Until Next Time: Downton Abbey

 

Presentation at the Palace.  "Presented, photographed, done." Says Lady Grantham with relief. Photo credit:  ITV for MASTERPIECE

Presentation at the Palace. “Presented, photographed, done.” Says Lady Grantham with relief.
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE

It’s hard to believe that Season 4 is over.  PBS decided to start and end the season with 120-minute episodes which in effect made the season only 8 episodes long.

The finale offered us plenty of the eye candy that we love about Downton Abbey:

  • Gorgeous 1920s costumes, replete with feathers, furs, beading, elaborate embroidery, fanciful hats, gloves, beaded bags, diamond tiaras, diamond headbands
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Lady Dudley-Ward is absolutely gorgeous and naughty (by not-so-secretly dating the Prince of Wales.)
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE

  • New interiors and London locations, including our first look at the Grantham’s London town home
Sumptious interiors at Grantham House in London (actually Blynford..) Photo credit:  Vanity Fair

Sumptuous interiors at Grantham House in London (actual location: Basildon Park.)
Photo credit: Vanity Fair

 

The interiors for Grantham House were actually shot one hour outside of London at Basildon Park, a Georgian mansion surrounded by acres of parkland in Berkshire. The house was built from 1776-83 and was rescued by Lord and Lady Iliffe in the mid 1950s. The house today is a re-creation and restoration of the 18th-century mansion.

Aunt Rosamund’s London town house interiors were shot at West Wycombe Park, a country house near the village of West Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, England, built between 1740 and 1800. It was conceived as a pleasure palace for the 18th-century Sir Francis Dashwood, 2nd Baronet.

West Wycombe Park

Many conversations take place in Aunt Rosamund’s London drawing room (actual location: West Wycombe Park)

 

Exteriors were shot in London and much care was taken by the production company to choose locations that didn’t show any signs of modernity (paved streets, advertisements, modern lighting etc.)  Read this excellent article from behind the scenes at the London locations “Downton Abbey: London is the Star of the Show” for some more scoop.

  •  And let’s not forget the pomp and circumstance!  The debutante ball at the palace, Lord Grantham in court uniform, the processional, the King and Queen, and all of Rose’s parties, dances, balls, and club outings.
Rose, whatever you do, don't trip! Photo credit:  ITV for MASTERPIECE

Darling, this is costing us a fortune.  You should be kind to marry very well.
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE

downton-debutante-palace

Hello your Royal Highnesses.  Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE

 

Read more about the London debutante season in this great article by Dawn Aiello. Young aristocratic ladies were brought into London from their country estates and presented to society at court.  The season lasted for months and the girls were feted all about town with luncheons, dances, balls, parties, formal dinners, and approved cultural outings so they might meet marriageable young men.

Mrs. Patmore would have been tasked with keeping up a long stream of goodies for guest breakfasts, luncheons, teas, formal dinners, and the ‘at homes’ where the presiding lady of the house would entertain guests with late-night buffet suppers, music and dancing.

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Here are some of our Downton-inspired Corks & Cakes posts for your review:

 

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And some heartier fare:

When you talk like that, I'm tempted to ring for Nanny and put you to bed with no supper. Photo credit:  ITV for MASTERPIECE

“When you talk like that, I’m tempted to ring for Nanny and put you to bed with no supper.”
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE

 

I’ve enjoyed chronicling the season and the era for you.  In fact, I might just keep up these Sunday Downton posts because there’s so much more to write about.

Let me ask you:  which character will you miss the most until next season?  (The Dowager Countess is everyone’s favorite, my guess!)

You can follow her on Twitter @theLady Grantham

Here’s a fun You Tube video:  Sh!t the Dowager Countess Says

What other Downton Abbey-related posts would you be interested in reading on Corks & Cake?

Indian-Inspired Ground Turkey Curry Samosas

Turkey Samosas plated

We cannot resist samosas when dining at an Indian restaurant and I wanted to try to make them at home.  I wanted to find some acceptable shortcuts to the traditional Indian recipe as I was going to make these for New Year’s Eve appetizers to bring to a party and didn’t want to deep-fry.

I adapted this Jean-Georges Vongerichten recipe for chicken samosas so that instead of deep-frying in spring roll wrappers I could use Trader Joe’s all-butter puff pastry and bake them.

