Reprise: Cooking with The Vile Harpy, or, Vickie Lester has a dinner party…

Yes – I understand there’s a football game on Sunday. Do I know who’s playing? No. Do I know where they’re playing? No. In blissful ignorance I have been planning dinner parties and thinking about Los Angeles empty of crowds and where I’ll go on Sunday. The Kid and the Mister are thinking otherwise – but I’ve got one more day in the bubble and I’m throwing a party.

Saturday’s Menu for Eight:

Martinis with spiced nuts and marinated olives

Tomato garlic soup topped with mascarpone and pink pepper

Pasta tossed with apples, celery, aged Gouda cheese

Proscuitto or Speck

Roast fennel and green beans in a shallot vinagrette

Pear tart

The trick with the menu above is it’s easy, and since the only meat is a thinly sliced platter of Proscuitto (for draping over pasta), your vegetarian guests will be very happy.

Spiced Nuts:

2 1/2 cups of almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans. 2 tbs. chopped fresh rosemary. A dash of cayenne pepper (omit it if you don’t like things hot). 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt. 2 teaspoons brown sugar. 1 tbs. unsalted butter.

Melt the butter with the sugar, salt, rosemary, and cayenne. Put the nuts in a bowl and pour over the spice mixture and toss until the nuts are coated. Spread the nuts on a cookie sheet and toast (350 F) until they are light brown, about 10 minutes, but keep an eye on them because they scorch easily. While they cool they make crackling noises, don’t be afraid.

Tomato Garlic Soup:

So simple and yet people ask me how to make this all the time… Mince 2-4 cloves of garlic. If you sprinkle them with salt you get a finer chop and it takes away a bit of the bitterness. If you want to be really detail oriented remove the shoot from the center of the clove with the tip of your knife. I know people who swear it makes garlic more mellow. Pour about four tablespoons of nice olive oil in a pot and add the garlic. Stir and watch carefully, the oil should become fragrant, but don’t let the garlic brown or it will taste really, really, bad. Whir up two 28 oz cans of San Marzano plum tomatoes in the blender (or if you have one of those immersion doo-hickies you can do it right in the soup pot) and pour into the garlic and oil. Simmer until the flavors develop, about a half an hour (if it’s too thick thin with water). Salt to taste. To serve, top with a dollop of mascarpone and a sprinkle of pink pepper.

Pasta with Apples, Celery, Aged Gouda, and a boatload of Butter:

Okay, I didn’t say it was low calorie – I said you could serve it to vegetarians. To make the sauce sauté two chopped apples and 4 stalks of chopped celery in a stick (that’s a quarter pound) of butter. Grate, on the finest setting, about three ounces of Aged Gouda (or you can use Parmesan). To serve, take the cooked pasta and toss it in the butter and apples and celery, top with a generous amount of cheese, and for the non-veggie among you, lay on those delicate, lusciously porky slices of Speck or Prosciutto.

Roasted Fennel and Green Beans in a Shallot Vinagrette:

Chop two fennel bulbs in batons about half an inch thick and place in roasting pan. Clean a half a pound of green beans and add to the pan. Pour the vinagrette – one minced shallot, salt, pepper, a quarter teaspoon of mustard, olive oil, and white wine vinegar  – over the veg and roast for half an hour at 350F. Serve hot.

Pear Tart:

I always use this recipe from David Lebovitz – it’s sensational. French Pear & Almond Tart Recipe | David Lebovitz.

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  1. George Kaplan
    February 2, 2013

    Mmm. Tasty.
    At first I misread your title as “Cooking the Vile Harpy”… Now that would be *quite* different, not to say horrible and weird!
    I read Ken Levine’s web log in which he said that all of America was excited about the Superbowl and only non-americans weren’t. I like Ken but I knew *that* couldn’t be true :). I enjoy the cheerleaders tho’. Ahem. Oh, and the ridiculous commentators treating it as the most important thing in the world.
    Personally, I like baseball, but more the platonic ideal of it without all that disgusting hawking and spitting. Enjoy your alternative Superbowl Sunday.

    • February 2, 2013

      I don’t like watching sports which involve people getting hurt, if the players have to wear body armor it’s not for me. However, sometimes it’s a social thing I can’t avoid and then I focus on the food and gravitate toward my host’s kitchen where I can chat with the equally football appalled. 😉 Do you have a link to Ken’s blog? I’d like to read it.

  2. February 2, 2013

    My city is one of the cities involved in the Gladiatorial Games on Sunday. There is no place to hide from all the hub bub. There will be a huge TV on the sidewalk across the street and a massive drunken throung to worship it. So headphones for me. …Your menu is enough to get my mouth to watering!! YUMMY

    • February 2, 2013

      Ah oh, the 49ers! Say, I have a couple of recipes from Gene Kelly and Clint Eastwood coming up… I wonder if anyone ever REALLY ate a mashed potato sandwich? Maybe it’s good if you’re part of a drunken throng. I had a Greek friend in college and their papa always told them if you go out drinking to eat a big meal before, or drink a quarter cup of olive oil, “to absorb the alcohol.” Hm….

      • February 2, 2013

        If I weren’t trying to lose the usual holiday/winter weight gain (so much harder than it used to be, sigh) I’d be tempted to try that apple, celery and Gouda pasta! I am definitely going to try the ‘quarter cup of olive oil’ for the drinking–which is more than a little responsible for some of that gain. What can I say, I love egg nog. 🙂

      • February 2, 2013

        Here’s my rationalization – it’s cold outside – you have to burn more calories just to stay warm. Indulge yourself and have some pasta 🙂

  3. George Kaplan
    February 2, 2013

    It’s at and it’s great. Enjoy.

  4. February 2, 2013

    Good tip about the garlic. The shoot does tend to add a bitter taste, so it is good to remove it.

    • February 2, 2013

      I just started doing this and what I’ve noticed is the garlic quality is slightly nutty – with no bite. I never detected a bitter taste before, but it’s definitely an improvement.

  5. February 3, 2013

    You have my contact info. Love to come by…

    • February 3, 2013

      Hey, I’d love to have you over for dinner.

  6. November 23, 2014

    Um… why are you the “vile harpy”?

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