Friday, August 13, 2010

La Belle Dame Sans Merci Indeed Part I

Today La Belle Dame channels Betty Draper as she prepares a small spread for a Mad Men-themed pre-housewarming get-together at her as yet bookshelf-less new apartment. Pre-housewarming in the sense that a big proper party, once bookshelves are acquired and pictures are hanged on walls, will certainly follow, but friends are leaving town soon, a friend is coming into town tonight, and I'm taking off soon for a last Russian-food-themed hurrah before the dreaded school year begins again, so a bringing together of our small summer gang of misfits seemed to be in order. Also, where else am I ever going to wear a raw silk floral cocktail dress too low-cut for weddings?? And what is the point in owning a cabinet filled with vintage cocktail glassware unless you use it, I ask you? There was clearly only one thing to be done: Mad Men, Mad Men, must have Mad Men! (to the tune of the credits music)

I've been devising a finger foods menu in-between a slow crawling out of bed, a potentially even slower (?!) run and exhausted shower followed by "breakfast" of an egg and a massive pot of coffee at lunchtime (fail, Belle Dame, fail). I have settled on: lettuce wraps with the massive remainders of "Crunchy Summerness Salad" culinary experiment of a day and a half ago, which still tastes delicious; Strawberry-Goat Cheese Crostini and a beloved Epicurious steal and old stand-by, Parmesan Walnut Salad in Endive Leaves. I was introduced to this amazing recipe by the Cunning Linguist, one of my best friends and legendary party-thrower in NY. Just to give you an idea of what I'm talking about: when this girl and her husband throw a party, people travel from Boston, Princeton, Philadelphia and DC, I am not kidding. I may but dream ... I will also be honest: not only is the Parmesan-Walnut business stolen from Epicurious, but the goat cheese and strawberry recipe is also the result of a Google search, but hey, some credit points for deciding that the two were a match made in heaven? I shamelessly reproduce for you Web recipes yummy enough to need no altering.


1 garlic clove 
dash of salt
1 tbsp mayonnaise (delicious, delicious mayonnaise ...)
2 tbsp fresh (or whatever) lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 stalk of celery 
1 cup cubed (1/8") Parmesan cheese (or you can cheat and buy Parmesan flakes -- not the crumbs that you put over pasta, but the Bel Gioioso brand flakes, which are higher quality; if using flakes, my oh, so exact measurement is 1 handful)
1 cup of walnuts
3 Belgian endives (both the yellow and red varieties for prettiness factor)
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaved parsley

Chop a cup of walnuts into smaller bits and pour onto a small baking tray (like a cookie tray). Toast at 250 degrees in the oven until you can smell them. Remove and set aside to cool. Mince and mash a clove of garlic with a dash of salt at the bottom of a mixing bowl. Add your mayonnaise, the lemon juice and the olive oil. Chop your celery finely into cubes, cube your Parmesan (or cheat with the flakes) and toss in the walnuts and add chopped parsley. Stir. Taste. Congratulate yourself on deliciousness. 

Then! peel away the outer layer of your Belgian endives (those small adorable looking red and yellow vegetables that look like little nesting birds?) and carefully start peeling away the leaves. Spoon your parmesan-walnut-celery mixture onto the leaves and arrange prettily on platter. This is, I suppose, mildly painstaking, but kind of fun because your salad has weight owing to the celery and the walnut pieces and the dressing is just enough to coat without making it runny, so it actually takes very little time, but your guests think you slaved and slaved and are like, totally blown away, and you get to turn up your eyes, pat your hair into place, sigh, and assure them that it was no trouble at all.
Stay tuned for strawberry-goat cheese crostini once I have made them later on today and wish me luck and the survival of my beloved vintage champagne cocktail glasses, :).

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