Turkey Curry Samosas--baked

I simplified the spices to reflect what I had on hand and added potatoes sautéed in turmeric oil to give them some East Indian flair. I made them appetizer-size and I used ground turkey instead of chicken.  I didn’t have whole cumin seeds to toast and grind, and didn’t have tamarind paste or diced tomatoes so I improvised.  And I added garam masala to take them in a more Indian direction.

Isn’t that annoying?  I always want to reference a recipe that I start out with (out of respect, politeness, giving credit where credit is due), but I so often change, substitute, adapt, or improvise off the written script that the recipe is almost reinvented.

I share my reinvented recipe with you below (and link to the original inspiration above, so you can try both if you like!)

 

New Year's Eve Curry Turkey Samosas

Happy New Year!

Ground turkey in abundanceI used ground turkey that I had defrosted.  (The photo shows the 3-pounder behemoth I purchased on sale; I only used 1 pound of turkey for these appetizers.)

Because the holidays were so busy and I was making a lot of consecutive dishes, I did this in steps over a couple of days so I would not lose my mind.  But it is really easy enough to do all at once.

Step 1:  Make the turkey and spice filling.  (Keeps for 5 days.)

Step 2:  Make the cilantro yogurt dip.  (Keeps for 3 days.)

Step 3: Make the turmeric potatoes and add to turkey mixture.  (You can do this 1 day ahead before you assemble and bake the samosas.  You could opt out of the potatoes if you are pressed for time; the ground meat mixture is good.)

Step 4:  Assemble and bake the samosas.  (Serve that day.)

Since I was taking them to a party in the neighborhood, I baked them and took them right over.  They were good at room temperature.  Awesome right out of the oven. Perfectly fine for my husband’s snack after errand-running, reheated in the toaster oven at 350°.

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 3 T. canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks (about 1/2 inch) (OPTIONAL)
  • 1 T. peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 1 T. minced garlic
  • 1 T. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric powder (divided, 1/2 tsp. for the ground meat, 1 tsp. for the optional potatoes)
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 T. Trader Joe’s dry chili paste
  • 1/4 C. chicken broth
  • 2 T. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 T. fresh lime juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

  • Heat 2 T. oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook, stirring, until translucent and softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
  • Add the coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and ground cumin and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.
  • Dissolve the dry Trader Joe’s Thai dry chili paste in 1/4 C. of chicken broth.  Add that mixture to the onions and aromatics in skillet.  [NOTE: This product is made with dried mushrooms and tamarind paste.  Since the Chef’s recipe called for 1 T. of tamarind paste and I didn’t have any, this was a good substitute.  I think you could leave it out but it would have a less authentic Indian restaurant flavor.]
  • Add the ground turkey and cook, stirring, until the meat is completely cooked through (no pink) and broth has evaporated, about 7-8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper; stir in the fresh cilantro and the lime juice.
  • Remove from the heat, and cool to room temperature.
Thai "Dry" Chili Paste

This is a mixture of dried mushrooms, tamarind paste, coconut sugar, dried chili, lemongrass, garlic, shallot, and soy sauce. It is a handy condiment to add Asian flavor to your stir-fries and curries. 

 

  • OPTIONAL POTATOES: Place chopped potato in medium saucepan and cover with cold water, add a healthy pinch of salt to the water and bring the potatoes to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer potatoes until soft enough to fall off when pierced by a fork, about 7 minutes.
  • Drain potatoes in a colander and return to the saucepan.  Place over low heat and let potatoes dry out their moisture, shaking the pan, 2 minutes.
  • Heat the remaining T. vegetable oil in skillet over medium heat and add 1 tsp. turmeric to the oil, stirring to color the oil, 1 minute.
  • Turn potatoes into skillet and sauté, tossing to coat with turmeric oil, 4 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Take off heat, and let cool.  You can add the potato mixture to the turkey mixture and let flavors meld overnight.

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  • Defrost the puff pastry according to the package directions. (You can do this overnight in the fridge or for several hours on the counter at room temperature, plan accordingly!)
  • Place a defrosted sheet on your lightly floured board or counter.
  • Cut the sheet into fourths and then cut each square on the diagonal to make a triangle.  [NOTE: This will give you luncheon-size samosas as in the photo.  I tested this recipe twice–the first time I made them for lunch; the second I cut the pastry smaller and baked them for the party.)  For appetizer-size, cut the triangles on the diagonal to get smaller triangles (about 3 inches).

