Yesterday I had the pleasure of celebrating the publication of Erica Jong’s newest book, Sugar in My Bowl: Real Women Write About Real Sex, and hosting a bevy of amazingly accomplished and beautiful women to benefit the wonderful Westport Public Library‘s Summer Reading Programs. As you can see, I took the liberty of linking you to the “support the library” page, in case you are inclined to further the success of my favorite local institution’s terrific programs.
On the culinary side, it was a bit of a challenge to come up with a light lunch I could do with a lot of help from friends and library volunteers that could be quickly served to almost 125 people standing in the garden, without hindering the social aspect which I believe to always be the draw of such events. Of course, the talented and always-provocative Erica Jong was delight. I felt challenged by the subject matter to provide sensuous tastes, as well as my usual healthy, local, fresh focus. And my sustainable party-goods initiative. Here’s a Link to one of my sources for those who asked. Branch: Sustainable Design. The glasses are Govino.
Everything was served in mini, sustainable, individual portions. These were either passed in baskets, or available on a central buffet. It worked quite well. This would be a wonderful menu for a Shower, A Baby Naming, a birthday, or a Mother’s Day get together. Also some great ideas in here for picnic food.)
For the dessert, my first thought was to do a Tres Leches Cake, as I have been dying to try the recipe in Barbara Sibley‘s Book that I cooked from in my last post. But I kept having the nagging feeling that there was some dessert I had read about with “sex” in the title. I lazily googled “sex cake”. This was not a good idea. You might be surprised at the number of businesses that provide, ahem, anatomical pastries of great, cough, verisimilitude. I won’t link for our younger readers. But if you are curious (or demented) look for exotic in the company title.
Anyway, I digress. There is a cake called Better Than Sex Cake. I made this, as well as the Tres Leches. I loved the combo, sort of the same idea, but in Vanilla and Chocolate versions. I served teeny-tiny bites. Lets just say that both recipes call for large quantities of Sweetened Condensed Milk, a personal embarrassing guilty pleasure. There are many versions of this cake. You can google these yourself (google Better Than Sex cake, not Sex Cake, remember) I don’t profess to have produced the definitive version. Was it better than sex? Well-lllll, you can decide that for yourself. I guess it all depends, doesn’t it.
1/16-1/8 cup butter
1 1/2 cups onions, chopped
1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed garlic
1 1/4 lbs medium carrots peeled and chopped, about 3 cups
2 seeded chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
3 cups vegetable stock
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
4 Tbs sour cream one small carrot peeled and grated
Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium-high heat.
Add onion; sauté 4 minutes. Add ginger and garlic; sauté 2 minutes.
Add chopped carrots, tomatoes and lemon peel; saute 1 minute.
Add 3 cups stock and bring to boil.
Reduce heat, cover partially and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.
Cool slightly. Puree in batches in blender, mix in lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. This keeps well, can be served hot or cold, and is even better the next day.
Serve hot or cold garnished with Micro-greens or Pea Shoots if desired.
For the slider rolls I used the famous beautiful hamburger bun recipe from King Arthur Flour. How could I not when I thought of the name! If you know me at all you know what a devotee I am of their products. And recipes. If you sign up on the site for their email list, you will be notified of the Free Shipping promotions a few times a year, which is when I order months worth of baking supplies at a time.
(fair warning: you will be tempted to buy things that you had every intention of using– like special european flour supposedly perfect for bagels, that take up cupboard space indefinitely.)
What I was looking for was a light, soft buttery roll, suspecting all along that it would turn out to be a challah-like recipe. Sure enough. I might add an egg in the future and use this recipe for a dairy challah (I know, I know…)
Anyway, this site sells hamburger pans, but as usual, I did the research so you don’t have to. I tried making them with whole wheat (fail), I tried making them in mini-muffin pans (fail), but what worked was making the dough, rising it, shaping the golf-ball size rolls, rising them, and baking them half way. This is called par-bake. Bake till they feel pretty firm, but before they start to turn golden. Remove from oven, cool well, and freeze. When you want them, fire up the oven, pile them on a baking sheet, and bake until they brown. Depending on the size you made them it will only be about 6-8 minutes. Pretty cool.
• 1 cup lukewarm water
• 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
• 1 large egg
• 3 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
• 1 tablespoon instant yeast
• *For best results (a smooth, slightly soft dough), use the smaller amount of water in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate); and something in between the rest of the time.
• 3 tablespoons melted butter
1) Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough.
2) Cover the dough, and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until it’s nearly doubled in bulk.
3) Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into pieces about the size of a golf ball. Shape each piece into a round ball; flatten slightly. Place the buns on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover, and let rise for about an hour, until noticeably puffy.
4) Brush the buns with about half of the melted butter.
