Monday, July 12, 2010

Keeping starving artists in need of a meal...

It seems that both art and food can bring people together.  However, bringing them together is one task; keeping them fed is quite another.

Prep for this party began with a party of its own the evening prior. Determined to be as home-cook certified as possible, canning fresh tomatoes was on my must-do list this summer. When Van at Wood Duck Farm offered 25 count boxes, I signed up for two... expecting 50 tomatoes to arrive bursting with summer flavors.  Well, the summer flavor I got...  but I got 50 pounds of it.  Yes, in pouring-down rain I carted two 25 pound boxes of tomatoes into the house and decided to start a home canning project a mere 24 hours before people were scheduled to arrive at my home for an evening of food and art. Luckily, mid-peel, core, seed, and can, The Level Headed One suggested an impromptu visit; add Michele hanging his art work, some left over Provincial soup, and the willingness to drink wine at a breakfast bar covered in tomatoes and we had one hell of a party!  Hours later, with 6 quarts of tomatoes canned and gazpacho added to the next day's menu,  I completed step one of the brioche and made my way to bed.  The next morning, after placing the remaining 23 pounds of tomatoes in a 'cool dark place' to await canning,  I was ready to throw down some great food in my art gallery-like home.  After completing the brioche, I decided that it was a success; how can bread composed of 6 eggs and a half pound of butter be anything but fabulous?
On to the gazpacho, which was courtesy of my girl Ina.  The final product was fantastic (see notes) however the recipe made an unbelievably huge pot. If you decide to attempt this recipe, I recommend doing it for a crowd; like an army or prisoners.

After wrapping half a cantaloupe in prosciutto, my husband braved a taste and promptly spit it into his hand; it seems that our Texas rains produced a less than sweet cantaloupe which was delicious on its own but when paired with the salty prosciutto not so much. So, with the prosciutto thrown into a ziplock and the naked cantaloupe quickly plated, I decided to make the peach cobbler... it seems that liquor trumps butter. Yes, after two summers of preparing Paula Deen's Peach Cobbler, I opted for the Neely's recipe which called for far less butter, but a fourth cup of Amaretto. The result was a sticky and gooey casserole full of divine sweetness.  
A few hours later as the guests tricked in, it seemed a night of entrances; not only did Ava and Poe offer wine, but they also brought a present for yours truly. They were quickly followed by Little Brother who arrived with a confession: "I'm late, I'm underdressed, I didn't bring wine, I'm a hot mess!" Guests mingled and spurred conversation over the various appetizers and large supper salad as they took in the fantastic art,  smoked e- cigarettes,  and sipped glasses of instantly aerated wines courtesy of our Vinturi.  The evening was a bit like an art gallery meets the Jetsons. And, luckily, the group of new and old friends was cohesive enough to withstand the confusion when one guest pointed to his plate and said "this tastes like happy," and I unfortunately heard "this tastes like cat meat," as well as Ava's declaration that members of the Independent Party were "Republicans who won't commit."  Through all of this, we stood together as a happy group... until around 9:30 when I served the Peach Cobbler and The Level Headed One's husband wondered if he had missed the meal. The buffet was devoured and people were sneaking pickles from a jar.  It seems that I did great on the group, the art, and the wine;  I just didn't feed people enough food.  I can't blame the Hungry Man for his comment,  every time I try a vegetarian meal I'm starving an hour later.  And don't even get me started on the vegan meals because they always lead to a late night cheese orgy.  Around 11:30 that evening, after the slew of group photos finished, the house began to empty and my husband returned home with our pizza I muttered the five words I have grown to love: 'that was a great party.'

Cooking Notes:
Brioche:  Forget dinner rolls at your next holiday meal.  These are fantastic, and the time-consuming aspect merely involves letting them rise.  I spread ours with brie or borsin cheese, however they were equally good with butter and jam.
Gazpacho: This dish was complimented over and over; I think its success was a product of the farm fresh produce, and procedure: Ina recommends pulsing each component in the food processor separately before mixing them all together.  The soup had great texture, however I don't recommend serving it as a shooter.  
Where's the beef?  I'm open for suggestions on how to serve a filling vegetarian meal... in the meantime, I'm going to invite The Level Headed One and the Hungry Man over for steaks.

The Party in Numbers:
Parties Completed: 45
Weeks Before Deadline: 8
Bottles Consumed: 9
Justified Purchases: My summer farm share! http://www.

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