You guys! I hosted my first real (read: not at my dinner table) Dinner Party Association event this past weekend in Venice Beach. It was crazy and exhausting and completely amazing. I teamed up with Chef Mariana Carvallo–this lady does actual magic with food. We spent hours picking a theme, writing a menu, and inviting everyone we know. We scoured thrift stores and restaurant supply warehouses for the perfect dishes and silverware. We ran all over LA searching for purple cloth napkins, picking out flowers, and buying all of the mason jars.
I’ll be writing a proper post with lots of pretty pictures soon, but first things first: dessert. We had a Moroccan themed menu, featuring lots of spices and eggplant and a to-die-for tagine. Mariana cooked the full menu, but left cocktails and dessert up to me. We ended the meal with a bright and comforting rice pudding. Originally a Gordon Ramsay recipe, I adapted it for my vegan friends. Looking for your next fall comfort food dessert? Throw this stuff in a jar and there ya go!
fragrant spiced coconut rice pudding
1 vanilla bean pod
3 cardamom pods (cracked)
1 cinnamon stick
3 cans coconut milk
1 cup water
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 tablespoon coconut nectar
1 cup arborio rice
optional: coconut flakes & pumpkin pie spice (for topping)
Scrape the vanilla beans from the pod and throw into a medium sauce pan. Add cloves, cardamom pods, a cinnamon stick and toast on medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Next, pour in coconut milk, water, coconut sugar, and nectar and heat until boiling (I threw in the vanilla bean pod while heating as well). Pick out the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla bean pod and add the arborio rice and zest of one lime. Cook on low heat, stirring constantly, for about 25 minutes or until thick. Remove from heat and zest the other lime on top. If not serving immediately, it’s a good idea to have an extra can or two of coconut milk to stir in while reheating. Serve warm and top with coconut flakes and pumpkin pie spice.
Things you should have on Sunday nights in October: comfort food, pumpkin beer, a table full of friends.
I had all of those things last Sunday night, plus a ton of homemade sauerkraut and a hankerin some pumpkin ales. I called up my friends, grilled some sausages, and made a giant oktoberfest skillet in my cast iron. Turns out a big pan of roasted sweet potatoes, sliced apples, sauerkraut, and kale can totally make a meal. We finished off the night with pumpkin gelato and stout floats before slipping into fall-time food comas.
Ya know all those things about autumn that are totally magic? All the super cliché sweaters and leaves and caramel apples that are crowding up your pinterest wall? I’m missing all that stuff, big time. I can’t do much of anything about the 90-degree temps and lack of leaves, but I can eat all of the squash and pumpkin seeds.
My friends hosted a fall-themed potluck in Santa Monica last weekend. It got sweaty as we all baked cornbread and apple pie and simmered butternut squash soup. I took some of my favorite flavors of fall and tossed them into a giant salad. Dinner parties always make things better, and this one eased my need for an autumn day.
I still want to play in some leaves though.
pear, pomegranate, & pumpkin seed salad
2 bunches of kale, chopped
2 Tbsp pumpkin seed oil (I use this one from Whole Foods)
1 medium delicata squash
1 medium pear
1 pomegranate, seeded
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat oven to 350. Pierce the squash and roast on a baking sheet for 30-35 minutes. Let cool, slice, and remove seeds.
Toss pumpkin seeds with olive oil, curry powder, and sea salt. Toast in the oven for about eight minutes, tossing every two minutes.
Chop the kale and place into a bowl. Drizzle with pumpkin seed oil and massage with your hands until soft. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and top with pomegranate seeds, squash, pear, and toasted pumpkin seeds.
Smashed pea crostinis have been my go-to appetizer lately. I love anything that can turn the ordinary until something fancy. Throw some bubbles into water and you’ve got sparkling water. Add milk to coffee and aha, a latté. Spread anything onto toasted bread, and there you have it, a crostini.
I made these little guys for a fresh dinner in LA and then again at our DPA reunion in New York. They’re a simple crowd pleaser that can be dressed up with some good olive oil, fresh cracked pepper, or edible flowers (when you’re feeling extra fancy).
lemony pea crostinis
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1 glove of garlic, chopped
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Himalayan sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 sourdough baguette, sliced and toasted
edible flowers (optional)
Add peas, garlic, and parsley to a pan on medium heat. Cook until simmering, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add to a blender or food processor. Add in olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes. Blend until coarsely mixed, but not a puree. Remove from blender and stir in sea salt and black pepper to taste. Spread on a toasted baguette, adding edible flowers if the garden mood suits you.
The Dinner Party Association started as a small group of ladies in a dining room in Iowa. Some of us were friends and some of us were strangers, all of us seniors in college and about to go do big things in the world. We were living that scary and exciting piece of time right before you jump into the real world–the first time in any of our lives that the plan wasn’t laid out ahead of us. We shared a meal and our thoughts and fears on the future. We all came from different circles–we are artists, athletes, musicians, lawyers, business ladies, and a lot of things in between.
We became fast friends, hosted more dinner parties, and helped each other through some hard times. We all graduated and moved to Los Angeles, New York City, Portland, Des Moines. I started a blog about it and started throwing more parties of my own.
And here we are. Two years later.
Up until last weekend, I hadn’t seen any of those girls since moving to California. I think about them often–what they’re doing and how they’re doing, where they’re living and if they’re loving it. It just so happened that three of the original dinner party ladies all live within a few blocks in Brooklyn now, so I bought a ticket and flew out for dinner.
Having dinner with everyone again felt so great and surreal. We cooked everything at my friend Mari’s apartment and then walked a few blocks to Lindsay and Alex’s place, carrying dishes of lemony smashed pea crostinis, roasted cod with tomatoes and artichoke hearts, brussels sprouts with caramelized onions, and balsamic strawberries over vanilla ice cream. There were a few new faces and lots of new excitement, with news about careers and grad school and cross country moves. I felt proud of everyone, including myself. We’ve managed to keep a community, no matter how far we’ve moved or how much we’ve changed. I’m excited to see where we meet next and who joins us along the way. Until next time, DPA.