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“I have a richard. I have balls! My balls are big. My richard is BIG! You think you’re frustrated? I am the head of the department and still have no say.” –  Jason said to Melissa last night when she complained that Hollywood is run by a gang of chauvinistic pigs and she constantly is put in her place only because she’s a woman.

He did not actually say “richard”, you understand.

Both Jason and Melissa were venting their frustration with work, as what a better place for that than a merry Ho Ho Ho party. Their pain, however, meant nothing to us. We laughed so hard at Jason’s sudden and so passionate conclusion that we almost got into an accident. Melissa cried, Brian sprayed his beer all over the table and Leslie’s groovy hat, and I fell off my chair and rolled down the kitchen floor and then a full stoop down to the courtyard.

The party, as spontaneous and last minute as it was, rocked. Even Cosmo had a blast. In fact, he was so hung-over this morning that when I took him to the Pet Wash, instead of his ritual attempt to escape, he looked into the groomer’s eyes and whispered: “ ‘S’up. No perm, please. Just a quiet trim today”.

One lesson I took from last night is to plan the menu better. And by that I mean to prep the food BEFORE a party, so when the guests arrive I get to actually hang out with everybody and enjoy my friends. Last night I spent two hours in the kitchen getting the food out, thus making people migrate into that hot and crowded chamber in order to see me. Not a soul complained, however, once they sunk their teeth into the MUSHROOM PUFFS with a side of SPINACH WITH ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SALAD and steaming hot CAPRESE TARTS.

I really want to tell you how I made those, as I am still getting thank you phone calls mostly because of those tarts. You’ll have to take my word for how amazing they are, as I don’t even have a picture to share. Why? As soon as I got those little tasty bastards out of the oven, all I managed to do was to cut them in wedges and before I knew it the little triangles disappeared from under my knife. By the time I brought the food into the living room, the platter was half empty. Five minutes later the tarts were just a gloomy and sweet memory.

Let’s give the recipe for my CAPRESE TARTS a try nevertheless.

Your essentials:

–       2 sheets of puff pastry

–       6 small/medium Roma tomatoes

–       fresh basil, handful

–       12-16 thin slices of buffalo mozzarella

–       1/2 cup good olive oil

–       1/4 cup aged balsamic vinaigrette

–       1 tbsp honey

–       kosher salt + black pepper to taste

–       1 egg for egg-wash

Roll out your thawed out sheet of puff pastry to a 9” x 18” rectangular. Using a 9” bowl (upside down) cut 2 even circles out of the dough. Take a paring knife and gently draw a circle on each piece of pastry, about 1/2” from the edge. Prick the inner circle with a fork, thus preventing the bottom of the pastry to grow when in the oven. Treat the second sheet of pastry with the same manner. Place the tarts on two sheet pans (2 tarts per baking sheet) lined with parchment paper. Put aside in a refrigerator until you’re ready to bake.

Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds and all juices. Dice the rest of the tomatoes and put into a bowl. Chiffonade fresh basil leaves and combine them with the fruit. (Yes, tomato is a fruit.) In a separate cup whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. Pour the mix over the tomatoes, toss around, and store everything in the icebox to chill.

Preheat the oven to 425°. Pull out the tarts and tomatoes and place on the counter. Using a slated spoon, scoop out a little of the tomato/basil mixture and spread within the inner circle of the dough. Now place the mozzarella slices on top. Break the egg into a small bowl, add a touch of water or heavy cream, and whisk it with a fork into an egg-wash. Brush the outer edge of the tart with the egg-wash, and fold it over the caprese mix.

Place both sheet pans in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until the edges are golden brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve immediately. You won’t have a choice anyways.

I’m off to finish baking Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cookies that will serve as stockings’ stuffers and also will replace my panties on our Christmas Tree…

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Don’t be hatin’, but I’m here only for a minute. This pre-Christmas bustle is not a relaxing time, oh no. Not only is there a list of people to be gifted, and consequently a list of gifts to be found, packed, shipped, sneaked and hidden, delivered and stored under that Christmas Tree, but also there are parties to attend, parties to be thrown, delicacies to be baked, Ho Ho Ho’s to be wished, cards to be sent…. Oh, brother!

That’s the closest I’ve ever been to Santa, or His helper. Only when I squeezed myself into that naughty costume did I feel the magic! It’s a photo from a Halloween Party we held a couple of years ago that I dug out for your entertainment today.

Now back to business. In the continued series of light and balanced dinner ideas for the time between all the diet-busting holidays, I propose a fillet of GRILLED SALMON OVER A BED OF SPINACH. Not only is this obviously healthy, but also it’s highly satisfying on multiple levels. It’s a surprisingly filling dinner, that fills your mouth with bliss and – to quote Mick Jagger himself – SATISFACTION!

Grab yourself a bag of baby spinach and empty it into a bowl. Drizzle with a DRESSING of your choice, por exemplo:

– 1 part of red wine vinegar

– 3 parts of walnut oil

– 1 tsp of Dijon mustard

– 1 finely chopped shallot

– 1 tbsp of honey

– big pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Whisk it together, until the mixture is emulsified into a delicious VINAIGRETTE. Drizzle the nectar over the green, now crumble small pieces of goat cheese all over. Feel free to add dried cranberries and chopped and toasted pecans or simply diced beet (previously cooked). Mix the salad together while your fillet of salmon is grilling cheerfully on a hot grilling pan or an outdoor grill (if you’re blessed with one). Remember to season your fish evenly on both sides with kosher salt and pepper. It’s OK to sprinkle some dry herbs over the flesh, like thyme or marjoram for that extra layer of flavor.

When ready, place the salmon over the bed of spinach salad, and wait no longer for the first satisfying bite.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must retire to the kitchen to fix a treat for the  Christmas Tea Party I’m attending this afternoon. Good Day Everybody!

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