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Archive for the ‘parties & food’ Category

Let’s just say I’m the least timely person ever. I know Thanksgiving was almost two weeks ago but between my brother-in-law getting engaged and Bombay life in general, plus my knack for procrastination, this post comes late. But better late than never, right?

I was missing Thanksgiving at home and I wanted to do something to celebrate it here in Bombay. We had a bit of pumpkin lying in our fridge- not enough to make a pie, but after I boiled it and gave it a whir in the mixer, I had about 3/4 cup of puree*. I decided to make Rice’s mom’s squash rolls- these heavenly, buttery, barely sweet rolls that I used to inhale when at Rice’s house on the day after Thanksgiving. I had asked for the recipe two years ago but somehow never made these until yesterday- and I can’t believe I waited so long. I let the dough pouf up enormously, punched it a bit, shaped the rolls, brushed them with butter, let them rise once more, baked them until golden, and brushed them with butter once again. Warm, airy and meltingly soft, they were everything I remembered and more, which made them perfect for my first Bombay Thanksgiving.

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A couple weekends ago, we threw a Gnome party to celebrate the coming of spring. Anthony and I did extensive gnomic research and learned that gnomes 1. live in forests 2. are happy-go-lucky vegetarians and 3. like melancholy tales. We thought they sounded just like us.


[Art by Elana Snow.]

We slipped some spring sweetness into beer by adding a dash of lemonade to make radler, a German drink of wheat beer and lemonade. Alongside, we served some forest morsels. First was a bowl of Garlicky Sesame-Cured Broccoli Salad with a box of toothpicks nearby for people to pick their little tree of choice.

It’s a simple recipe that calls for marinating raw broccoli in a toasty dressing of sesame oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and cumin for at least 2 hours and up to 48 hours. The results of all that time soften the broccoli until it’s popping with warm, juicy flavors. It’s surprising how good- and popular- this salad was.

We also made Cinnamon Cupcakes with Chile-Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. Above is a picture of the cinnamon, ancho chile powder, cayenne, and vanilla extract splattered onto the butter and sugar batter.

They were awesome. The cinnamon cake base was only slightly sweet, just as I like it, and worked perfectly with the spicy and totally intriguing chocolate buttercream. These might be my favorite cupcakes ever.

So, Elana is our artist-in-residence and one of the most wonderful people ever. We met freshman year of college when we were both assigned to the Gildersleeve (…just like Gryffondor) house in AMR II. Elana lived with Malka and I lived downstairs with a vegan girl.

Long story short, I liked cheese and needed someone to eat it with, so our friendship bloomed. E and I lived together junior and senior year which was maybe the loveliest time ever. Anyway, Anthony and I spend way too much time discussing how much we appreciate Elana, and then he had the great idea to ask her to draw decorations for our party.

She was busy all week and had to be in NH the day before our party but brought a bag of markers on the train to make the posters. She said, “I was on the train and I started to draw gnomes. But plain and simple gnome drawings just bored me to tears. I kept looking at their cute little wise gnome faces and thought ‘I wonder which issues are important to gnomes. If a gnome were to run for president, what would his platform be?’ And then I became completely obsessed with the idea of a gnome election. It really took off from there.”

These posters have a permanent place on the wall above our couch. Thanks, Elana!

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I’m home for a few days. I like looking out at the trees in our backyard, some with curving leaves still hanging from branches, rusty hooks suspended against the bleak sky. On the ground the leaves look chalky, shivering and scattering when the wind blows. It feels like fall, but Hi, spring. You’ve finally arrived. On a walk I spotted tiny nubs on branches, dark knots framed by gray, soon to unfurl glossy new leaves.

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Last weekend we cooked for a few hours for a late lunch party, climbing out on the fire escape in between dishes to breathe. The sun was throwing gold on us and our forbidden jungle of a backyard.

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We made an Onion Tart with Mustard and Fennel that turned out surprisingly well. I was worried that the dough wouldn’t rise- it was my first time working solo with yeast- but I placed the bowl in a sunny spot and in a little over an hour, a smooth, shiny balloon had formed. In that hour, we slow-cooked three pounds of onions until brown and sticky-sweet, brightened by fragrant fennel seeds. I punched out the dough on a baking sheet and spread a spoonful of mustard across it, then heaped on the onions and sprinkled the Parmesan, dry and sharp.