Puff Pastry
Puff pastry triangles

Curry samosa filling

  • Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each triangle and fold the point over to reach the other point.  Seal the edges by pressing down with your finger.Samosas folded
  • Preheat oven to 400 ° and bake samosas until golden, 18-20 minutes.

Cilantro-yogurt dip:

  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • ¾ cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, plus more to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

To make the dip: Put the cilantro leaves in a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the yogurt, lemon juice, and sugar. Stir well, season with salt, pepper.  You can also add heat with a chopped jalapeno or with a dash of cayenne.  We were serving children at the party so I left the dip mild.

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Enjoy memsahib!

 

A Traditional Christmas Panto

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Pantomime is an eccentric British theater institution.  Usually performed at Christmastime, pantomine (slang, panto) emerged during the Restoration with roots in the commedia dell’arte of Italy.  By the beginning of the 19th century, this wonderfully strange, campy, corny, quirky mix of musical comedy and fairy tale had become a tradition.

Young Queen Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret performed in these musical comedy stage productions around Christmas and New Year’s, as pantos were a big part of their holiday celebrations at Windsor Castle, where they lived after evacuating from Buckingham Palace during wartime.

John, Joe and I attended our first Christmas panto in England at a village theater in the north.  Pantomimes rely heavily on audience participation (that’s a main part of the fun) and when the lead character called for a TALL volunteer, we pushed John into the fray. He played a door and a Christmas tree, much to his chagrin and our glee.  Later on in the village, we passed two children in the shops who pointed at John and said, “Look mummy!  It’s the door!”

JP endures the indignity of being a prop in the 2008 panto in England.

JP endures the indignity of being a prop in the 2008 panto in England.

Back at home in Maryland, we have the beginnings of a new Christmas tradition with our friends, Chris and Adrienne Harrington.  The British Players (formerly The British Embassy Players) mount a Christmas pantomime production at the Kensington Town Hall each year.  This year was Cinderella, a traditional British panto directed by Charles Hoag.  Chris purchased a passel of tickets for several friends and their children and away we went.  After the play we adjourned back to our house for dessert and hot chocolate.

I set up an assortment of cookies and treats in various shapes, sizes, flavors beforehand on the buffet.

Christmas dessert display

 

I knew I wanted an abundance of offerings but couldn’t make it all, of course, so I baked some homemade cookies and bars and rounded it out with my favorite seasonal treats from Trader’s Joe’s.

Homemade:

Dried Cranberry and Chocolate Cookies

Dried Cranberry Chocolate Cookies

These are everyone’s absolute favorite cookie. I think I made at least 9 dozen throughout the Christmas holiday to eat and give as gifts.

Chinese Chews

I found the recipe at one of my new favorite blogs, She Wears Many Hats.  This is a vintage recipe, dating back to the 1900s, but no one seems to know why they are titled ‘Chinese.’  Some recipes call for dates and walnuts, but I followed She Wears Many Hats and made these with just pecans.  They were like a blondie without chocolate.  Chewy in a good way with lots and lots of brown sugar.

Chinese chews (pecan bars)

I made a batch of Sugar Cookies with Sprinkles for those who don’t like chocolate or nuts.  I can’t say I was blown away with them (why are sugar cookies so hard to get right?) so no recipe to recommend.

From the store:

We love Trader Joe's.

We love Trader Joe’s.

(Left: Pepperidge Farm Pirouettes with Chocolate and Hazelnut. (Top to bottom: Trader’s Joe’s English Toffee, Trader Joe’s Caramels with Fleur du Sel, Trader Joe’s Jo Jo Cookie Assortment (like chocolate-covered Oreos).

And Walker’s Shortbread (our favorite at Christmastime.)

Everyone at our house gets shortbread in their Christmas stocking.

Everyone at our house gets shortbread in their Christmas stocking.

Christmas cookies

 

Dessert buffet

We decorated the front porch with candy canes, garland and mini trees.

christmas lights and candy canes

And a lovely guest brought the cutest miniature mince pies–an English tradition!

Classic mini mince pies

Classic mini mince pies

Another lovely friend brought a big bowl of Chocolate Mousse and the children had hot cocoa with mini marshmallows and candy canes.

