco filling and I’ll write up the recipe sometime soon.
- This corn salad: a hit.
- From a pound of Rancho Gordo Bayo Chocolate Beans—one of the fruits of their partnership with Xoxoc—some vaguely refried beans. I cooked them with bay leaf and onion until creamy, then fried them in a bit of olive oil and garlic and mashed them with some of the bean-cooking liquid until creamy, but still a little chunky. Very good, and great with breakfast the next day.
- And because I’d bitten off more than I could chew, I enlisted the help of two of my guests for the rest of the menu: genius guacamole, from Kristin Miglore’s wonderful book Genius Recipes
- . . . and a platter of ceviche, served cold and heady with grapefruit zest, serrano and fresno chilies, and lots of herbs.
It was quite a feast. There was even a galette for dessert. I should have taken pictures, but—too much to do. Continue reading
I’ve been spending a lot of time at the grocery store. Not shopping, but standing there behind a little sample table, proselytizing my Made by Lukas veggie burgers. I walk into the store and press play on the soundbite that’s tattooed into my brain—”Care to try a fresh vegetable veggie burger? Here, have a taste! These are Made-by-Lukas fresh-vegetable-veggie-burgers! The orange one is Carrot-Parsnip, the red one is beet. Yes, absolutely please do try both! Eighty percent fresh, locally sourced vegetables—our kitchen is up in the Hudson Valley—and quinoa, seeds, millet, and spices make up the rest! No soy! No wheat! Right over there in the cold case next to the tofu!” Repeat a thousand times.
And when I walk out, it takes about an hour before I can turn it off. Don’t get me wrong. I like—I love—these veggie burgers, and I’m proud of the product and even the spiel. It’s incredibly exciting to introduce them to the eaters who are going to get them and love them as I do, and gratifying when that happens. And while it’s occasionally exhausting, it’s mostly amusing when I step back to assess: So this is where my life has taken me. How interesting.
Summer is made for dip. Picnics, free concerts, hikes, camping, outdoor theater, potlucks, swim meets, what have you: all great reasons to pack some dip in the cooler. And I love dip! In fact, I bet it’d be hard to find an American who doesn’t. My friend Izzy sent me a link to the Chowhound “What’s the Best Dip You Ever Had?” discussion board recently and I realized that what this website needs is some dip.
While we were scrolling through, I saw a recipe for a radish dip. It’s a puree of radishes and a block of cream cheese—the cream cheese being practically a dip requirement in some circles, along with one or two of the other popular dip bases like refried beans, mayonnaise, or sour cream—and very little else. (Unrelated, but it made me remember a vegetable dip my mom used to make when I was growing up. The base was mayonnaise and cottage cheese, and then a few vegetables—carrots, olives, scallions, and a few other things, maybe—gave it its name. But the important thing about it is that she served it in the hollow of a loaf of French bread, which made it something of a show-stopping centerpiece and appealingly portable.)
In a previous apartment, in a previous neighborhood, I used to order scallion pancakes from a nearby Thai restaurant pretty frequently. These were thick and moist, cut into little squares, probably deep-fried, with crisp edges and a chewy center. I’ve never since found scallion pancakes quite like them, and in retrospect it seems clear that they aren’t the types of scallion pancakes one typically expects when one orders them. Were they scallion pancakes at all? I still don’t know. But at some point the restaurant stopping having them. This was discouraging, because anything else I ordered was superfluous, a means of meeting the delivery minimum. Finally I went into the restaurant to place my order and asked what exactly had happened that they weren’t selling them anymore. I was told that the delivery—the shipment, I should say, for the woman at the counter boasted that those scallion pancakes came all the way from China—had been delayed. How on earth were they getting their scallion pancakes from China? Had they been frozen? Was she making this up? I lost interest, felt duped.