Monday, September 29, 2003

Well. Friday night I did all my grocery shopping- TJ's, and then the Farmer's Market, and then Ralphs. Came home and lugged everything inside in just two trips (Jeff was at Radiohead). I started by making the syrup for the lacquered almonds from Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone- and then realized they needed to be in the oven for two hours. (You preheat the oven at 200 and then turn it off when you put them in.) This negated my make the parmesan crisps (from A New Way To Cook) in the oven plan, but fortunately they could also be done in a skillet. I grated up 8 oz of parmesan (love you, Microplane!) and mixed in 2 tbsp plus 2 tsp flour and a little cumin. Then I spread 1/3 cup of the mixture on a hot skillet and cooked until it just started to brown. I discovered that a thinner crisp is a better crisp and I think I could have crisped them all a bit more. Also that I like them better hot from the pan. And then the almonds weren't nearly mahogony, so I turned the oven on for a bit until they were. Then I realized I had no cupcake liners for the cupcakes, so I decided to save those for the morning.

I got up early on Sunday and went to the store. Ralphs and then TJS for the flowers- I got cream roses, some cream dahlias and some orange dahlias. A woman saw me and then grabbed the orange dahlias and some roses as well- I felt good that I was a role model in flower selection. I came home and made the cupcakes- they would have, I am convinced, come out less dense had I used my future KitchenAid. I am sure of it. I'll try again after Christmas and let y'all know. Then there wasn't much to do- I turned the table around the other way to add the card table on the end and threw a tapestry over it, and arranged the flowers and put gourds and strawberry corn down the center of the table. I put the ribs in the crockpot (Crockpots are the nervous dinner party hostess' best friend) and realized they wouldn't all fit. Then I realized I had calculated ribs for 10 when it turned out we would only be 8 and two of those 8 were vegetarians, so all those ribs didn't need to fit in the crockpot at all.

Around 5:30 I started working on the rest of the dinner. Mixed the salad dressing. Set the table. Roasted the peppers for the tart (a pepper and tomato tart from VCFE), and made the yeasted tart dough with olive oil. Y'all, this tart dough was such a nightmare. I set it aside to rise and hoped it would get less sticky. As I sauteed the diced red onions and was working on seeding and dicing the tomatoes, my dad called with the play by play of the USC-Cal game, then in its 2nd overtime. Y'all, don't take phone calls while you are cooking. Especially not intense phone calls that will make you edgy and nervous and keep you running to the other room to try to figure out what channel Fox Sports is and then want to throw things when you don't get it.

My dad's play by play, though amusing ("And now they're showing the stands, and, well, it's Berkeley- there's a lot of hippies and no parking."), caused me to run late, and the tomato pepper onion saffron garlic etc. mixture was just ready to go in the tart at 8 PM. Thankfully, all our guests were slightly late so they missed the chaos that was me trying to roll out the tart dough and crying (it was supposed to be very thin but it also kept breaking and in the end I tossed it in the oven and prayed for the hideously misshapen best). I put on the rice and had already prepped the asparagus, so as our guests arrived I finished that up as Jeff served drinks and played good host. The tart came out looking much more impressive than I'd hoped and it tasted pretty good, too. I was a little disappointed in the salad dressing (and had way too much actual salad. Way, way too much) and the rice, but everyone ate plenty and went back for seconds. Afterwards we ate the dense cupcakes and I forgot to make coffee, but instead we all watched our turtle and then Jeff got out, on request, video of William Shatner singing Rocket Man and then the Wookie Christmas special, which was a nice cap to it all.

So that was our first dinner party. We can't wait to do it again.