P1010068Santa made an appearance.

santa

We had some savory treats also (because I like salty and crunchy better than sweet.)

Keeping it English, I put out a Stilton and a 5-year aged white cheddar (both from Trader Joe’s cheese section.)

We passed around a bowl of Spiced Pecans and a bowl of smoked almonds, both excellent with the various sparkling wines we served.

Schloss Beibrich Sekt is a wonderful sparkling wine from Germany.  A great buy.  Michelle Brut from Columbia Valley in Washington State another lovely find!

Schloss Beibrich Sekt is a wonderful sparkling wine from Germany. A great buy. Michelle Brut from Columbia Valley in Washington State another lovely find!

Spiced Pecans

And let’s not forget my favorite potato chip:  Kettle Brand Salt and Pepper Chips. Because it’s not a party without a potato chip, in my opinion.

We served an assortment of beverages, including lemonade, Pellegrino, Coke and Diet Coke, Capri Suns for the kids, white and red wines and IPAs for the adults.

I had planned to offer coffee and put out the china cups and saucers beforehand, but we totally forgot to brew it or offer it.  Since the play didn’t wrap up until 9:30 pm, this was a late party and no one asked for coffee as I’m sure they wanted to go to sleep at midnight with visions of sugar plums in their heads.

Tree at the Kensington Armory

The marvelous tree at Kensington Town Hall, large and festive.

Hope everyone had a happy Christmas!  Thank you, Chris and Adrienne for the panto tickets and the lovely new Christmas tradition.

Cheers,

Rebecca

Deliciously Local! Dinner Party with Relay Foods

Cheers!  Stay cool outside with friends and a well-chilled rose.

 

Today has been a day of remembrances.  I remembered where I was exactly on this day in 2001.  I remembered that today was also the birthday of a good friend who died too young a couple of years ago.  Facebook told me today was also the birthday of a good friend still alive.  Google News told me today was the birthday of Mickey Hart (Blast from the past!  My Proustian college memories were scented NOT of madeleines but of patchouli and clove cigarettes.)

This day 12 years ago hammered home that we, as humans and as a country, are vulnerable.  That technology fails us and also connects us. That family and friends are always more important than political ideology.  That there are heroes among us.  That you should always keep your car gassed up.  (Okay sorry, that was a joke.  I was waxing too philosophical.)

I would like to dedicate this post to all of my friends and neighbors who I adore and love to break bread with.  You are awesome.

This summer we held a big outdoor party featuring local foods from our region.  Relay Foods spurred the idea when they reached out for hosts and hostesses in Maryland and Virginia to hold a house party and introduce neighbors and friends to their delivery/pickup service for a wide variety of regional food, including artisanal and specialty foods.

Based in Charlottesville, Virginia, Relay Foods collaborates with local farms, artisan food makers, and handmade brands.  They gather vendors from all over the Shenandoah Valley, Maryland and beyond and deliver to urban locations (Baltimore, DC, Richmond, Northern VA.)  Since I had ordered our organic, free-range turkey from them a few Thanksgivings ago, I was on their list for people to recruit.

As many of us in the neighborhood have CSA shares or shop at farmers markets weekly, I knew I’d be preaching to the choir.  I didn’t have to do much to get people excited to come taste some new local foods.  But this was an opportunity to introduce them to a service that would aggregate produce from several farms and also afford small producers of specialty meats, cheeses, desserts, breads, jams and other farm fresh products the opportunity to reach a larger market via Relay Foods’ digital hub and distribution system.

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[Full disclosure:  Relay Foods gave me $100 food certificate to spend online at their site for the party.  I went beyond that and shopped on my own dime at their site and our local markets, including my favorite organic market, Roots Market in Olney.  All of my opinions and recommendations are my own and neither Relay Foods nor Roots paid me to plug them or sponsor this post.]
Some of the farmers and artisans featured on the menu:
  • Sausage Craft:  two guys in Richmond making handcrafted sausage the Tuscan way (wholesale only)
  • Let’s Grow Local/Josie’s Homemade Foods–our own local Kensington girl (and god-sister to my son, Joe) making jams, chutneys, preserves. Not represented by Relay Foods (yet) but you can buy Josie’s jam and chutneys at Let’s Grow Local farm stands on University Blvd in Wheaton and in north Chevy Chase
Josie's Homemade

Josie’s Homemade

I rounded out the menu with three vegetarian side dishes and several craft brews and wine, including a chardonnay I love from Barboursville Vineyards in Virginia.

