Where do I begin? Only one week back home and already the kaleidoscope of meals and events that filled those days made up for the last two months of …just working. From a rocking baby-shower where the future, first time parents were expecting TRIPLETS, to a night on the town with our nut-job friends and GABY MORENO at The Hotel Café, to a leisurely lunch mid week with Heather and John, to an Oscar viewing bash at our modest abode with a bunch of near to heart fellows…

Those are some colorful people by the way. We haven’t seen Tom since the STAKE DINNER SUNDAY months ago. He arrived last night lugging two gigantic duffel bags and pushed it all through the threshold straight into our living room. I was terrified for a second there he would toss our dining table out the window, thus making a room to set up his tent. Tom doesn’t leave his house without a tent. Plus a bag of baby carrots. Lewis, whom I am pretty sure I have never met before, arrived promptly with three plastic sacks full of Cracker Jack. Our own Lady Dee turned up the volume with a bottle of bubbly, while Veronica and her beau sneaked in straight to the kitchen with a bag of food they ate rapidly and with no further ado both left the party. Have I mentioned their gym clothes still tightly adjacent to their sweaty butts?

“A hug good-bye? No? OK, we’ll go shower now.”

Around the same time Jason G. perched under our window and peeked inside the house. He quietly waited for a moment of silence in the room and then BAM! he banged on the window and wasting no time he shot his petite construction of a body towards the front door all the while squeezing a photo of his new girlfriend from Bogota inside the pocket of his new leather jacket.

“Have I shown you the picture of her?”

“Yes, Jason. I have seen the picture of your model-looking girlfriend stretched on the white sands of a Colombian beach.”

“Isn’t she gorgeous? Can you believe it?”

“No, Jason. I can’t believe any of that. Especially the part where you left her on that beach in the middle of a drug trafficking trail.”

He parted ways neither with his jacket nor the picture inside its pocket throughout the evening.

Leslie forgot her toothbrush and was forced to drive back home and sleep in her own bed (boring!) instead of crashing on our couch. (Has someone mentioned a sleepover? Hello! FUN!)

Those who arrived first last night were eligible for the EARLY BIRD SPECIAL in the form of my unexpectedly delightful CROSTINI. The surprise element is ever present in my kitchen, especially when it comes to the satisfaction with any given meal, considering the amount of experiments and other such explosions of spontaneous creativity going on around here.

The CROSTINI are an incredibly simple appetizer and wildly popular at various catered events. If you’re looking for an inspiration take a look at these two from our last night’s Oscar Viewing Partay. I suggest you double or even triple the amount I made. The CROSTINI were gone in nanoseconds.

Numero Uno –

GARBANZO BEAN & SUN-DRIED TOMATO CROSTINI TOPPED WITH MY TOMATO RELISH

What you need are:

–       14 oz can of garbanzo beans (or cannellini is fine, too), drained, rinsed, drained again

–       1/3 cup of oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, with the oil

–       2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

–       handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

–       fresh lemon juice of 1 lemon

–       1 tsp of aged Balsamic vinegar

–       1/2 tsp smoked paprika

–       good extra virgin olive oil

–       sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

All those guys land in a food processor. You just press the button and let them merge into a coherent mass while slowly adding a drizzle of olive oil. Taste. Moan with satisfaction. Store in an airtight container on a quiet street inside of your refrigerator for later.

For the relish:

–       2 roma tomatoes, seeded and finely diced

–       handful of fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

–       1.5 tsp of aged Balsamic vinegar

–       1 tsp of raw cane sugar

–       sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mix everybody in a small glass bowl, cover with a plastic wrap and park right beside your Garbanzo Bean & Sun-dried Tomato Spread in the fridge.

Numero Duo –

SMOKED HERRING & ANCHOVY CROSTINI TOPPED WITH PARSLEY

Grab:

–       7 oz can of oil-packed smoked herring, oil set aside

–       2 oz can of oil-packed anchovy, oil set aside

–       handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

This one is just a laugh. That’s how EZ this topping is. Using a fork smash both fishies in a glass bowl, mix with the parsley, cover and ship into the icebox. Seriously. That’s it, I promise!

Minutes before your guests arrive, heat the oven to 375° and slice a French baguette on a diagonal. Spread the slices on a sheet pan, drizzle half of the batch with extra virgin olive oil, and the other half – with the olive oil the herring and anchovies were packed in. Be generous. Place the sheet pan inside the oven for about 15 minutes. When ready, cover the first half with the Bean and Sun-Dried Tomato spread and top with a few chunks of your marinated tomato relish.

The other half of the baguette slices is to be topped appropriately with the Herring-Anchovy mix. Pack it tightly on your CROSTINI and serve instantly.

I was smart enough to snap a photo of each platter before they landed on the table before those hungry sharks of my friends. Minutes later the baguette was just a vague memory and Jason just stood there amazed by how much he enjoyed the herring despite his utterly horrific expectations.