Entertaining at home treats friends and family to your personal touch--how you put it all together. From the way you set your table to the flowers you arrange, each detail is important. The group gathered recipes for annual holidays, and provide a personal take on where each one came from and what it means to them. The recipes are not too complicated and are time tested crowd-pleasers. I went through the book and chose recipes submitted by friends and think they would make a great addition to the table any time of year.
Penne alla Vodka with Scallops
My dear friend in Beverly Hills, Connie Wald, a quintessential hostess of the Hollywood glamour years, always did the cooking when she entertained. Every time my husband and I came to California to visit our daughter, we stayed with her and she gave a dinner party. And in the land where salad was the standard first course, she always served pasta. This penne alla vodka was everyone’s favorite and it is one of many recipes I took home from her house.
Makes 4 to 6 main-course servings, 8 as a first course
12 sea scallops
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
2 leeks, cleaned, trimmed, and finely chopped
2 shallots, minced
2 tablespoons dry vermouth
1 cup vodka
½ teaspoon crushed red chile flakes, or to taste
1 cup fresh or canned tomato puree
½ cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 pound penne
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley leaves
Trim the small ridge of tendon from the side of each scallop. Pat dry the scallops with paper towels. Place a large sauté pan over high heat, add the oil, and sear the scallops a few minutes, turning them once, until they are lightly browned. Remove the scallops to a dish. Lower the heat and add the butter. When it has melted, add the leeks and shallots and cook until the vegetables start to soften. Add the vermouth and continue cooking until the vegetables are very tender but not browned.
Pour in the vodka, add the chile flakes, and simmer until slightly reduced. Add the tomato puree and crème fraîche and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is well blended and pink. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add more chile flakes if desired. Set aside until just before serving. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the penne. Quarter the scallops and add them to the warm sauce in the sauté pan. Add the penne to the boiling water and cook for about 8 minutes, until al dente. Drain well. Fold the penne into the sauce and gently reheat the contents of the pan, stirring, until the ingredients are well combined. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Divide among individual plates, top with the parsley, and serve.
Everything Chopped Salad
I serve a salad with just about every dinner menu. This one includes a number of colorful vegetables. Because they are hard to skewer with a fork, I decided to chop everything into little bits so that you can easily slide the salad onto your fork. The blue cheese helps blend all of the ingredients together.
Makes 6 servings
2 small endives, cored and chopped
8 romaine lettuce leaves, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 cups chopped tomatoes
2 carrots, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, cored and chopped
4 scallions, chopped
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey mustard
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ pound blue cheese, crumbled
Combine the endives, lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, carrots, bell pepper, and scallions on a large cutting board and chop them all together briefly with a large chef’s knife. Transfer the ingredients to a salad bowl. Whisk the vinegar and mustard together in a medium bowl. Whisk in the oil. Pour over the salad and mix well to coat all the ingredients. Fold in the cheese and serve.
Water Chestnut–Bacon Skewers
Growing up, my six sisters and I were all taught to be hostesses, and so there were always lots of cooks in the kitchen. The first time we served these hors d’oeuvres was for an engagement party for one of my sisters many years ago. In those days, there was very little catering. We prepared everything for all of our parties. We all still make them in our own houses today.
Makes about 30
2 (8-ounce) cans water chestnuts (about 30 pieces), drained
⅓ cup soy sauce
2/3 cup light brown sugar
8 strips thick bacon, each cut into 4 pieces
Rinse the water chestnuts, place them in a bowl, add the soy sauce, and set aside to marinate for a few hours, turning them from time to time. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Drain the water chestnuts. Place the brown sugar in a bowl, dip each water chestnut in sugar to coat, wrap it in bacon, and skewer it with a toothpick. The bacon will not go all the way around the water chestnut but just enough to be secured. Arrange the pieces on the baking sheet. About 30 minutes before
serving, place them in the oven and bake until the bacon starts to crisp. Remove from the oven, arrange on a platter, and serve.