Party On

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My husband and I enjoy throwing lunch / dinner parties at home instead of going out, especially now that we have a little munchkin to think about. It saves money, we eliminate the need to look for parking, we can go overboard on wine if we want, and we can pass out on a couch immediately if we overdose on a little too much gluttony … and that’s precisely what I did this weekend.

After the “roll your own sushi” party with friends, I went straight to the bedroom and crashed for several hours, while my husband did the dishes, fed the baby and changed her diaper. I feel a little guilty that he did everything from start to finish – but I did contribute by making an appetizer platter of baguette, grilled asparagus, sliced cucumbers, prosciutto, smoked salmon, goat cheese, Havarti, and Asiago, which took all five minutes to put together. lol

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter if you celebrate it. If not, I hope you enjoyed those delicious Cadbury Mini Eggs!

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Tartine at Home: Egg Salad and Shrimp Sandwiches

My corner market carries a wonderful selection of artisan bread from Il Fornaio. My favorite is the sourdough boule that I can get for a little over a buck. As much as I enjoy baking my own bread at home, you can’t beat this wonderful deal. I love frying a few slices in shallow olive oil until both sides are golden brown, and pile some of my favorite toppings to make a lovely tartine, or open sandwich, Cuisine-de-Bar style!

Here are two of my favorites. 🙂

Egg Salad Sandwich
(Makes 1 serving, 2 slices)

I got the idea to pile egg salad onto the toast after having something very similar at a bakery called Euro Pan Bakery in Pasadena that’s known for perfectly-cooked egg salad. I also added smoked salmon, thinly-sliced onion, and avocado, to make it a satisfying lunch! I hope you give this a try for a weekend brunch or just because you want to treat yourself to a wonderful breakfast or lunch.

2 slices of thick bread
2 eggs
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
½ avocado
¼ onion, thinly sliced
1 piece Smoked salmon
1 tablespoon Olive OIl
Salt and pepper

Making the Egg Salad: Heat water in medium pot and bring it up to boil. Drop the eggs gently in the pot and cook for exactly six minutes. Yes, six minutes – no more, no less. I got this secret from Dorie Greenspan, who preaches the Six Minute rule in her amazing cookbook, Around My French Table, and it works every time like magic (by the way, this cookbook is one of the best in the market). When cooked, peel the shell and toss the eggs in a small bowl. Use the fork and break the eggs gently. The yolk should be slightly runny. Add chopped parsley and mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. This requires absolutely no mayo because the yolk provides that lovely velvety texture!

Frying the Bread: Pour a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and put on low heat. Put the bread slices in the pan and fry, until the surface is golden brown, for about 5 minutes. Because you’re using low heat, it takes a while for the surface to brown but be patient. The wait will be so worth it. When done, turn over to the other side and repeat. Again, be patient and don’t burn the bread.

Assembling: It’s time to start piling the tatines. Lay the onion slices at the bottom and pour the egg salad equally over each piece of bread. Top the sandwich with smoked salmon and avocado. Enjoy with drops of hot sauce if you like some heat.

Shrimp Cocktail Tartine
(Makes 1 serving, 2 slices)

I first made this tartine when I had a particular craving for shrimps. I always keep a bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer just in case of such attack. The combination of spicy horseradish and mayo is impeccable. This is one of my favorite summertime lunch.

2 slices of bread, thickly sliced
6 shrimp, cooked and cut in quarter
¼ onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon horseradish (more or less, depending on your taste for wasabi-like spiciness)
1-1/2 tablespoon mayonnaise
½ tablespoon ketchup
1 garlic, grated
½ tablespoon white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons capers
Salt and Pepper

Follow the same instruction shown on the previous recipe, under “Frying the Bread.” Mix the shrimp, onion, parsley, horseradish, mayonnaise, ketchup, garlic, capers, vinegar (or lemon juice) and salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Pile the shrimp salad on two bread slices equally. Enjoy with hot sauce!

Birthday Brunch Catering

I have so much respect for professional caterers. There are so much that go into planning a successful event – from selecting the menu to preparation, all while making sure that the food comes out on time and that all the guests are having a great time! For someone like me who can’t chew gum and walk at the same time, trying to juggle these things can be stressful. For this exact reason, when Tiffany asked me, my fiancé, and friend Gabriel to cater her birthday brunch for 20 of her friends, I decided to make something that was very easy and something that I can prepare beforehand.

