Wednesday, April 30

birthday feast

this year for miss phd's birthday, i decided to do something different. after years of buying her purses, clothes, jewelry, and the occasional cookbook, it was time to do something creative and fun. so, i set out to present her with a home-cooked meal. with 5 courses, complete with wine pairings! (the lucky boyfriends got to come along for the ride - although destructor really did help me a lot in the kitchen)

i spent an evening earlier in the week perusing my collection of menus (from various cookbooks, NYT dining section snippings, stolen recipes from the new school of cooking's website), and then on saturday, after 4 hours of prep (plus 2 more hours of cook time), I presented the following:

1st course: seared shrimp in a mint/lemon marinade, topped with freshly made mint pesto. i loved the pesto from this recipe. i didn't like the shrimp; it wasn't my best and i should have grilled it like the recipe said, but for the sake of time i modified.

i paired the shrimp and the salad (below) with a sauvignon blanc from wally's wine. some guy recommended it when i said "shrimp". i don't really like white so i just went with whatever he suggested, and it wasn't bad at all.

this is my 2nd course. a salad with watercress, mozzarella (which i uh, made fresh that day, using organic ingredients from the farm called trader joe's), endive and pears. tossed with a simple oil and lemon vinaigrette. the recipe called for grilled peaches but of course it turned out that peaches were not in season.

this is one of my favorite dishes. for my 3rd course, i made a simple fettucine pasta with peas in a cream sauce, topped with prosciutto. it's from my wolfgang puck book. i don't think this dish needs any explaining. what doesn't taste good with cream?

now we've moved onto the red wine. woohoo! per wally's recommendation this is a bookster pinot noir. it was really good and the smell was intoxicating. it smelled really sweet - almost vanilla like/syrupy. i was really trying to look for a bottle of joseph swan's pinot noir since that is miss phd's fave but i checked bristol farms and wally's with no luck. so this had to do.

and now for the 4th course. i have to say i'm pretty happy about how these turned out. i made a meatball tasting plate. there were 2 kinds: a tuna and pancetta meatball and a pork meatball with fennel, cumin and other spices, topped with a greek yogurt/cumin dressing and a mint/lemon dressing. i served 2 of each on long skinny plates. i love presentation. destructor was so great and helped me form and cook these meatballs while everyone was finishing up the pasta. i could not have done it without him (one because of the difficulty of timing everything and two because by then i was probably on my 4th glass of wine!) however, he was not allowed to plate these. yes, i am exec chef, he is sous-chef.

here is a close up of the pork meatball. you can't see too much of the meatball itself, but really the yogurt and mint toppings were the stars of the dish. i am going to top everything with these two things now. it was so delicious. both meatballs turned out really well - perfectly salted and tasty, but i do like the pork one better. i would also add more pancetta next time to my tuna meatball.

so...this is my "5th course": dessert. everyone who knows me knows i don't do dessert. i don't really like dessert and i can't bake to save my life. actually i think i just refuse to bake, because i don't like to measure and i don't like flour. so..i cheated a little. i didn't "make" anything, but instead assembled a platter of greek yogurt topped with honey, fresh strawberries, and chocolate (ritter sport - the kind with biscuits in the middle. the best!)

dessert was paired with a delicious black muscat from kalyra winery in santa ynez. served in my vintage rose decanter circa 1930s. (i have a thing for glasses/bottles/dishes) pictured above is the result of this crazy 5-course meal. well, not really - you should have seen the kitchen!

happy birthday miss phd!