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Posts Tagged ‘Sister’

This recipe is part of the “Celebratory Goose Dinner” miniseries. For the complete menu, timetable, and printable shopping list, see the introductory post.

This recipe is my interpretation of an appetizer that has become a classic at my sister’s house. After the meatiness of the scallops & bacon, and the buttery richness of the phyllo-wrapped figs, I wanted a third appetizer that would be bright and refreshing, with a good hit of acid. My sister texted me the ingredient list, and here’s my take on assembling it all.

I was lax in taking a photo, so until I make them again and can add a pic, you’ll just have to use your imagination, I’m afraid. A few shopping tips: if you can’t find endive at your local supermarket, they can usually be found at Trader Joe’s. For the balsamic, you’ll want to use a good one since it’s such a major ingredient. I’m currently using this one from O & Co., which has a lovely syrupy texture and mildly sweet undertones. Next time I’d like to try making these using my secret weapon, Blaze, a balsamic reduction and key ingredient in my tomato, basil, mozzarella sandwiches. If anyone has more balsamic recommendations, leave them in the comments below!

Endives with Grape Tomatoes and Basil

  • 1 package endive (3 heads)
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • Fresh basil, roughly chopped or torn
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper

Rinse endives, separate the leaves. Halve grape tomatoes. Place three grape tomatoes in each endive leaf (use your discretion as to how many to make; the smaller inner leaves will not be sufficient to hold the tomatoes). Sprinkle with basil leaves. Drizzle each endive “boat” with olive oil and balsamic. Finish with freshly ground sea salt and pepper. Serve as finger food with a cocktail napkin.

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There’s nothing like the anticipation of a new baby.

We had a baby shower for my sister a few weeks ago, and as expected, it was full of food, handmade gifts and more onesies than you can shake a stick at. By special request, I made his and hers diaper bags from Anna Maria Horner’s book, Handmade Beginnings. Erm. Have I mentioned that I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew when it comes to special occasions? (You’ll notice that there’s been a distinct lack of posting regarding my ongoing wedding planning. Suffice it to say that there will be several posts in September/October forming a grand unveiling of the sheer extent of my event-planning mania).

Point being, these were not easy patterns, at least not for me. On the upside, I learned so much more about my sewing machine, zipper installation, and why it is a bad idea to substitute poly/nylon strapping for 100% cotton strapping if you have any intention of ironing your work. Ditto for the plastic zipper. I also learned to despise working with Peltex II ultra-firm interfacing, while simultaneously falling in love with the little zippered pouch. And did I ever form a close relationship with my seam-ripper…

First up: “The Dad Bag,” for stylish metropolitan dads-on-the-go.

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I used an upholstery weight fabric for the outside (Also polyester. Really, what was I thinking? Let’s just say this bag is not flame retardant). For ease of sewing, I’d recommend actually reading and following the book’s instructions, and use a cotton home deco weight. Don’t even get me started on the interfacing. I think my sewing machine is still trying to forgive me.

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The bag is lined with a grey print from Robert Kaufman’s “Metro Living” collection, which I was very happy with. Inside the bag is a series of elastic loops for holding bottles and whatnot.

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Also included is a matching changing pad — a nice good size — that can be folded and stored in the front zipper pocket.

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Next up: the “Here We Go Bag” for Mom

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For my sister’s bag, I used an assortment of prints from Sandi Henderson‘s Meadowsweet line. Prior to picking out fabrics, I put together a quick fabric “style quiz” for my sister to help determine her tastes in modern quilting fabrics. Sandi was a hit, along with Jennifer Paganelli. Hmm, wonder if I can figure out how to make an online version of the quiz, just for fun. Why exactly are quizzes so irresistible, anyway? Another mystery of life…

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The design features box-pleated pockets on the outside (another successful learning experience for me!), a divider on the inside (less successful), and then I added a couple of simple inside pockets.

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This pattern also comes with a changing pad, although much smaller than the one that went with the Dad Bag. Hopefully not too small to be useful? I improvised piecing together a couple different fabrics for the front — mostly wanting to stretch out the brown print, which I only had a fat quarter of!

