Monday, October 19, 2009

A Party is Always a Good Excuse to Cook

Most people have parties when they have something to celebrate, or at least when they have a reason to. I basically function in the opposite way: I feel like cooking, so why not have a party?

This led me to organize a little get-together last weekend with a dozen friends--who don't only enjoy eating chewy chocolate chip cookies, mind you, so I had to be a little creative. But creative is good, and exactly what I was looking for.

Obviously, I started with the sweetest things--not a reference to this past Sweetest Day--cupcakes and the like. I wanted to have the usual cupcakes, and mark a change from the cookies I usually have alongside them. Oh, that was difficult. Saying no to my favorite cookies is never easy. That is, until the idea of replacing them with M&M blondies comes along. Add some fudge to that and it's pretty easy to fathom, actually.

Then came the hard part. How much will people want to eat? Will they have had dinner beforehand? With these questions in mind, I set out to make some easy to munch on, savory bites. This is hopefully the last time I use the term "savory", which for some odd reason really gets to me.

Anyway, I immediately settled, as usual, on what we call un cake in French, customized to meet my chorizo and sundried tomato cravings. A creamy quiche wouldn't hurt either, I decided, and a get-together isn't really one without any veggies. But veggies don't go without a dip, and that's when I remembered the out-of-this-world black bean and chipotle dip my Maman made at a neighborhood cocktail party when I came home to visit in June. Making it just made me want to make it again and again and again--it's like a funner party version of vegetarian chili, which is perfect for the upcoming cold fall days.

With my shopping list on hand and a clear idea of what my get-together would look like, I set about making all of this. Thursday afternoon and all of Friday went by in a flash, but it was all for a good cause...seeing friends and satisfying my cooking craving!

Here are the "savory" (I'm waiting for the annoying word police) recipes, more to come later on my sweet adventures...

Cake au Chorizo et aux Tomates Sechées

4 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 pink bag of baking powder (11g, or approx 4 teaspoons I think?)
4.5 oz grated gruyère or emmental
1/2 of a full chorizo, skin removed and cut into thin slices
4 large sundried tomatoes, chopped

Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F.

Mix eggs, oil, wine, and a pinch of pepper together. Beat until frothy.

Add flour, baking powder, cheese, chorizo and sundried tomatoes. Mix until just combined.

Bake in a loaf pan for about an hour, until a toothpick comes out clean. Since the chorizo and sundried tomatoes give off oil, don't be alarmed if you see oil bubbling around the edges--it will stop doing it after a few minutes!

Two-Pepper Quiche

Note: You could make your own pâte brisée, and that owuld probably be even better, but using a prepacked pure butter pâte brisée from the grocery store was fine for me!

1 tart shell
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 TB butter
2 eggs
3/4 c. milk (skim is fine)
1 c. crème liquide, i.e. whipping cream
as much grated cheese as you want (I used around 1/3 c. emmental)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 370°F.

In a buttered tart pan, bake tart shell for 15 mins covered with parchment paper and pie weights.

Cook bell peppers in a pan on stovetop with 1/2 TB butter until softened, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Beat eggs, milk, cream, cheese, and any extra herbs you want to add.

Place bell peppers in tart shell, and cover with egg mixture. Bake 30 minutes, until golden.

Warm Black Bean & Chiptole Dip
serves 10-12

2 TB olive oil
2 med. tomatoes, cored and diced
2 TS salt
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 TB chili powder
2 15.5 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed (I used red beans because black beans don't seem to exist over here)
2 canned chiptoles, minced + 3 TB adobo from can
3 TB cider vingar (or red-wine vinegar)
1 1/2 c. fresh corn (I used canned in a pinch)
1 1/2 c. grated Cheddar (I used Mimolette)
1 1/2 c. grated Monterey Jack (I used mozzarella...I know)
3/4 c. fresh cilantro

Heat oven to 425°F. Grease 1 1/2 Qt. baking dish with oil and line baking sheet with foil.

Set tomatoes in a colander and sprinkle with 1 TS salt.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high until simmering. Reduce to medium, add onion and 1 TS salt. Cook until softened, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add garlic and chili powder, cook 1 minute. Add half of the beans, the chipotle, adobo, and 3/4c. water. Bring to a boil.

Cook until liquid reduces by half, about 5 minutes. Transfer to food processor, add vinegar, and process until smooth.

Transfer to a large bowl. Add beans, tomatoes, corn, 1/2 of each cheese, and 1/2 c. cilantro. Mix and season to taste.

Transfer to a baking dish and sprinkle with remaning cheeses. Bake until cheese melts and browns around the edges, for around 15 minutes.

Sprinkle with remaining cilantro, serve with veggies and tortillas.
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