Wednesday, June 29, 2011

all kinds of classy

My sister’s godmother Joanne (and a relative, too, but in that complicated Greek way that makes it easier to just say she’s my aunt) had a big birthday this year, and her husband, my sister’s godfather Roger threw her the CLASSIEST SHINDIG EVER. 

Cocktail hour with classy people in classy clothes

me and finkle at party

(my sister is the smiling one, I’m the one who’s uncomfortable being photographed. Kudos to my aunt’s iPhone and its Hipstamatic app for making that look semi-glamorous)

Beautifully decorated tables with lovely linens and sweet flowers


An army of caterers who were so like… seamlessly perfect at making sure everything ran perfectly and your wine glass was never empty


On that note, never-empty wine glasses. And champagne glasses. And place cards!

wine names gone

The meal began with an exquisite first course: actually my mom and my favorite thing that was served. Just look!


At the bottom, a heavenly gazpacho of yellow tomatoes, bright with acid (I thought this was a super cute touch because Joanne herself makes a mean gazpacho). Then perfectly, gorgeously diced tomatoes. Atop them, what could’ve passed for crab but was in fact diced hearts of palm (! I love hearts of palm!). Then a cute sprinkling of microgreens. And a wonderfully crisp, garlicky crostini of sorts.



There were *placecards* and *assigned seating* (my boyfriend was at the other end of the table and I managed, *sob*. And yknow, he managed fine cause he is absurdly extroverted) and fortunately the lovely couple between whom I was seated were clearly very amused by my photographs and hearing about my newfangled food blog.

Next, salmon!


Oh man oh man. Butta butta butta!

The salmon was cooked perfectly perfect- meltingly tender and still soft and pinkish in the middle. And the top had clearly been SLATHERED in parsley butter. Butta butta butta! So rich I couldn’t finish it, but I enjoyed every bite.

On the side was a pilaf that I enjoyed despite not particularly caring for its two main ingredients (orzo and wild rice) so that’s a testament to their cooking. And green beans that were PERFECTLY toothsome. Seriously, these caterers were legit.

Roger gave a very sweet toast, as did some of Joanne’s friends


And then, like any proper birthday party, there was cake! (Though no singing and embarrassment. This is, after all, a classy event).


YEAH that’s lemon curd filling, YEAH that’s luscious whipped cream on top, YEAH I got a bigger piece than the guy next to me :D (But then couldn’t finish it so I passed half of it across the table to Steve!) I spose the berries would be considered the garnish, but they were too yummy looking not to eat. I always eat the garnish!

Along with dessert there was decaf coffee in amusingly tiny cups. Not espresso. Just coffee in tiny cups. It was delicious!

espresso edited 

And then there was an adorable extra tray of sweets. Bonus dessert! Dessert accessory!


I had a peached filled cookie and a pecan-pie bar that was INCRED.


I need more dessert accessories in my life, I think.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

well-sourced grillin’ feast

Had the loveliest local-licious barbecue collaboration with the family and boyfriend.


This meal was ALL OVER THE PLACE. In that its ingredients came from all over the place, but were mostly ones that made me proud.

First of all, it definitely had its carnivorous moments. Steve provided (farmer’s market) brats and bacon, and in a delicious act of excess, wrapped one of the brats in the bacon.


There was also (organic, not local) ground beef, which I turned into meatballs with just oregano, salt and pepper, and tons of Worcestershire. Grilled meatballs are grand. 


Those apples were leftover from work (salvaged!). I threw them in a foil packet with a wee dab of butter and honey and let them grill til they started getting a bit caramely and gorgeous. Why? I had a grand vision for GRILLED PIZZA, BABY!

Included in that vision was Steve’s goat cheese (er, I think just Trader Joe’s. Mm, still a wonderful food source, even if I abhor their shrink-wrap-addict produce section). He lovingly if messily cut it up for me.


I’ve made grilled pizza with legit homemade pizza dough before, but it’s also just hella easy to get some kind of flatbread or pita (in this case, a flatbread from Costco with an unfortunately lengthy ingredient list that claims to be “low carb” but I just get because it’s 100% whole wheat and delicious and an awesome shape). Threw that on the grill.


If you want to try this at home, cook it for just a few seconds (seriously, start checking at 20- like most grilled foods, it’ll tell you when it’s ready to flip by releasing itself from the grill and letting you flip it.

Then it’ll look like this mm mmm mm blistery goodness.


Top the toasted side with your toppings, and let finish off. Removing from the grill is bloody difficult.