Barboursville Vineyards is located on the Monticello Wine Trail outside of Charlottesville.

Barboursville Vineyards is located on the Monticello Wine Trail outside of Charlottesville.

In crafting the menu I was inspired by this Crostini party post by Honestly YUM.  So many interesting flavor combinations and a really beautiful appetizer.

 

 

Ricotta crostini party from Honestly YUM inspired the appetizers.

Ricotta crostini party from Honestly YUM inspired the appetizers.  Photo credit:  Honestly YUM

Lovely guests helped prepare the crostini.  Showing off their handiwork!

Lovely guests helped prepare the crostini. Displaying their handiwork!

 

Krogh_130628_7538

 

Lovely local cheeses and black truffle salami.

Lovely local cheeses and black truffle salami.

MENU

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Assorted ricotta and feta crostini with local fruit, vegetables, proscuitto, jams, corn chutney, preserves

Local cheeses with crackers and ginger, fig, and fruit preserves, black truffle salami

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Main:

Assorted local Italian sausages, grilled with Vidalia onions and red, yellow and green peppers

Little hoagie rolls

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Salads:

Orzo with grape tomatoes, pine nuts and black olives

Watermelon with feta and pea shoots

Potato salad with garlic, olive oil and capers

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Moorenko’s Ice Cream Sampler:

Bittersweet Chocolate

Red Hot Chocolate

Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip

Coconut Almond

Fresh Ginger

White Chocolate Mint

Salted Caramel with Praline

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I made homemade ricotta following the Smitten Kitchen technique using whole milk and heavy cream (recipe here) and a feta spread using domestic feta for the crostini (baguette slices brushed with olive oil, toasted in oven on both sides, rubbed with a garlic clove and lightly salted).

 

Art student, Sam, creates our Relay Food Deliciously Local Foods party menu.

Art student, Sam, creates our Relay Food Deliciously Local Foods party menu.

 

On the Ricotta crostini:

  • cucumber slice, fresh chopped mint, fresh dill
  • sliced strawberry over Josie’s Homemade strawberry preserves with tarragon, drizzled with balsamic syrup
  • sliced purple and white radishes with sea salt
  • fresh blueberries over Josie’s Homemade blueberry preserve, drizzled with local Maryland honey
  • Virginia Chutney Company Hot Peach chutney

 

On the Feta crostini:

  • thinly sliced procuitto
  • sliced grape tomatoes and fresh basil
  • lemon zest and fresh oregano
  • Josie’s Homemade chipotle corn chutney

 

For the onions and peppers to go with the grilled sausages, I sliced them, drizzled them with olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper, oregano, and thyme and put them in a small square foil tray covered with more foil and placed them on the grill while the sausages were cooking.

When the sausages are done, take the foil off of the the peppers and onions and mix the grilled meat and the veg together with their juices.

For the ice cream course, I wanted everyone to get a taste of all 7 flavors so we kept it casual and gave each guest 7 spoons and passed the pint containers up and down the table.  That probably wasn’t hygenic even with all the separate spoons, but at that point getting out tasting 17 bowls/cups was too much and it was too hot and sweaty–we wanted to enjoy the night and eat ice cream.
It was a fun night but there was no way I could have done it without the help of every guest.

Seriously, I always bite off more than I can chew (figuratively) when I throw a big entertainment.  But fortunately for me,  we have a crew of fabulous friends who love to pitch in, cook, decorate, serve, bring chairs, bring wine, spark conversation, and help clean up!

So shout outs to all of you and in particular to:

–the lovely girls who painted the menu blackboard and helped decorate and hang lanterns after swim practice

–our favorite art student who did the the chalkboard art menu for us (still have it–saving it!)

–my good friends Peter K, Allison B, and Charlie R for the photography

–Alyson K for executing the myriad trays of crostini toppings, drizzles, and garnishes

–Allison B, for the wine, beer, and ice run

–Tim S, for heading the grill and grilling hot dogs, vegetables, and sausages with aplomb (hope you got some of that)

-Josie K for all the homemade farm stand preserves and for beautifully styling the cheese boards

-Amy F and Maddie F for stuffing the Relay Foods goody bags for everyone

-Craig L for coming early to help set up tables and chairs outside, then move them all inside because of rain, and then outside again when the sun came out–rock star!

