Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Very Vegetarian Birthday Party

This... what 85 looks like. Also, it's what my version of this

chocolate peanut butter draping

...turned out like. That's the version shown on SmittenKitchen.Com, where I found and the recipe for the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake. Yes, mine was a bit different, but that's because I couldn't replicate the evenness of the three layers of cake and ended up using the chocolate-peanut butter glaze to cover up my circumferential errors. (Also, I put the peanut brittle on, which the SK folks did not for the photo.)

Not that it mattered because this...

...looked great and tasted even better. Mmm. Highly recommended. Have some Lipitor handy, though.

As I had Tweeted, it was Walt's 85th birthday this weekend, so I had him, his partner and one of his close friends over for dinner. (Who's Walt? See here.) Walt is a vegetarian, so I studied up in Vegetarian Times and made a four-course meal that started with a homemade green chile hummus that seemed to have broken my blender but tasted delicious. Boo. I also learned -- and this gives you some idea how new I am at this sort of thing -- that garbanzo beans = chickpeas. I spent a long time in the beans aisle before that dawned on me and I checked the Web for confirmation. Duh.

For salad, I did a raw kale salad with root vegetables which was supposed to look like this:

It looked like this...

...which is reasonably close. It was fresh and tasty, with grated turnip and rudabega, among other items. Vegetarian Times doesn't seem to make it easy to find or link to recipes from its current issues, but this is from the October issue and I'm happy to share the recipe privately if anyone asks.

On this course, my only real fudge was on the whole roasted/seasoned pecans because there were perfectly delicious roasted/seasoned pecans available for a lot less than buying fresh pecans and all the ingredients to make my own. Also, I may have gotten the wrong style of kale because mine was much more Afro-ish and not given to being cut chiffonade, one of my new words.

For our main course, I did the vegetable ragout in acorn squashes as well as a farfalle with tomato-goat cheese cream sauce. The squash was pretty labor-intensive -- soaking apricots and prunes a day in advance, chopping all those veggies, making the stew and then stuffing and baking the squash. This is what it was supposed to look like:

Here's how well it went:

I learned two things from this. (a) Farfalle is a fancy word for "bowtie" and (b) I deduced on my own that I'd have to cut the bottom of the squash in order to not have it tip over in the oven. It was a good call, but I was glad to have had a sixth squash to practice on because that first attempt didn't go so well.

Then came dessert. Mmmm. Let's look at that again:

I swear, I wouldn't even think about trying these things if not for "Top Chef." Like, here's my version of mis en place:

Miles made it home for about a half-hour of the meal before he had to return to work, so I managed to get the whole place looking pretty spiffy before the poor soul got in after midnight:

The whole endeavor was a lot of fun. Miles had framed this photo that Emily took of me in front of Walt's childhood home in Beatrice, Neb., when we were on the Great Petcast Roadtrip last month, and that led Walt to tell all sorts of tales of the people in his old neighborhood and all that. A lovely little trigger down memory lane, indeed.

You know who else had a good time, speaking of pets?

Yes, I let Black and Jack lick the peanut butter frosting residue off the mixer thingies. (There's a word for that, right?) Don't worry, Emily, they didn't get any chocolate.

The rest of us did, though. Mmm.