Steve always tries to take pictures of me (with *my* camera), but I generally sneak out of them. So I made a deal with a certain other person, who happened to be on my deck at the time, to be my stand-in. Here “I” am, grilling away!


Hahahah we are silly. Malindi, you have nice legs.

Soooooo having completed our grilling and dried off from the deluge, we strolled inside, et voila; big pile o’ meat


[Confession: had a bite of the bacon-wrapped bratwurst. It was TOTALLY DELICIOUS]

On that skewer, I also did a repeat of dates-wrapped-in-bacon, which was still pretty fab but a bit burnt. Because fact: torrential rain started falling at a certain point in the grilling. So I didn’t have any good action shots of certain parts of this process, and certain foods were casualties of the weather. Sorry, dates. You were still… pretty fab.

Also (farmer’s market!) green things:


I am ALWAYS grilling green beans now. They were SO GOOD! Also just in a foil packet with a bit of water (to soften ‘em and prevent burning), salt and pepper, and olive oil (caramelization, mm). It really totally makes sense- it’s the same idea as those awesome green beans you get at Chinese restaurants with the high heat and bit of oil and caramelization.

The greens.. got a bit dried out. Apologies.

And of course, the piece de resistance, the final pizza, which really was pretty spectacular. Thanks for the cheese, Steve!


Definitely went back for several bites of just apple. Not that there was anything wrong with the bread and cheese elements of the dish, either. I love when grilled foods get all dark and crackly. Never mind that it’s carcinogenic.


Steve made something that was his then-food-phase (he goes through many, often short-lived): honeydew melon with feta, salt and pepper. It was nom.


Quite the well rounded meal. Ate probably three times what was pictured here :D


Sunday, June 26, 2011

hours and hours

So I’m way ahead on hours. The way Americorps works is that you finish your year of service having completed a certain number of hours- for me, as full time, it is 1700. This means that I am supposed to work, on a normal day, from 10 to 6:15, taking out an hour for lunch.

However, given that I was in school at 8 am two days a week and would only take a moderate break, given the many ten-hour days I put in, my weeky 15-minute-stress-lunch on Wednesdays, and my many evenings and Saturdays put in, I am ludicrously ahead on hours. As in- for the rest of the summer, with some days off already prearranged, I only have to work 4.1 hours a day to fulfill my obligation. And if I finish those hours too soon, I will not get my “living allowance” (the stipend Americorps members make) for August. But still have to complete my contract… which goes through August. Do you get that? Please explain it to me.

So, my solution is, I will go into work when I feel like it. And if I don’t feel like heading in til 9:30 on my school days, I will stay home. And bake!


I finally jumped on the beans-in-baked-goods bandwagon!

Banana Bean Blondies

Put a can of chickpeas (I stuck with my true love, Goya low sodium) in a food processor. Blend for a very very very very long time. Then add:

2 bananas
3 dates


Blend s’more. Then add:

1/4 cup ground flax
2 T whole wheat flour
sweetness of choice (I added 2 T stevia baking mix)
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp. vanilla
3 T applesauce
2 T oil
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder

Put most of it in my brownie pan, but had a bit too much.


So dumped the rest onto a griddle to make pancakes.


Very very beautiful pancakes! The blondies were good, but my heavens the pancakes were AMAZING!


I baked the blondies in a 350 oven for half an hour or so (I kept having to put them back in: the toothpick test does NOT work on these!)

Pluses to these brownies: they are sweet, delicious, and filling, and have no taste of beaniness. Cons: they get a sort of bizarre papery crust on top.


Anyway, my family and I ate the whole pan in three days or so, so I’m considering the recipe a success. They also didn’t guess the secret ingredient til I fessed up!


Also on the topic of time, I’ve been trying to savor my leisure time. I’ve been finishing work feeling sort of dead tired. Steve was nice enough to suggest a spontaneous Tuesday dinner out. We were originally going to a place in Georgetown for which he has a groupon, but apparently it flooded. Oh dear. So we ended up at Leila’s Lebanese Restaurant, in Oldtown Alexandria, a place I had already been and savored.

Since I was semiconscious and not at all hungry and Steve had eaten like 12 sandwiches or something earlier in the day (whenever the kids reject a snack, he feels compelled to eat all the leftovers), we just got small plates.

I got really really really delicious lentil soup.


Couldn’t for the life of me figure out what green was on top of it, but it gave it wonderful, wonderful flavor. This was brothier than I typically make my lentil soup, and I really dug it. Note to self.