-John P for underwriting all of the hospitality and for having the energy to do the dishes before bed,  love ya babe

 

Land ahoy!  The Yachtsmen in the Palisades Parade.

Land ahoy! The Yachtsmen in the Palisades Parade.

 

 

Life Is What Happens While You’re Making Other [blog] Plans

Land ahoy!  The Yachtsmen in the Palisades Parade.

Land ahoy! The Yachtsmen in the Palisades Parade.

 

We’ve had a busy two weeks with daily swim team practices, meets on Wednesday nights, parent volunteer jobs, dinner parties, potlucks, Fourth of July celebrations and basic life, hence no Corks & Cake posts for 17 days.  Unacceptable, I say!

I set a personal goal when we launched this blog to post at least 3 times/week (which is almost nothing in blog-land).  It is mind-blowing to me that all these talented, talented women and men in the blogosphere post original content with highly styled photographs sometimes 3 times/day, 7 days a week.

Seriously, how are they not chained to their computers with their cameras in one hand and a whisk in another?

My hat is off to them, even through my slacker chagrin.

Glorious Old Glory decor on the walk to the parade.

Glorious Old Glory decor on the walk to the parade.

 

So, my dear Corks & Cakers, I promise to catch up.  And just so you don’t think me too much of a slacker, here’s a roundup of what we’ve been cooking and serving in the kitchen on Lee Street.

Art student, Sam, creates our Relay Food Deliciously Local Foods party menu.

Art student, Sam, creates our Relay Food Deliciously Local Foods party menu.

 

We had a very fun, very tasty dinner party outside for 29 guests (including children.)  Whew.  Did I just say dinner for 29?  Yes!  Relay Foods (an online farm stand and specialty food delivery business based in Charlottesville, VA) teamed with House Party and selected several hosts and hostesses in the mid-Atlantic region to host a party featuring local products available through Relay Foods.  I ordered local cheeses, salami, sausages, produce, relishes, and rounded it out with ice cream, vegetarian side dishes and all-beef hot dogs for the kids.

 

Lovely local cheeses and black truffle salami.

Lovely local cheeses and black truffle salami.  Photo courtesy of Peter Krogh Photography.

Krogh_130628_7565

Photo courtesy of Peter Krogh Photography.

 

It was a great undertaking (deserving of an upcoming post all its own) made more complex by the off-and-on rainy weather.  The only way to pull something like that off is to have lots of good friends who know you well, have dined with you often, and who will jump in where needed and come early to help with all the last-minute prep.  Thank you to all!

On July 4th, my first ‘Vintage Kitchen’ column for OKRA magazine (the online magazine for the Southern Food & Beverage Institute) was published!  Read it here.

A taste test of Vintage Punch recipes for OKRA magazine.

A taste test of Vintage Punch recipes for OKRA magazine.

Titled “Drink Like the Revolutionaries:  Vintage Punch for the Fourth of July” it was much fun to research old recipes and more fun to drink the research!

After the July 4th parade (which my husband’s band, The Yachtsmen, were in), we reveled poolside for a live rock and roll set in the hot, hot sun.

 

The Yachtsmen in the drink after a set in the scorching sun.

The Yachtsmen in the drink after a set in the scorching sun.

 

In the pool:  The Yachtsmen.  On the grill:  jerk chicken.

 

Walkerswood Jerk Sauce is a fabulous (and easy) marinade for chicken.

Grace Jerk Seasoning is a fabulous (and easy) marinade for chicken.

 

We also took it easy this week by relying on some of our favorite prepared foods:  Costco’s lime-marinated flank steak (ready-to-grill) and Edwards’ Key Lime Pie.

 

So good and almost gone.

So good and almost gone.

 

We hope you had a great Fourth of July weekend too!

 

Happy Birthday, America!

Happy Birthday, America!

 

 

 

 

 

Joe’s Favorite Oreo Ice Cream Cake

 

Some people are natural bakers.  They like the methodical approach proper baking requires:  careful measurement, exacting technique, and strict attention to time, temperature, and humidity.

