01 April 2009

Party Planning

We're having a party! To celebrate one of our friend's birthday, we invited a select group of acquaintances to have an intimate dinner party chez Gutmann Friday evening.

Since there will be eight for dinner, I can't serve anything that is best eaten at a table. Our dining set seats four and I only have two full-sized dinner plates. Taking into account these and other obstacles, I devised a menu of bite-size, toothpick-worthy hors d'ouevres that should satisfy any taste bud and be filling enough to count for a meal. It feels ambitious, but I've planned everything so that I too will be able to enjoy the party. The menu, and appropriate recipe links, are as follows:
Today I bought the dry goods and some vegetables from Jusco. On Friday, I will pick up the eggs and other produce locally at our school store. Since I have to teach and go about regular life for the next few days, I have devised when I need to make what. And it began today.

I began with the pita bread dough, using all white flour though the recipe was for wheat pita bread. It called for a starter to ferment awhile...

...which got nice a bubbly before I added the rest of the flour and the oil and salt. It then rose for an hour. I thought it would be just barely risen, given the chill in the apartment, but when I removed the plastic, I was greeted by a lovely mound of dough.

The recipe called for this to make 8 pitas, but somehow I ended up with 12. I was supposed to bake them two and a time on the oven rack in a 500 degree oven. When I tried to put the first one in, it sagged through the spaces in the rack. Try again. I figured pitas are somewhat like tortillas, which we make in a frying pan, so I gave it a try and it worked perfectly. Only about a third of them puffed up nicely. I think this has to due with needing a longer knead in the beginning to make them stronger and stretchier.

They all look and taste good though. (Of course, I had to try one before serving them on Friday.) I don't think I can go back to eating prepackaged flatbread. Though mine are not perfectly round, they taste ten times better when they are freshly made.

During the rising time, I made the chocolate ganache frosting for the brownies and the candied walnuts for the puddings.

For dessert, I am adapting two recipes from Epicurious, one for Bourbon Banana Pudding with Candied Pecans and the other for Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Pudding, into Chocolate Banana Pudding with Candied Walnuts. I wanted to do banana pudding but not with cake (nor did I have Bourbon), and I think chocolate goes well with bananas (and peanut butter pudding does not sound good).

Oh yes, I also roasted two heads of garlic for the garlic buns and baba ganouj (roasted eggplant dip).

After all this prep, I made dinner. At the grocery store, while wandering the vegetable section, I stumbled upon snow peas. I immediately grabbed a package, since this is the first time I've seen what we think of as a classically Chinese vegetable in China. I marinated some thinly sliced pork with ginger and soy sauce, then stir fried it, adding the peas and sliced garlic at the end. To make a sauce, I mixed some corn starch with soy sauce and water and added it to the wok. Served on rice, it was delicious, reminded me of my mom's stir-fry.

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