Saturday, September 5, 2009

Two Weeks in My Kitchen: August 25-September 5: Part 2

A few days after our carbohydrate festival at Cook Club, I headed over to a friend's house to taste cocktails. Now I know that sound like a lot of fun, but I took this task very seriously! These are friends that are getting married next week and they asked me to concoct a champagne cocktail to serve in celebration.
After some thought about the cocktail hour menu (Mediterranean mezze) I thought that the sparkling wine should be combined with a syrup that was both floral and biting. Something that would hold up to the strong flavors of the appetizers but that would be subtle enough to enjoy on it's own.

I made four different syrups from things like rosemary, fresh bay leaf and orange flower water. We tasted the cocktails with and without bitters, as well as with and without the lovely foaming sugar cube. The bride and groom agreed that their pick was a syrup that balanced orange flower with fresh bay. This combination rounded out the saltiness of the olives and feta that we nibbled on as we tasted, so we think it will be delicious at the wedding next week. Can't wait to try it again!

Two Weeks in My Kitchen: August 25-September 5: Part 1

The highlight of these last two weeks was hosting Cook Club on August 30. For those of you who might not know, Cook Club is a group (about 8 of us) who get together every other week to have dinner. There are only a couple of rules (and yes, you Chuck Palahniuk fans, we kid that the first rule of Cook Club is that we're not supposed to talk about it!)
The actual rules are:
1. If you're the host, you do all of the cooking and all of the dishes. If you're the guest, you generally bring a beverage of some sort. Because we meet every other week, this means that generally, I get to eat delicious home cooked meals and only work for them every couple months or so.
2. You generally only invite additional guests to the Cook Club that you're hosting. This rule is pretty flexible.
3. The last rule is unofficial. (Well, actually all of the other ones are too.) We try not to duplicate menus that we've had recently. It makes menu development fun and keeps the meals interesting.

I decided to do something a little goofy for this Cook Club. We had breakfast for dinner. The main meal consisted of shirred eggs (which are broiled in a gratin dish with cream, herbs and cheese!), cheddar and scallion scones, chicken sausage and pancakes with strawberries and maple syrup. And because August 29-30 was also Canning Across America, I made some seedless blackberry jam for the pancakes too. The buffet also included bloody marys, bellinis and decaf coffee. (And see those silver cans under the buffet table? That's where I store my flour and sugar.)

I couldn't resist making a little Coffee Coffee Cake for folks to take home. This is a luscious sour cream pound cake that is swirled with espresso and glazed with coffee icing. One of my most requested coffee cakes. (And a recipe that I inherited from my baking days at McGraw Street Bakery.)

I was a bit nervous about cooking pancakes for this many people. I thought I might not get to sit down and enjoy the meal. But it all worked out. The pancakes were buttery yet fluffy, and the shirred eggs were a nice change from the standard scramble. We finished with some hot chocolate and cream that I brought back from Paris, especially for Cook Club.
I love cooking for people-sharing something that I've made with them--but Cook Club is special in a different way. The eight of us come from different worlds. Some are booksellers, some are engineers, others work in marketing. But for the last two years this disparate group of people--relative strangers to begin with-- has come together over food every other week. We've shared something of ourselves through these meals, and in that process we've become something more. In sharing meals we've become friends.

the perfect balance