Thursday, August 13, 2009
I am notorious for ruining surprises and, as is usual with ungrateful children, I blame the parents. My dad will buy a birthday present a month in advance and he'd be bursting to give it to you the moment he gets home. He doesn't want to wait even one extra minute to see the look of joy on your face and I tend to be the same way. I try to trick myself into keeping the present a secret by hiding it from myself, which is how I end up with a closet full of forgotten presents that get delivered years later and not always to the people I bought them for. And if someone else dares to plan a surprise for me, I manage to find ways to undermine that too. One year my friends came to pick me up for a surprise birthday outing where they were going to treat me to a pedicure and manicure (that was supposed to be the surprise), only to be greeted at the door by a very excited me, showing off the freshly manicured fingers and toes that I had gone out and had done that very morning.
Despite this family history, we keep trying to make a surprise work. We keep planning surprise anniversary nights on the town, hiding that perfect present for a birthday months away, and organizing a party that for once will definitely be a complete surprise. I'm happy to announce that two of us finally succeeded! My little sister and I have set out to throw a surprise baby shower for my older sister who's expecting my second nephew, and on a one week notice no less! My job was to cook and host while my little sister's task was to keep the surprisee out on the town all morning and casually drop by to "pick me up for lunch". Considering that she's a terrible liar, she did a wonderful job because when they walked in and my sister saw a house full of her friends she was speechless (and she's almost never speechless). Is this the beginning of flawlessly executed surprises going forward? Probably not, but it felt great to succeed for once.
As usual, I got a bit carried away with the menu, and I'm going to include as many recipes as I can type out before my fingers go numb, but I wanted to take a minute to thank Olga for these lovely pictures (I was too busy tending the table, passing around plates of food and keeping the glasses full of the Blood Orange Sparkling Juice to remember my camera until it was too late). Thank you for letting me use them here :)
First up we have the lovely Pesto Cucumber Sandwiches:
This recipe will be a bit on the hazy side because I just tossed it together from memory. I crammed several very generous bunches of basil (let's say 3 cups?) into the food processor, added several handfuls of pine nuts (about half a cup?) and whirred it into a paste. I added a healthy stream of olive oil (let's say 1/3 of a cup), some salt and pepper, several cloves of mushed up garlic and whirred it again until the paste was uniform once again. Finally I added lots of freshly shredded Parmesan cheese (1/2 a cup?) and whirred the machine once again until I was happy. I'm sorry for the fuzzy measurements, but I assure you, as long as your ingredients are fresh, the results will be lovely even if you're a few teaspoons off on any one thing and you can always add more "stuff" if it doesn't look right to you.
Once you have your pesto, just slather it onto a slice of white bread and cover with thin slices of cucumber. Spread some softened cream cheese on another slice of bread and sandwich the two together. Cut off the edges (they can be tossed or one of your guests can nibble on them behind your back) and cut on the diagonal into two triangles. Repeat for as many sandwiches as you want or as long as the pesto/bread/cucumbers last.
Next up were the popular Zuccini Triangles, the recipe for which I've had for years and I think came from Betty Crocker. They're in the lower right-hand corner of the picture of the table above.
3 cups shredded zucchini (3-4 depending on size)
1 cup Bisquick mix
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, slightly beaten
- Heat oven to 350ºF. Line a rectangular pan with foil and brush with olive oil.
- Stir together all ingredients in a great big bowl and spread in pan.
- Bake about 30 minutes or until golden brown.
- Let the pan cool a bit, lift out the foil onto a cutting surface and cut into squares, triangles, or whatever shape you like.
Note: if you make these in advance, they don't mind a quick turn in the microwave one bit.
Yikes! I've let the time get away from me once again and now I must go to sleep, but stay tuned and I'll post the rest of the recipes in the next day or so.
P.S. Don't you just love the heart shaped sugar cubes up above? They make a cup of tea just that much sweeter :)