And these sweet little pies!


Spinach filling. Mmm. I love my Greek spanikopita, but I think the Arabs might do spinach pie better than us. The outside is almost like an empanada (mm, love those too.)


I actually ended up giving one of them to Steve (I really wasn’t hungry! Also, he really was, despite the sandwiches. His appetite is a force of nature).

He got the fattoush salad, with wonderful pita chips and greens and tomatoes and za’atar. I taught him about za’atar’s existence, for which he seems vair grateful.


And makdous, yummy yummy pickley stuffed eggplants.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

friend wedding!

You’ll have to excuse me if this post comes across as a bit befuddled- I’ve entered the entirely frightening state of adulthood where your friends- not your OLDER cousins or your OLDER friends- but YOUR FRIENDS- are getting married.

Today was my first official Friend Wedding.

And it was so so so so beautiful.


I’ve been friends with Virginia since middle school. We used to, among other things, sing in chorus class together. SO imagine my shock when not only was I invited to the wedding, along with my whole family (who has made friends with her whole family) but asked to sing along with the music.

Standing in the choir area at the back of the church, drumming my fingers nervously as I waited for the ceremony to begin, I felt entirely unprepared. Perhaps that is why I look so tense in this shot with my fellow sopranos (I’m that tense looking one on the left).


But it was beautiful. Even during that moment when the bridesmaid passed out. (Though that happened at the last wedding I went to, too. Ladies, eat a quality lunch and don’t lock ya knees!)

Yay beautiful happy friend!


Naturally, I food blogged. The reception was held on the grounds of a historical, restored farmhouse that is actually just a few steps away from the lot where they hold the farmer’s market (my happy place). After signing the book, we were greeted with a tower of hors du’oeuvres.


I wrestled off some grapes (harder than you’d think; they were big bunches!) and some other fresh fruit, bits o’ cheese, and nabbed an entirely delicious veggie quesadilla from a waiter going by with a tray.


Though the weather seemed like it could’ve been ominous earlier in the day, God was just way too much of a fan of these two happy kids and it stayed nice. It was wonderful celebrating outside in the tent!


We started sitting at tables, listening to toasts and things (the bride’s father did a toast which would’ve been totally Kleenex-requiring even if it weren’t Father’s Day but OH YEAH IT’S FATHER’S DAY).

Everything was so beautiful and simple and tasteful and just… really nice. (I saw Bridesmaids yesterday- the funniest movie I have seen in years and years and years and years- and it seemed particularly tasteful coming off of that, hahahaha). There was even subtle and considerate bug spray!

Tables were named for famous Virginians (home of the bride’s family- well and plus her name is Virginia) and famous Texans (home of the groom’s family. And there were more hilarious selections- including Tommy Lee Jones.) I was at Willa Cather. The table with the bride and groom, sheesh! Wow!


The beautiful place settings revealed that they also had a practical purpose too: those orange things were fans! They got used quite a bit later in the evening.


There were meat kabobs but I didn’t know where they were from and had a weekend low in veggies. So I happily ate salad, LUSCIOUS potatoes, yummy grilled veggies, and bread.


Then there was a quality bunch of dancing, whoo boy! The bride and groom kicked things off with some very impressive swing dancing. They both went to Saint John’s College in Annapolis (where Steve and I hung out the other weekend) and apparently there was swing dancing like once a week. And they were GOOD!


And then of course there was cake. I naturally got a shot (and you can, in fact, see my face in the background).


But then so did my mom! Hilarious! I’m turning her into a food blogger! And I like hers!


Cakes made with fresh flowers are so beautiful. Simpler is better! My mom said that in my grandmother’s catering days that’s what she always did.

You had your choice of chocolate or vanilla. BUT a large group of us started talking about how halfsies were the best for trying both so I went halfsies with one of the bridesmaids, who I HAD NOT SPOKEN TO PREVIOUSLY. What an awesome way to bond with a new person. Cake!


Vanilla with raspberry filling, chocolate with mocha filling. Marvy.


Generally, my first friend wedding did not freak me out as much as I thought it would. Yes, I grimaced at being herded for the bouquet toss and was entirely relieved to see it not go anywhere near me. Seeing two people make a really really serious commitment to one another reminded me what a huge deal the whole thing was. But man it was a really amazing thing to get to be a part of this monumental day for someone with whom I go so far back. And she’s great, and she’s great, and it’s great!

Congrats to the happy couple!