Saturday, April 9, 2011

Family Dinner Series Week Sixteen

Remember when I planned that whole homemade Italian feast for Family Dinner Series Week Fifteen, only to suddenly remember it was Mardi Gras?

Well, I certainly wasn't going to waste all of my planning efforts!

Instead, I moved the project to Family Dinner Series Week Sixteen, wherein my house, clothes, and hair, all smelled of onion and garlic for a week and a half.

Preparation for the Tuesday night feast started Monday evening around 5:20 when I hit Hannaford on my way home from the office. One of the harder parts of Family Dinner is that before its existence, Uncle Bud and I didn't cook. Like... at all. That means that each week, not only do I have to shop for the meal's main ingredients, but also the supplementary ingredients that most households keep on stock in their cupboards. Things like sage, and thyme, and even tomato paste!

I really can't wait for the day that all this early investment pays off and I find myself with a full spice rack. Because according to everyone's favorite budget watch at, the Hannaford "slice" is overpowering my "pie."

By the time Uncle Bud rolled in I had ingredients spread over the better part of the kitchen counter AND table. I even had my rubber gloves in place, ready to tackle the ever-intimidating ground meat. With an RSVP list of six, I had bought two packages, not realizing that the amount would yield me approximately 745 turkey meatballs.

"When I'm done, do you want to grab a drink at the Restaurant?" I asked Bud. He agreed, before shuffling off into his room for a post-work nap.


And despite the absurd hour, and the delicious aroma of simmering sauce, I really needed to get out of the kitchen. I woke Bud up from his "nap", and downtown we went. Where I provided the few lingering Restaurant go-ers with wafts of Italian cooking, seeping out of my every pore.

Luckily the hard work paid off, and the next night's meal was a success, despite the few stems cooked into the meatballs.

Hey! I never learned how to chop fresh spices!

Our guests were all good friends making repeat visits to the meal, and very forgiving of my red-rimmed tired eyes. Adam and Frazz arrived with a bottle of wine, and Fitzy brought his new lady friend, and a German chocolate cake, which spurred a lively discussion of combating pasteries.

And there were enough extra meatballs for both leftovers... and frozen leftovers.

Conclusion? When new to the kitchen, ignore both the "prep time" and "number served" in any recipe. Instead, round up. To the nearest 10.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Graduate

Greg Johnson, a 1973 graduate of Kennebunk High School and successful film producer, recently sat down to talk with me about his latest release, "The Music Never Stopped".

Ok, so we didn't actually sit down together. After all, Greg works in Southern Connecticut, and I work in Southern Maine. And we both work! A lot, it would seem. Every time one of us had a free moment for a phone conversation, the other was busy.

But two weeks of emails eventually lead to a call, which lead to an interview, and finally, an article in our favorite Coast Star.

Kennebunk grad takes on film industry - 3/31/11

Who wants to join me at the movies?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Family Dinner Series Week Fifteen

It wasn't until I had already planned a complete menu of pasta, turkey meatballs, and homemade marinara sauce that I realized Family Dinner Series Week Fifteen was set to fall on Mardi Gras. Never one to turn down a theme, I scrapped the Italian and logged online in search of some Cajun inspiration.

My own Mardi Gras experiences have all been set in Burlington, Vermont... where Church Street takes the place of the famous French Quarter, and authentic Louisiana cuisine is replaced with company sponsored Jell-O shots. Luckily I was able to find a jambalaya recipe that I could handle. Luckier still, I already had the most delicious white bean salad recipe on hand, and according to Google, white beans are part of Mardi Gras!

Our guests for the evening were two of Uncle Bud and Gilbert Hoss's buddies home from college for Spring break. Spring break! That brought the median age of our event down to about 22.

With those two contributing "holiday" factors, you would think the evening would have been a little more wild.

"I've got the food, you bring the bourbon," I had told the boys. Instead they brought beers, and waited until I retreated to our town's Trivia Night to have their real fun.

Luckily, we did have beads.

And... as previously mentioned, the best white bean salad ever!

1 can white beans
1 avocado, chunked
red onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
fresh basil, chopped

Dressing: 2 parts lemon juice, 1 part olive oil seasoned with salt and pepper

You may need to double the recipe, or even triple it depending on the number of strapping young men you are feeding, and the amount of spice you need to counteract in your main dish jambalaya.

Especially if you are Irish, and not really accustomed to spicing jambalaya.

Conclusion? Sometimes a little spice is nice, but not every Mardi has to party.