I was never like that.  I was afraid to make bread because the yeast would never proof. About 10 years ago, I purchased a Julia Child limited edition Kitchen Aid stand mixer (part of a fundraiser for AIWF Friends of Julia Child’s Kitchen at the Smithsonian) and vowed to try to be a better baker.

That is a funny way to start this post, however, because this recipe has little to do with baking!  Not only is this cake frozen but there is also very little homemade about it.  So why am I sharing it, you ask?  Because it is a favorite among children and my son especially requested it for his 11th birthday.  I also made it for Allison’s little girl’s birthday.  It is a popular dessert and quite easy.

You could go out and buy an Oreo Ice Cream cake from Baskin Robbins or the grocery store but this semi-homemade one is much better than those.  The cookies and ice cream taste really fresh.

 

Oreo-cookies

Cookies and milk, anyone?
Photo credit: Allison Beuker Photography

I pulled this recipe from The Kitchn blog, an excellent resource and one I read frequently.

Here is the original recipe which I adapted just slightly.

Ingredients

  • One 14.3-ounce package Oreos (regular/original), about 36 cookies, reserve 8 for garnish
  • One 15.25-ounce chocolate cake mix (I used Betty Crocker’s Triple Chocolate Fudge, baked as directed on the box.  You will need 3 eggs, 1/2 C. vegetable oil, and 1 1/4 C. water)
  • 2 quarts vanilla ice cream, very soft
  • 1/2 cup chocolate sauce, plus 3 T. for drizzling (Hershey’s Syrup works just fine)

Prepare a 10-inch springform pan by lining it with plastic wrap (bottom and sides).

Bake the chocolate cake as directed on the box. (Or you could buy a cake if you want to keep it really simple).

 

Who wants to lick the beaters? Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich.

Who wants to lick the beaters?
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Roughly chop or crumble the Oreo cookies into quarters or smaller bite-sized bits. (I put the cookies in a gallon-size Ziploc bag and go over them with a rolling pin.) Crumble the cake into a large bowl, and stir in about 1/3 of the crumbled sandwich cookies.  Add  1/2 C. of chocolate syrup to the cake and cookie mixture.

Bake cakes in 9-inch rounds. Photo: Rebecca Penovich.

Bake cakes in 9-inch rounds.
Photo: Rebecca Penovich

 

Dump in about 2/3 of a quart of very soft vanilla ice cream, and stir gently but thoroughly until the cake and ice cream are well-combined. Press this mixture into the bottom of the springform pan.

Cookies and cake!  What could be better?

Cookies and cake! What could be better?

 

In a separate bowl, mix the remaining 1 1/3 quarts vanilla ice cream with the remaining 2/3 of the crumbled cookies.  Press this on top of the cake mixture in the springform pan; it will come nearly up to the top of the pan.

Cookies and ice cream mixture.

Cookies and ice cream mixture.

 

Cover the cake pan and freeze for at least 4 hours, ideally overnight.

Smooth the top then it's ready to back in the freezer.

Smooth the top then it’s ready to back in the freezer.

When ready to serve, let the cake sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes, and run a knife around the inside of the cake pan. Open the springform mold gently; it should release easily from the slightly melted cake.  Pull away the plastic wrap.

Place cake on festive plate and garnish with the 8 reserved Oreos.  I stand them up on their side and place around the cake like a clock face.  Drizzle the Hershey’s syrup over the ice cream cake in a criss-cross pattern.  (Hold the syrup bottle high over the cake and move your hand back and forth quickly.  Pretend you are on Top Chef!)

 

Artful drizzle. Photo by Rebecca Penovich.

Artful drizzle.
Photo by Rebecca Penovich

 

Serve in wedges with ice cold milk.  Sing Happy Birthday!

Happy birthday to you!  Happy birthday to you!

Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you!

 

Corks & Cake Entertains: Lemon curd tartlets with blueberries and mint

Lovely spread

Lovely spread

Our friend, Laura, throws a great party.  And she does it often.  The food and drinks are always good and the atmosphere convivial and casual.  One of the best things about her entertaining style is that she doesn’t wait to have a reason to entertain–no big occasion or anything.  She usually says, “Gee, I haven’t seen you guys in a while; come over, bring the family, and hang out.”

