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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.

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How many times have I told you to cook with love? Really, how often do I mention within these posts the importance of sprinkling your food with fairy dust and passion crystals? There exists a direct correlation between your success in the kitchen and the amount of love spells dissolved in that pot on your stove. I stressed it enough over the months for you to think I would know better than to step into my cooking chambers all bitter, and with electric current of fury streaming through my spine.

Why, you wonder?

If you miss your best friend’s birthday extravaganza because your mate’s left part of the brain has grown twice in size over the course of one week due to work overload, and on top of that he’s drying out of hunger and thus turning into a pile of dust on a desk in his office as we speak, and you must forgo obeying the law while flying through all red lights of the streets of City of Angels rushing to him with a meal that will save his life, and you call your friend from the car with no headset (oops, another violation!) to let her know of the extraordinary circumstances causing your absence at the party, promising to make it up to her in the next few days, she should understand, right?

She didn’t. She was all “I get that Jason was stuck at work, but you could have shown your face at least”. Oh, Mother, when I heard that, a yellow puff of anger mixed with hurt snuck out of my wide open mouth. Really? I was so pissed that she didn’t give me the credit of the doubt, knowing how fiercely loyal I am, and understand that I must have had a damn good excuse to miss her Celebration Of Aging. And frankly, I don’t need to wait for her birthday to raise a toast for the three new wrinkles she’s developed, and the gray hair she’s grown …on her leg, way up there. And she also should know that the minute her boobs get soggy and her butt widens out of her mind so that she has to buy TWO airplane tickets to fly anywhere, and she gets stretch marks after her first childbirth that will resemble the fjords of Norway, I’ll be the first one to make her a FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH FRESH RASPBERRY SAUCE, and stick candles in it no matter the date. Because that’s the kind of friend I am.

In such a frame of mind, I crossed the threshold of our kitchen to make dinner – a pot of hearty soup, one of my favorites, the soup that Jason’s parents loved so much they took the recipe down and entered a soup contest with it in TEXAS. In all modesty, I must say that if there is anything I know about cooking, soup is IT. That’s my forte.

I started peeling my carrots and parsnips all the while thinking of my dear friend, that itzy-bitzy little thing with a big mouth, enormous heart, and a really dirty mind. I crisped some pancetta and sautéed chopped leeks with an onion in a big pot. I tossed all the veggies in along with a few lightning bolts of anger and a dash of salt and pepper. I added two legs of chicken, a handful of spices, and completely engaged in the dialog in my head. From that point on, I have no recollection of the events that took place in my kitchen. I was so busy picturing myself as an old(er) woman with a handful of grandkids parked on the floor around my rocking chair, while telling them the story of a beautiful friendship wasted over …nothing.

The soup was done, and ready to serve. I took a spoonful to taste, and almost spat it back into the pot. It was absolutely disgusting. It was the most repelling thing I ever made. My poor soup, it took it all in – all the bitterness that I got out of my system, and dumped into the pot along with the veggies et al. There was no way to fix it. All I could do was to flush that sour and bitter mixture down the toilet, and drive to see my girlfriend to hug the hell out of her, and give her the birthday gift we both worked on with Jason, and tell her how much I wished I had been there to help her blow the candles, dozens and dozens of them. So many in fact, that the fire marshals arrived, the real ones this time, and not the touring Chippendales in disguise.

When we hugged it all out, I gasped “I’m sorry I couldn’t be there. Are you still upset?” She quickly cut me off “Don’t even sweat it. I was PMS-ing”.

I know PMS. You don’t mess with a woman who is PMSing, period. (No pun intended.) And you definitely don’t want to mess with a woman that is PMSing ON HER BIRTHDAY.

Long story short, I have no recipe to share with you today, as I used it all up during my ANGER MANAGEMENT session with self.

Cooking is therapeutic, have I not told you?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY VERONICA!

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