It took me nearly four months, but finally - long after moving into our new apartment - I managed to have an actual dinner party. The theme, as best as I could adhere to it, was summery French fare, in honor of Bastille Day (which as I see it, is an excuse to have Champagne and watch the petanque matches on Smith Street while drinking sangria out of plastic cups at noon on a Sunday).
I didn't do anything fancy or particularly complicated, but if you'll let me toot my own horn, this Shrimp Provencal was pretty fantastic -- I followed this recipe pretty closely, adjusting some of the quantities (or, 'didn't measure' if you prefer) and added a handful of fresh chopped tarragon, and served with rice.
The gazpacho was loved by some (okay, one), deemed too spicy by others, and I have enough leftover that I will be able to conduct a series of taste tests to see if I can identify possible alterations to make on future batches.
Alexis's mushroom onion tartlettes were a HUGE hit (she'll have to post the recipe!), as was the ham -- ham which I had nothing to do with, aside from purchasing a pound-plus of it from the little French deli on Clinton Street, near Cobble Hill Park. I sliced open a baguette and heaped on grainy French mustard and this really fantastic ham, cut it into small sandwiches, and VOILA, a perfect eat-at-parties-where-there-are-not-enough-chairs-for-all-guests food.
One of the very helpful employees at Cobblestone Foods helped me pick out my three cheeses; the reblochon was a big hit, as were the pretzel rolls, also from Cobblestone Foods -- think of a perfect marriage between a croissant and a pretzel, and you get the idea.
Dessert was a selection of beautiful little tarts from Cousin John's Bakery, in Park Slope, as well as an improvised plum and cherry crumble which I topped with a mixture of steel cut oats, plain yogurt, brown sugar, flour, and a pinch of salt - basically, oatmeal cookies on top of hot, bubbly fruit. (I tossed the fruit with a little sugar, cornstarch and salt, topped with the 'dough' and baked the whole mess in a shallow baking dish at 350 for about half an hour.)
We drank plenty of lovely French wine, but somehow forgot to pop open any of the Champagne, which seems a shame, and also an excuse to open a bottle tonight, just because.
The gazpacho recipe follows -- Alexis and I deemed it "Lazy Ass Gazpacho" because it really is an exercise in minimalism - I read a few different recipes, gathered produce, chopped and blended. That's it. I didn't peel or seed or roast my tomatoes, I didn't roast peppers to add heat, none of that. It took me about a half hour to prep, then I blended and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator to allow all the flavors to blend. Lazy. Ass. Gazpacho.
Molly's Lazy-Ass Gazpacho
- 8 tomatoes (about 2 lbs)
- 2 sweet bell peppers (I used one red and one orange)
- 1 red onion
- 2 cucumbers, peeled and seeded
- juice of three lemons
- handful of flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
- (smaller) handful of fresh tarragon, coarsely chopped
- a few healthy shakes of Tabasco sauce
- about 1/4 cup of sherry vinegar
- about 1/2 qt. of tomato juice
- salt and pepper to taste
Chop all the vegetables, add liquids and herbs, blend to desired consistency. The end. Store in a non-metal, non-reactive container with tight fitting lid and refrigerate over night to allow flavors to come together. Serve with sliced avocado - yum!