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After around 30 minutes in the oven, the crust had baked to a crisp, tender, pizza-like dough. The various elements melded together beautifully. The sweet, fennel-speckled onions sitting atop the spicy mustard and covered with a layer of bumpy, browned Parmesan formed a tart that exploded with possibilities of the nutty, the sweet and the heat. It tasted like a new season.

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We also made Sauteed Swiss Chard with Sliced Garlic, gorgeous and juicy (and healthy), a bowl of savory flowers. We added lemon and hot chile flakes to the original recipe to give it an edge.

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We served the swiss chards and the onion tart with L’s excellent turmeric-tinged breakfast potatoes and an Algerian Fennel and Carrot Slaw with Olive Dressing. We had made the salad a couple days back and as the sweet fennel and crunchy carrot sat marinating in the warm oils from the olives and sundried tomatoes, it evolved into a full-bodied cold entree.

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Many more Saturday lazy lunches to come!

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Rice is the undisputed queen of making me awesome mix CDs. Before her mixes, I received compilations that I listened to with a sense of obligation- you know, the kind you trade with your psuedo-boyfriend in middle school but never really get into because both your tastes are still ill formed. But Rice’s mixes, which started in high school, were the first that I ever took seriously, listening to once and then over again, and again, on repeat. Her tastes are diverse and her unearthing abilities impressive- she can find old hip-hop, obscure indie tunes, classics, mashups, rock, sad melodies, energetic jumping songs, British stuff- and she has a gift of figuring out exactly what her friends want to hear. She left for Italy yesterday to work at Spannocchia, a farm where she’ll learn how to craft prosciutto and practice sustainable agriculture. Here are some snapshots from her goodbye party, which took place Saturday night.

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A pile of thinly sliced portobello
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Olive oil dressed sweet potato chips with Parmesan, parsley, salt, and pepper
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Sticky taleggio, parsley, and parsnips

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Hanami Ale is the spring seasonal beer from NH-based Smuttynose. I loved the cherry blossom label and the slightly sour taste, and surprise surprise- I’m suddenly itching to visit DC to see the blossoms!
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Jugalbandi‘s versatile roasted parsnips, a quick and simple party food that’s proven to be a favorite among my friends.

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Taleggio and portobello pizza with caramelized leeks and fresh garlic, parsley and lemon rind. We made the dough but we felt turned out more like springy focaccia than the crispy crust promised from the recipe. Still tasty.

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On Saturday night, Anthony and I threw our Bermuda Sleighbell Groundhog Day party. Bermuda Sleighbell refers to a drink recipe in which Jamaican ginger beer is mixed with whiskey or rum. The combination- warm, spicy, sweet, but above all, refreshing, was our drink of choice for this party. My favorite was the ginger beer mixed with the $4 champagne from the store around the corner. $4 champagne, when mixed with other, tastier beverages, is not that bad.

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As for the food, we were quite ambitious, as usual. We wanted to make one baked good, and fortunately, I found these instructions for Groundhog Day Cupcakes, which I used as I guide to make the shining stars of the evening. They look slightly evil, but also pretty cute, so they fit in well with the mischief-merry mood of the party. I’ll post my decorating instructions below.

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And finally, this picture illustrates our attempts at making the jerk sauce that we used to marinate vegetables before we roasted them, for our jerk-roasted vegetables side dish. We found a recipe for jerk sauce here, and after doubling it, followed it religiously. (Missing labels in the picture: thyme, black pepper, lime, rum; this picture was taken before we added those ingredients.) Of course, it was INSANELY spicy, just incredibly, painfully, spicy. And we had a whole blender full of it. So we bought some yogurt and mixed spoonfuls of the sauce into a much larger proportion of yogurt, and added some oil, and salt, and then used that sauce to marinate sweet potatoes, parsnips, onions, and regular potatoes. Once we toned down the insane heat, the sauce was pretty delicious; with so many scallions, it was bound to be good. I would recommend NOT doubling the recipe, perhaps adding a little oil to the ingredients before blending, and then mixing the blended paste with yogurt, because the paste will still be spicy. But if you store the paste in a separate container, and mix small quantities with yogurt when needed, you’ve got yourself a handy supply of very good marinade.