Gabriel hosted a waffle bar and made variety of waffles using his newly-acquired waffle maker. He made sweet and savory kinds, with the latter served with crispy bacon! My favorite was the chocolate waffle that tasted just like a cake! I am so bummed that I didn’t take pictures of the wonderful waffle spread!

I was in charge of appetizers and made my go-to menus: Salmon, Goat Cheese, and Cucumber Canape and Tomato-Avocado salad. A part of me wanted to do something super fancy but I went with the time-tested recipes.  And it was perfect that I was able to put the tomato salad together in the morning before arriving to the party and all I had to do on the day of was assemble the canape.

I would like to share the recipe for the Tomato-Avocado salad. This is so easy to make, and it’s perfect for the hot summer months! This is very similar to the other tomato salad I made with goat cheese, and even more similar to the bruschetta, but this is the easier version with less ingredients.  I might actually like this one more than the other tomato salads.

Tomato and Avocado Summer Salad
Serves 10-15 (you can reduce the amount of tomatoes and avocados if you want to make smaller portion)

Ingredients:
8 Roma Tomatoes, chopped
2 Haas Avocados, chopped
1/2 Onion, thinly sliced
2 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons Parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup Rice Vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Instruction:
Mix all chopped ingredients in a large bowl. You can wait to put the avocados until right before serving if you would like to keep the shape. Pour the olive oil, rice vinegar, and salt and pepper (to taste) and mix well. Let the salad sit for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator before serving (you can leave it overnight or longer).

When you reach the bottom of the bowl, don’t throw away the lovely dressing! That’s the best part. I like to use up all the delicious mixture of olive oil, rice vinegar and the juice of all the vegetables, by tossing pasta (I think short pastas like Fusilli and Farfalle work best) and arugula for a refreshing pasta salad.

Back to the brunch menu, my fiancé made two types of thin-crust pizzas using the fresh pizza dough we got from Trader Joe’s. He made one with Prosciutto, arugula, and thinly-shaved Parmesan Cheese, and another with Mozzarella Cheese and Basil. They were both so delicious and flew like off the plates like hot cakes!

He also made Tofu Tiramisu for dessert. Yes, you heard it right – tofu! He cooked the tofu slices in sweetened espresso and sandwiched them between ladyfingers and Mascarpone Cheese. This was a home run and even better knowing that tofu helped cut the calories significantly.

I’m glad the party was a success. Happy birthday, Tiffany!

Place of Your Own: Marmalade Cafe

a-marmaladeI would have to say that my favorite supper is brunch, or perhaps even lun-ner. I like eating meals at odd times (the non-conformist that I am). I like going out for brunch on a weekend, around 11:00 a.m. so I can sleep in and still feel productive during the day. Having “lun-ner” between lunch and dinner, around 4:00 p.m. is wonderful too because you can overeat a bit and still have good several hours to digest them all before going to bed.

Today was my relaxing Saturday where my best friend and I went shopping at noon and stopped by Marmalade Cafe in Calabasas for a very late lunch and cocktail, around 3:00 p.m. Because we avoided the traditionally-busy weekend lunch traffic, we were able to enjoy the meal in peace and quite, without feeling rushed. There’s always a risk of having to share a space with loud baby or bridal shower crowd around this time, but if you can handle the overly hyper yuppies in floral dresses ooooo-ing and aaaaa-ing over a baby bootie, an in-between meal is the perfect place for good food and company.

We shared three appetizers, which coincidently turned out to be all the edibles from the sea.

a-calamari

Calamari Fritto, calamari dusted with our special coating, fried to a crispy golden brown & accompanied with spicy cocktail sauce.

a-clam

Steamed Mussels & Clams, fresh mussels & clams steamed in a white wine garlic broth.

a-crabcake

Maryland Crab Cakes, two crab cakes served with a lemon-caper remoulade & a mixed green salad.

Sourdough — what a delight!

Marmalade Café is definitely one of those rare chain restaurants that doesn’t suck. I usually frequent the Sherman Oaks location, but we checked out the Calabasas branch in Commons Way, and both locations have yet to disappoint me (by the way, the lemon champagne vinaigrette they make is absolutely to die for).  I absolutely loved the fact that we had this wonderfully cozy place almost all to ourselves this afternoon.

Marmalade Café: 4784 Commons Way, Calabasas, CA 91302
★★★★☆