If you haven’t already heard, then let me be the one to tell you: Tea is not just for your afternoon cuppa.
For a recent cocktail party, Tony and I demonstrated a moment of serendipitous marital and culinary harmony when we both reached for the tea leaves. Keeping with our usual kitchen division of labor, I made the salty snack, he made the cocktail. They married beautifully. More
a pile of zesters, a stock of Everclear, a row of juicers…
a table full of food…
Friends brought panzanella, mortadella-wrapped grissini, fig covered bruschetta, lemon bars, lemon sauce, vanilla ice cream, fresh berries. They brought daffodils. We had rice salad with mint and peas and lemon zest, and grilled pork tenderloin with capers. There was sunshine and prosecco and jars filled with curling golden rinds, looking a lot like liquid sunshine.
But this year? Mostly I want to tell you about a group of women who can sweep into your home with delicious food, help you cook even more food, help set up your yard and house, pack gift bags, enjoy themselves all afternoon , and then? Before you know it, they have cleaned up the dishes, swept your floor, pulled down the folding tables, hand washed the dishes.
There is an art to this kind of generosity, to the gift of time and energy, to being able to pitch in, and do what needs to get done, and to knowing how to treat your friend’s house like your own. It’s like this every, single time. More than teaching my kids how to make limoncello, or a good tenderloin, or set the table or throw a good party, I want to teach them this: how to walk into a friend’s home and treat it like their own. How to be generous.
Ladies, thank you.
Grilled Pork Tenderlon with Mustard and Capers
Red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons mustard
1 smashed garlic clove
about 3/4 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon capers
Light salt pork tenderloin, then season with a couple of teaspoons of cumin. Cover lightly with mustard and about 2 teaspoons of honey. Put seasoned pork in a ziplock bag and sprinkle with about 1/8 cup vinegar, then cover with olive oil. Add smashed garlic cloves to bag and let marinate a couple of hours in the refrigerator.
In a glass measuring cup pour vinegar on top of the garlic clove and let sit to flavor vinegar for 20-30 minutes or longer. Fish out the garlic cloves, then add an equal amount of mustard and whisk together, then add olive oil slowly in a stream. You should have about 3x the amount of olive oil as mustard + vinegar. But do it to your taste. Whisk in capers.
Heat grill on high, then turn down heat to medium high and grill pork until cooked, about 10 minutes total. The pork will cook very quickly. It’s done when the meat springs back nicely when poked. If it’s mushy or flabby when poked, it’s not done. Be careful not to overcook.
Let the pork rest about 10 minutes, then carve in thin slices and serve with vinaigrette.
For the US quarter-final game against Brazil, a couple of Ella’s teammates came over for a pajama-party USA themed breakfast: pancakes with red/white/blue strawberries, blueberries, and whipped cream. It wasn’t about the food. The food was fun, but the game was the centerpiece of the morning. Offering pancakes was just an excuse for getting some of them together to root for their players, then celebrate, and the extra whipped cream came in handy when we all needed a pick-me-up during the nail biting overage time.
After, they swarmed the park & had an impromptu meet up with another teammate and her dad.
I don’t do elaborate kid birthday parties. Knowing that most children are happy with a treat and the chance to play with their friends, I don’t see any reason to knock myself out. I am lucky that my sons both have spring birthdays, so we can keep everybody in the backyard, and for the last few years we’ve hosted parties for both boys that involve the kids building objects out of scrap wood and sending them flying down a fishing line strung from our back deck into the yard. The boys call the game “crazy contraptions,” and so far we have proven that kids from four to ten will play it for hours.
When it’s time for a break, we let the kids put their creative impulses toward cupcakes, and here’s where I suppose I do put in some effort, but I like to bake and homemade cupcakes are quick and cheap, so I make a lot. Typically I make crazy cake chocolate cupcakes and a vanilla cupcake and let the kids choose one or the other; this year Eli requested chocolate vanilla swirl, so I followed this incredibly simple (and delicious) recipe. Then I make a double batch of cream cheese frosting, divide it and color it, plus I make one batch of chocolate frosting. I set out the frostings in ziploc bags with one corner trimmed off (ie, instant homemade piping bags), set out some sprinkles, and let the kids go to town.