5) Bake the buns in a preheated 375°F oven for 15 to 18 minutes*, until golden. Remove them from the oven, and brush with the remaining melted butter. This will give the buns a satiny, buttery crust.
6) Cool the buns on a rack.
*see note above about par baking.
More good advice from King Arthur:
Brushing buns with melted butter will give them a soft, light golden crust. Brushing with an egg-white wash (1 egg white beaten with 1/4 cup water) will give them a shinier, darker crust. For seeded buns, brush with the egg wash; it’ll make the seeds adhere. And, feel free to add the extra yolk to the dough, reserving the white for the wash.
Make or (purchase a good quality, not terribly mayonnaise-y) Egg salad. Add copious amounts of chopped fresh dill, hot sauce (tabasco type) dijon mustard, and smoked paprika. Taste. Add more hot sauce. Stuff into small or large Sandwiches, (or cherry tomatoes that have been hollowed out and drained on paper towels). Another Egg Salad idea– Truffle Salt!
Tuna Salad with Capers and Lime
Make (or purchase good quality, not terribly mayonnaise-y) tuna salad. Add capers, splash with lime, add freshly ground black pepper and a bit of smoked salt if you have it. Smoked Paprika also works deliciously
WATERMELON FETA MINT SALAD
This concoction tastes a lot better than it sounds, you really should try it. Just keep in mind that it isn’t one of those “improves with age” salads. If you are contemplating making it ahead, prepare the melon and refrigerate. The macerating onions are good for a couple days, and quickly assemble the rest of the ingredients before serving.
- 1 small red onion
- 2-4 limes, depending on juiciness
- 1 medium size sweet, ripe seedless watermelon
- 1/2 lb. feta cheese
- handful fresh Italian parsley
- big handful fresh mint, chopped
- 4-5 Tablespoons good olive oil
- Black pepper, freshly ground
- (optional: pitted sliced black greek olives, balsamic vinegar)
1) Cut the watermelon into small chunks or, if you have one, use a melon-baller to create adorable spheres. Put in bowl with accumulated juices
2) Slice the onion in half the long way, then into thin slices, put in a bowl with lemon juice to soften. You can also use a sweet onion and balsamic vinegar for a mellower taste.
3) Crumble Feta into bowl with melon, top with onions, pour olive oil over, add olives if you are using them
4) Rinse fresh mint and parsley, chop coarsely and add. Grind pepper to taste
5) Turn gently with hands or spoons to mix.
CHICK PEA, EDAMAME, AND CUCUMBER SALAD
Have you discovered frozen shelled edamame in the supermarket (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods). What a delicious and healthful addition to all kinds of salads. This is basically an Israeli Salad that adds Chick Peas and Edamame. It’s so filling and yummy it can be a great vegetarian meal.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint, parsley, oregano, marjoram or a combo
Salt and pepper
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
1 seedless cucumber, peeled cut in quarters lengthwise, diced
6 radishes chopped
½ small sweet onion chopped
1/2 cup shredded or chopped carrots
1 chopped red, yellow, orange or green sweet pepper
1) In large serving bowl, combine oil, lemon juice and zest, garlic, mint, salt, and pepper. Add chickpeas; toss to coat. As they are cut and chopped add the rest of the veggies.
2) Cook Edamame following package directions, cool and add to salad.
3) Season with salt and pepper to taste. This is even better the next day, and is great to take on a picnic or pot-luck.
Olive Focaccia and Mozzarella Bites
I used the fabulous Olive bread from our local Wave Hill bakery, but you can use any good bread you can find, or bake the one from the Pioneer Woman linked above. These would be such a great hors d’oeuvre, or snack to take on a picnic or to the beach.
1 Olive or rosemary Foccacia, Ciabatta, or other artisan bread
1 mozzarella ball
fresh herbs (basil, parsley, oregano, rosemary)
small bamboo skewers 4-6 inches in length
1) Cut the mozzarella into half- inch cubes. Put in a bowl with a sprinkling of olive oil, fresh herbs, and a good grind of pepper. Herbs de Provence would work really well also. This can be done ahead.
2) Cut the bread into bite size squares, and cut a pocket horizontally half-way through.
3) Drain the Sun-dried tomatoes on paper towels and cut in half.
4) Tuck dried tomatoes and cheese in the bread chunks and thread onto the skewers. Garnish with a stuffed olive if desired.
Make ahead sandwich hints:
Use toothpicks to keep sandwiches neatly closed.
To keep sandwiches from drying out, line a basket or tray with a napkin (paper or otherwise), and arrange sandwiches closely together. Wet a paper towel and wring out most of the water. Lay the damp towel over the sandwiches, and cover closely with plastic wrap. Keep at cool room temperature for an hour at most in hot weather, but keep in mind that the refrigerator will harden fresh bread.