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The bag has an elastic loop in the upper left corner to hold the changing pad, but I decided to make a changing pad/diaper/wipe pouch as well, following this tutorial from Craft Buds. I liked the all-in-one aspect that allows you to just pull out the pouch and run to the ladies room without bringing the whole bag, if need be. I picked up a little plastic baby wipe holder for the inside pocket, so she can take just a small amount of wipes out with her. I might make it just a tad larger next time around (1/2 inch extra would do), as it’s a little snug once it’s fully loaded.

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By this time, I was in a full-on accessory crafting fury, and decided to try my hand at a zippered pouch to hold Desitin and the like. A quick Google search turned up a super simple tutorial by Skip to my Lou, and I was on my way. This was by far the easiest, and therefore most instantly rewarding, part of the whole sewing adventure. (Although piecing the front of the changing pad was fun too…) I see many more zippered pouches in my future — in fact, one for me is already in progress.

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And one more gratuitous shot of the full suite:

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Moving on to the shower itself: On Saturday, I hosted an informal BBQ shower for friends, featuring asparagus wrapped in prosciutto (a new family favorite), Italian and barbecue chicken style strombolis, Italian sausages with peppers and onions, hamburgers with Vermont cheddar, fruit salad, tortellini salad, and of course, cake and beer. I was, of course, a bit preoccupied with managing all the food, so didn’t get any photos, unfortunately. My mother and aunts threw the formal family brunch the next day, and while I can’t take credit for the food at that event, I was free to snap photos that are well worth the look! They truly outdid themselves:

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Olive Cheese Balls. These things are truly addictive. I think I single-handedly ate half a tray.

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Lemon-Parsley Gougeres

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Tomato Stuffed Peppers

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Simple green salad

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Prosciutto, mozzarella, and fruit salad

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Roasted Potato Tart with Fresh Tarragon, Sautéed Mushrooms, and Melted Gruyere, from Once Upon a Tart

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Chocolate Crackle Cookies

And finally, the pièce de résistance:

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Lady Baltimore Cake

Yeah, that whole getting carried away thing? It runs in the family.

And then…

And then your sister goes into labor, and the real meaning behind her pregnancy starts to hit home. A new life is making its way into the world. There’s going to be a new member of the family you already love so much.

But then time drags on, and nothing happens. You wait. You do what you always do, and keep your hands busy. You make a lasagna to take to the hospital. Seven in the morning crawls into seven at night, and you find yourself pacing, impotent to help. You eat the lasagna. You chat with family on the phone, send anxious text messages to the hospital. Bedtime comes, and you finally fall asleep, waking every two hours to glance with blurry eyes at your phone to see if a message notification has popped up. You wake up the next morning, and find yourself deliberating on whether you should write a blog post, or bake a little birthday cake. Blog or bake cake, blog or bake cake. And you realize that both options seem silly in the context. You decide that blogging at least lasts longer, and has less chance of being incidentally eaten. You find yourself reminiscing about your childhood, remembering your sister by your side through every step of your life. And you think of her in the hospital, in pain, and maybe, just maybe, shed a tear or two while you write.

I cannot wait to meet my new niece. I’ve been beset by a single image of holding her and feeling her wrap her hand around my finger for the first time. I love you already, Baby W. But for now, I wait.

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First, the exciting news — my sister eloped last weekend!  Well, being a blood relative of mine and all, even elopements need to be properly catered — enter the explanation as to why I’ve gone missing for the past few weeks.

It’s been a lesson-learning sort of experience.  Lessons in limitations.  Lessons in remembering to breathe.  These are good lessons, truly.  But in the interest of getting back on the blog bandwagon, I’ll leave the details on that for another post.

Instead, let’s start with the food.  (It’s a very good place to start.)  My sister will be honeymooning in Italy, so we decided on an Italian theme for the food.  Owing in no small part to the Italian blood that likes to hijack all sensibility during menu planning, we had not one, not two, but three different eating times set up during the day.

First up was the pre-ceremony course (because even elopements require a certain amount of ceremony).  We agreed on an antipasto course for the pre-ceremony, including breads, cheeses, meats, condiments and miscellaneous other bite-sized mouth poppers.