This recipe came from my friend Liz, and it is not only the best chocolate frosting I know, it happens to be super easy:
Beat until well-combined and a bit fluffy:
3 T room temperature butter
3 T cocoa powder
1 T light corn syrup or mild honey
1/2 t vanilla
Add 1 c confectioner’s sugar and mix well.
1-2 T milk, just enough to make the frosting spreadable.
Makes about a cup — perfect for a dozen cupcakes, but you’ll want to double the recipe to frost an entire cake.
Before my mom went back to work full-time, when I was in elementary school, she cooked dinner every night and baked bread every Saturday. She made birthday cakes for all four of us kids and thousands (I’m not exaggerating) cookies at Christmas. But the one thing I don’t recall her making on any regular basis, if at all, was coffeecake. We bought Entenmann’s. Most New Yorkers I know will sigh with happiness when they think of Entemann’s, the grocery store coffeecake in the windowed box. There were strudels and crumb-topped cakes, but my favorite was the cheese-filled danish.
I don’t make coffecake very often myself — pancakes and waffles are much more common — but for New Year’s Day and other brunch parties, this is the one I make, which is like a fresh update of those classic Entenmann’s cheese coffeecakes of my childhood. I found the recipe first in a Martha Stewart Living and noticed it also on Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks blog, so those are great bona fides if you don’t quite trust me: this is a delicious, moist, and easy to make ahead treat.
Note: you can leave out all the citrus zests, or just use one (orange or lemon) if you don’t have all 3. Zests keep well in the freezer (I have little waxed paper bags to store each kind) so you can always have a supply on hand.
For the dough:
½ c warm water
2 T active dry yeast (2 envelopes)
1 t sugar
½ c butter, melted and cooled (plus some more to grease the bowl)
2/3 c sugar
1 c orange juice
2 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lime
zest of 1 orange
1 t salt
5-6 c flour
For the filling:
1 pound cream cheese (room temperature)
1 c confectioner’s sugar
2 egg yolks
2 t vanilla
1 c dried cranberries, dried blueberries, dried currants (or a mix)
2/3 c poppy seeds
For the egg wash:
1 lightly beaten egg
Stir together the water, yeast and 1 t sugar in a large bowl until yeast dissolves. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Now whisk in juice, eggs, remaining 2/3 c sugar, melted butter, zests and salt. Stir in flour, 1 cup at a time, until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and forms a ball.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until just slightly sticky, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a buttered bowl and turn so that the dough is lightly coated with butter. Loosely cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, either at room temperature (about 1 ½ hours) or in the refrigerator overnight.
Meanwhile, stir together cream cheese, egg yolks, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add poppy seeds and dried berries. Set aside (at room temp or in the fridge, wherever your dough is).
When you’re ready to shape and bake the coffee cakes, butter 2 baking sheets and set aside. If you’ve refrigerated the dough, let it come to room temperature before proceeding (usually an hour or so, depending on your fridge and kitchen!)
Punch down dough and divide in half. Roll out one half into an 11 x 15” rectangle. Spread half the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 1” border. Beginning at one long side, tightly roll dough into a log, encasing the filling. Carefully transfer log to baking sheet, seam side down. With a sharp knife, make cuts about 2” apart along one long side of the log, cutting just three-quarters of the way across, like this:
Lift the first segment, turn it cut side up, and lay it flat on the baking sheet. Repeat with the next segment, twisting it so it sits on the opposite side of the roll. In my picture, the dough wasn’t quite laying flat, but you get the idea:
Continue down the log, alternating sides.
Roll out, fill and cut remaining dough.
Preheat oven to 350. Loosely cover dough and let rise until almost doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes. Brush dough with egg wash, avoiding the filling. Bake until cooked through and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Carefully slide coffee cakes onto wire racks, and let cool completely before slicing.