My cousin Ashley's wedding shower, which I hosted last weekend, went off without a hitch, excepting a couple episodes of belligerent Pomeranians trying to murder the cats (not really the dogs' fault, but mine for neglecting my feline brood). A few people have asked me about the menu, which I'm delighted to present here:
-Bruschetta: mine's very basic -- just a few tomatoes, chopped up, with a handful of chopped basil, a few minced garlic cloves, and a tablespoon or so of olive oil, plus salt and pepper. I serve it in a bowl rather than on each individual piece of bread. Much easier for the host!
-Cheese plate with some Stilton, Raclette, and Manchego, all found at Trader Joe's -- in my experience, the only place to buy good cheese without going into foreclosure
-Almost-No-Knead Bread, sliced up for bruschetta and cheese
-Bowl of mixed olives from Shopper's Food Warehouse, which has a surprisingly good olive bar
-Special Occasion Chicken Salad -- meat from two roasted chickens, a cup of aioli, a big chopped bell pepper, a bunch of chopped scallions, about a quarter cup of chopped tarragon, a squeeze of lemon, salt, pepper
-Poached Salmon -- thanks, Mom! (The EE ain't in no shape to buy a whole damn fish)
-White bean and tomato salad -- you soak a whole bag of cannelini beans overnight, then boil them the next day till they're soft; then you roast a bunch of cipollini onions in olive oil and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary for about 25 minutes at 300 degrees; add a couple handfuls of grape or cherry tomatoes to the onions and continue roasting for another 15 minutes; mix in with the beans; add ample salt and pepper and parsley and a squeeze of lemon, and serve.
-Delicious late summer salad -- about two pounds of mixed arugula and spinach; a half cup or so of crumbled Stilton (cut off a hunk from the cheese plate); another half cup or so of raw almonds; and two peaches, cut into half-inch chunks. Serve with the best easy dressing: 1 cup of olive oil whisked together with a heaping tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a heaping tablespoon of raspberry preserves. If dressing's too thick for your taste, thin it with a few teaspoons of water.
-Greek-style Scalloped Potatoes: my Aunt Mary had brought these to my Easter party and they were a huge hit, so I attempted to reproduce them -- with minor success. The cookbook I followed was too optimistic about cooking times, so this dish didn't come out till everyone was just about done with the main course (but, good girls they were, they piled it on their plates all the same!). Peel about 12 baking potatoes, and slice them to 1/8" thin, preferably using a mandoline to save time. Layer them in a baking sheet with about two cups of feta cheese and olives. Be sure to add lots of salt and olive oil to keep everything both tasty and moist. If you want, add fresh oregano or rosemary here and there. Bake for about an hour, or till potatoes are soft.
-Flourless Chocolate Cake
-Upside-down Nectarine Chiffon Cake
-Cupcakes (provided by the lovely Erika, one of the bride's friends)
-Vanilla ice cream
-White wine sangria: this time of year, it's one big bottle of vino cheapo (get a sweet white like Riesling), a chopped nectarine, a handful of chopped strawberries, a third-cup of sugar, and about two cups of club soda. Stir everything well, and refrigerate at least an hour before serving. Be sure to double when hosting a lingerie shower for 20 ladies.
-Lemonade: a bag of 6 lemons has been going for just $1.59 at TJ's lately, and when life hands you lemons...anyway, my ratio for making a big pitcher consists of the juice of about 9 small lemons, a cup of sugar, and 5 cups of water.
-Iced tea (provided by Mom -- she won't tolerate anyone else's iced tea)
-Iced coffee: for some reason, people get all precious about the making of iced coffee, and some even buy special iced coffee makers like the Toddy. No need for that -- just brew hot coffee, remove it from the coffee maker and put it on a trivet to cool off, and put it in the fridge to get colder. Duh.
-Cava and Prosecco (much cheaper than good Champagne, and much better than cheap Champagne)
Of course, the bride-to-be and her guests were really the focal point. Everyone seemed to have a great time, and we all wish Ashley the best!
Oh, and a HUGE THANKS to my friend Sarah, the most competent person I know, whose help I could not have done without!