Before I get into the details, take a look and commence salivating!  Oh so yummy.

Now for the breakdown.  First, the lovely meats & cheeses, which I got from Salumeria Italiana, an Italian food importer in Boston’s North End. (I should add that, conveniently enough for those of you not living in Boston, they do mail order business around the country as well).

The cheeses:

  • Pecorino Toscano Fresco (my favorite):  Young Tuscan Pecorino is made from the milk of pure-bred ewes. Mild, pliable and full of sweet grassy flavor, the cheese has a D.O.P. designation that guarantees it is produced within the region of Tuscany and meets special standards.
  • Umbriaco del Piave (my mom’s favorite): Cow’s milk cheese immersed in Cabernet, Merlot and other red wines, from the Veneto region. Ubriaco del Piave is very mild, but the wine must and grape leaves from its 40 hours soaking give it a special character, a fruity finish, and a lovely aroma.
  • Taleggio: Rich and creamy cow’s milk cheese from Lombardy, named for Val Taleggio near Bergamo in Italy’s Lombardy region. It is an uncooked, semi-soft cheese made from whole cow’s milk that is aged in cool cellars.
  • Bianco Sardo: Sheep’s milk cheese from Sardinia. The flavor could be compared to Manchego, but with a freshness and sharpness from its six months of aging that make it unique. The texture is smooth, and there’s a little nuttiness in the aftertaste.

The meats:

  • Finocchiona Soppressata: Rich, moist, fennel-studded sliced soppressata with a robust flavor. As authentic as those made in Italy centuries ago, the rich and distinctive flavor of the meat is enhanced by a natural, two-month aging process.
  • Bresaola:  Air-dried, extremely lean beef; an exquisite delicacy originally from the mountainous Valtellina area of northern Lombardy.
  • Leoncini Prosciutto Cotto with Rosemary (this was TO DIE FOR good!!!!)Cooked Prosciutto accented with herbs and black pepper; made in Italy.  Baked with lots of black pepper, rosemary and other herbs, Prosciutto Cotto resembles American-style baked ham in appearance.

For condiments, I made the following:

  • Cipolle e arancia (Caramelized onion & orange conserve)
  • Castagne al miele aromatico (Chestnuts in spiced honey)
  • Composta di pere e zenzero (Pear & ginger compote)
  • Gelatina di mango al moscato (Moscato & mango gelatin)

Then to round things out, I served some artichoke hearts, mixed olives with caperberries and garlic, pepperoncini, grissini, crostini, and ciabatta.

ROUND TWO:  Post-ceremony cocktail hour

The cocktail itself was a unique creation called the Proserpina, a mix of Plymouth gin, ginger, club soda, and pomegranate seeds.  The drinks were accompanied by Scallops and Applewood Bacon with Port Reduction.  I really can’t recommend this recipe enough as it will make you a superstar for the evening.  Not to mention it tastes damn good.

For good measure I also added my ubiquitous Pepper Clam Dip — a family recipe that has a way of showing up at nearly every event I have a hand in planning.

PEPPER CLAM DIP

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 med onion, chopped
  • ½ green pepper, chopped
  • 1 t. oregano
  • 1 t. parsley flakes
  • dash black pepper
  • 2 cans minced clams
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • dash tabasco
  • ½ c italian bread crumbs

 

Sauté first 6 ingredients until soft.  Add clams with liquid;  bring to boil.  Add lemon juice, tabasco, and Italian brad crumbs (use more or less bread crumbs as needed).  Turn into baking dish (may now be frozen).  Sprinkle with Italian grated cheese and bake 20-30 min at 325-350° until hot and bubbly.

Pepper Clam Dip, before going into the oven

The final phase of food took us to Waltham, MA, for a sit-down meal at La Campania, where I got to hang up my chef’s coat and revert to my preferred role of Skilled Eater.  The Salt Encrusted Branzino (sea bass) was delicate and finely seasoned, the chocolate soufflé delightful, and the red wine plentiful.  I would be remiss if I weren’t to add that the wedding itself was intimate and personal, the company highly enjoyable, and my sister stunningly beautiful.

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