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Elana and Janki’s instructions on how to make Groundhog Day Cupcakes, adapted from here. You can use any type of cupcake (chocolate, vanilla, coconut…) as your base, but it should taste good with the coconut filled Almond Joys.

Ingredients

• Baked cupcake
• Almond Joy candy
• White frosting
• White jelly beans
• Chocolate sprinkes
• Watermelon slice candy
• Chocolate chips

Cut out a piece of cake from the center of a baked cupcake. Set the Almond Joy upright in the hole, then spread white frosting on the cupcake.

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For the groundhog’s eyes, cut a white jelly bean in half, use frosting to stick the pieces in place on the groundhog’s face, and then make pupils by sticking one chocolate sprinkle in the center of each halved jelly bean. For the nose, either cut a tiny triangle from a watermelon slice candy (which is difficult) or cut pink jelly beans in half, which is easier and works just as well. For the ears and cheeks, stick chocolate chips on with frosting. Sprinkle chocolate sprinkles around the partially emerged groundhog for dirt. After showing off your creation, eat, but beware of probable sugar highs. These cupcakes are extremely sweet.

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On Maggie’s birthday we headed to her house to cook dinner. For starters, she had already prepared Alsatian Cheese Tarts. So much deliciousness was packed between the layers of creamy cheese, crispy caramelized onion, and flaky puff pastry that we ended up feasting on these and forgoing the rest of dinner.

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Like the cheesy tarts we are, we donned Birthday crowns during dinner. Other items we consumed after stuffing ourselves on the Alsatian tarts: pomegranate margaritas, eggnog, coffee (for me, jetlag) and Maggie’s mom’s baked Alaska pie.

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Maggie says that making the Alsatian Tarts is super easy… and one batch produces 36 bite-size appetizers, which sounds great for a party. Find the recipe here, on Sharing the Food Love, which is a blog Rice, Maggie and I started 2 years ago and update infrequently. Although we ate our tarts plain (and thoroughly enjoyed them), you could top yours with a number of items, including pieces of mushroom or roasted red pepper.

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I understand why Indians get married in India, regardless of whom they marry. Indian weddings are so pretty (and this is just an engagement)…

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This looks like a wonderland, full of dreamy possibilities… like, how could something that starts by sparkling with so many pretty lights and that is fragrant with clouds of soft flowers possibly go wrong? Well, obviously, a million ways, but reality is suspended when you enter a world of Christmas lights and flowers, at least for me. While in Bombay, I went to this kid’s engagement with my parents. He is marrying one of my distant cousins. The engagement was held at the Willingdon Club and as soon as we walked in, we were surrounded by 50 relatives.

It was actually kind of enjoyable, a fancy family reunion. But for the longest time, I couldn’t find any other kids, so I made friends with the bar. Two glasses of wine on an empty stomach is enough to make me a social, smiling daughter :).

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The Willingdon Club is a hot location for the engagements and weddings of Bombay’s elite. Apparently, you need to book a year in advance at certain locations for a December engagement/wedding. Unfortunately, the food at the Willingdon Club was pretty awful. If I get married, I want the food to be fantastic at all my events. Glitter is fun, but it fades. The flavors of food, on the other hand, linger on…

Uninspired Punjabi fare dominated the offerings, though they did have some Continental food (baked pasta…eh) and a chaat bar which was apparently quite good, but I’m not a fan of pani puri, and by the time we were done schmoozing, all that was left of the ragda pattis were a few lonely chickpeas in a giant pan.

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Pictured above is one dessert I love. I’m a sucker for jalebis. These weren’t great, but they were more edible than the main courses. The starring dessert however, was this strange …Could it Be Pudding? Could it be Mousse? …pan of chocolate, surrounded by absurdly round scoops of vanilla ice cream.

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I didn’t quite know what to make of it.

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