Tag Archives: pickles

Cook the Books April! (Impromptu) Dinner Party!

24 Apr

Well, April. Come she will. Come she will. Wow, remember that episode of Parks and Rec where April and Andy get married? Such a good episode. I don’t give a shit about weddings as a rule, but it got a little dusty in my living room during the wedding scene when that song played during the wedding. Great song. Let’s listen to Paul and Art, shall we?

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned, it’s been a busy month. Double S and I went on a road trip. I got a terrible flu. Grow and Resist had to travel to Iowa for family medical stuff. But, since we skipped last month’s dinner party due to travels and general business, Meg and I really felt like we needed to have one this month. Meg contacted me late in the week to see if I was back amongst the living. I was all like:


But then I was all like, sure! I can whip up some Jewish deli food! I thumbed through The Mile End Cookbook and tried to find some easy recipes I could throw together after being sick all week. Don’t worry, Meg said, lets keep it simple. That’s usually hard for me, but I did it!

I decided to make potato latkes (page 168 ) and hamantaschen (pages 201-203 ). Meg made the Romanian Steak with Spring Onions (page 139) and Scallion Sauce (page 76) and Cheesecake (pages 191-192). Since she had been cooking the books all week, she also served some of the fruits of that labor as well, and we got to taste the Lemon-Chile Pickled Asparagus (page 66) and the Pickled Fennel (page 72), as well as leftovers of the Maple Baked Beans (page 81) and the Kasha Varnishkes (page 138). Impromptu! But fun! And, yes! There were more French 75s! This one with seasonally appropriate rhubarb simple syrup! Success!


So how did the recipes I made turn out? Pretty damn good, actually! Let’s start win the latkes. Ok, yeah, I made latkes last month too. We have a lot of potatoes from that January surprise potato harvest, mmkay? I gotta use that shit up! These were easy to make and were a crowd pleaser. I used about two pounds of our homegrown russets. And bonus! The recipe calls for quite a bit of chives, and lucky for us, we have some beauties growing out in the yard right now. I sent Double S out to pick a few handfuls!


Beautiful! And thanks, Meg, for the heads up on how to divide and multiply these beauties. I’m gonna get them going all over our raised beds! I really like alliums in all their forms.

We made these up at home, and I fried them at Meg’s. I’m always frying at these dinner parties! I couldn’t get these to look as thin and nice and shredded as the accompanying photos in the book, but I got them thinner and crispier as I got more practiced with my shaping and frying. These fried easily and were delicious nice and hot. These were seasoned really well with onions and chives and salt and pepper. I ate mine with sour cream, because as you remember I fucking love sour cream, and I also had applesauce and hot sauce (Frank’s, natch!) available for everyone, but pretty much everyone ate them plain and really liked them. That’s the mark of a good recipe, right? Right!

The recipe calls for a lot of mixing by hand.  That’s my favorite way to mix anyway!


See?  They were kinda too thick at first.  Maybe because the mixture sat too long before I fried them?



Dinner is served! Well, there was more as you can read, but Meg and I were off our games in the picture taking department this month.


Then I decided to try making a dessert. I knew Meg had made the cinnamon rolls when I was laid up, with great success I’d heard, and was making cheesecake for the evening, so I tried my hand with the hamantaschen. Backstory. I went to law school in Queens, NY. The school was in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood and had a sizable population of Jewish students. During the Jewish holidays one year, I was introduced to the simple deliciousness of hamantaschen. A simple cookie-like dough with a fruit center. I made two kinds of filling: traditional poppy seed and dried plum. The recipe called for dried prunes, but Double S and I have a plum tree and we dried our plums last year, so you know I had to use them.  Look!


Double S likes to go way up in the tree and toss plums down to me.  Teamwork!


They turned out good. And actually, they got better with time. At the dinner party, we ate them just a few hours after they’d come out of the oven, and I can’t say they were the hit of the party. However, as Double S and I ate them throughout the course of the following week, we liked them more and more. So if you give these a shot, make them a few days in advance. I really liked the lemon zest in the dough.


After you make the dough, you form it into a giant disc and refrigerate it for a few hours.


Then make your fruit mixtures.  Here are our dried plums!


Shaping the hamantaschen was easy.  And I got to bust out my trusty tortilla press again!







And how was the other stuff? Well, Meg being the hostess with the mostest that she is, we started with a pickle plate. Meg had issues with the saltiness of all the pickle recipes. Read here about the pickles and how she tried to rectify the problems. Well, she succeeded because the pickled fennel and the lemon chile asparagus pickles were the bomb. I like roasted fennel, but wow, these pickles were a revelation. I went home and made both of these pickles the next day. I can pickle that! And thanks, Meg for being the guinea pig who made these first and got all scientific trying to calm the salt down. If you make pickles from this book, beware of salt overload. When I made these the next day, I used a scant 3/4 cup salt in the general pickling brine and it seemed better.

Then there was the main course. Meg’s Romanian Steak with Spring Onions and Scallion Sauce was top notch. Jen, Meg’s partner and steak cook extraordinaire did a bang up job cooking the steak to perfection. And that scallion sauce? Holy fucking shit was that good! I’m gonna be making this with a quickness and prolly then pouring it on every meat item I eat. Meg had a big ass jar of it on the table, and was loving it too. Recommended.



Meg also shared a couplea side dishes she’d made over the course of the week. As Meg told us, neither of these knocked our socks off. The maple baked beans were good, especially if you don’t like tomatoes in your baked beans, but we all agreed that we prefer a tomato based baked bean. I wouldn’t make these again.

Then there was the cheesecake. Meg had a lot of problems trying to make this bad boy. She told us about it here, but mainly this was a problem with bad instructions by the authors. Come on, Noah and Rae, a 12 inch cake pan? What do you think, we all run pizza shops out of our home kitchens? Meg had to make multiple runs to the kitchen supply store and wasn’t happy about it. We all thought the cheesecake was very low and salty and didn’t match the photo in the book at all. Kinda a weird critique for a cake, right? But I gotta say, Double S and I took a lot of cheesecake home and we devoured it over the course of this week. It really grew on us. I think if you made this in a regular run of the mill 8 inch springform pan like a normal person and topped it with seasonal fruit sauces, this thing could be a hit. At least at the homestead. And get this? I never really liked cheesecake in the past! Maybe that’s why I liked this one?  Regardless, I’m a convert.


And that was our April dinner party. Meg then rushed off to Iowa to deal with family medical stuff. I made pickles the next day and FINALLY smoked meat this past Tuesday. I’ll tell you all about that Monday. And next week, Meg will introduce May’s book of the month and review The Mile End Cookbook, and I’ll round up the entries of the bloggers who played along this month and review it as well. If you cooked along, it’s not too late!  Send us your link: cookthebookschallenege@gmail.com.  Busy week! Have a good weekend, all!