The kids will watch a movie on the deck via an outside projector and the adults will sit around the fire pit and nosh and quaff.  And somehow Laura never seems to break a sweat, even with three kids to contend with, including one adorable 3-year-old handful.  Okay, how does she do it? She plans thoughtfully but not obsessively.  She’ll think about one or two things to make from scratch, like fresh mozzarella pizzas on the grill using Trader Joe’s pizza dough or the Barefoot Contessa’s delicious feta and tomato bruschetta.  The rest of the menu she’ll round out with good cheeses, crackers, crudité and a nice dip from Trader Joe’s fresh case.  Guests can bring something if they want, or just bring themselves if they didn’t feel like cooking or didn’t have time.  No pressure and no expectations other than to relax and have a little conversation among friends.

The Friday night before Mother’s Day was one such occasion.  Just for the ladies, Laura hosted a Stella & Dot trunk show.

stelladot invite

Stella & Dot is a San Francisco-based, woman-owned jewelry and accessories company.  They’ve got lovely stuff.  Their business model is ‘social selling’ which means ‘modern day Tupperware Party with bling.’  I didn’t take any photos of the bling because I was busy mingling and trying on, but here’s an adorable set of turquoise studs that I won (yes, we played a couple of games, but they weren’t too obnoxious.)

Stella & Dot turquoise studs.  Photo by Rebecca.

Stella & Dot turquoise studs. Photo by Rebecca

 

So, back to the food.

I made these little lemon curd tartlets with blueberry and mint.

Photo by John Penovich on iphone.

Photo by John Penovich

I know those look like black olives, but trust, me they are blueberries.  I picked the mint from our backyard and stuck the littlest leaves in the curd before walking the plate up to Laura’s house.  They were good.  Not too sweet and just tart enough with juicy lemon flavor and a smooth curd  to play off the flaky crust.

I hadn’t made lemon curd before although I love lemon desserts.  If it’s on a menu at a restaurant, lemon tart is what I’m ordering!  I read through a few recipes and settled on this one from my clippings file from Gourmet 2007.  I chose it because it didn’t call for a double boiler and other recipes called for using the whole egg or for whole eggs combined with additional separated yolks.  I knew I wanted a smooth curd, and nothing too ‘eggy.’  I love the consistency of hollandaise sauce so it seemed right to go with a lemon curd recipe that just utilized the yolks.

I clipped this recipe, Trompe L’oeil “Egg” Lemon Pudding (yes, clipped, like from the actual magazine) because it looked awesome.  The photo of the pudding and yellow curd in an egg shell looked just like a real poached egg.  you can go to see the complete trompe l’oeil dessert photo.)

(Can we have a moment of silence for the dearly departed Gourmet magazine?  Why oh why Conde Nast did you kill it?)

Lemon Curd Tartlets with Blueberries and Mint

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Trader Joe’s Gourmet Pie Crust, defrosted (you can certainly use your favorite recipe for pâte sucrée here but I took a shortcut!)

Lemon Curd:

  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons cold, unsalted better, cut into small pieces

Garnish:

  • Fresh blueberries, washed and dr
  • Fresh mint leaves (the tinier the better)

MAKE PASTRY SHELLS:

  • Preheat oven to 400.
  • Lay out 1 pie crust on parchment paper and stamp out circles of dough with 2 in. cutter (I used a small juice glass.)
  • Press dough circles lightly into 2 mini-muffin pans (you will get about 18-20 circles from one crust so your second pan will not be full)
  • Blind bake the pastry shells for 20 minutes until golden brown.  (NOTE: Usually with blind baking you should put pie weights on the pastry to keep it from puffing up too much.  Again, I took a shortcut as the bling party time was approaching.)
  • Let pastry shells cool on the counter while you  make the lemon curd.

MAKE LEMON CURD:

  • Whisk together zest, lemon juice, sugar, and yolks in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan. Add cold butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking frequently, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubbles appear on surface, about 4 minutes.
  • Force lemon curd through a fine-mesh sieve into another bowl, scraping bottom of sieve, then transfer to ice bath and stir frequently until cold. Cover surface of curd with wax paper and chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

ASSEMBLE TARTLETS:

  • Pop the shells out of the mini-muffin pans with a butter knife.  Arrange shells on a clean baking sheet so you can begin filling them.
  • With a small spoon, fill the shells with about a 1/2 tsp. of lemon curd filling.
  • When all shells are filled, garnish each with a blueberry and mint leaf.