Saturday, September 1, 2012

Summer Sunday Brunch and Brooklyn Cocktail Party with Home Blessing

"By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled,
with rare and beautiful treasures."
(Proverbs 24:3-4)

This is a continuation of my last post, "Last of the London Olympics Get-Together." Following that night, we had Sunday afternoon brunch with my family -- my mother, father, sister, nephew, brother, and brother's girlfriend -- who all came from Westchester and Jersey to gather together with us in Brooklyn.

The next housewarming-ish event we hosted was a casual cocktail party for married friends who mostly have children, and it was during that evening that Jonah -- who also officiated at our wedding -- came with his wife Jennifer and their baby Avery, and presided over an informal home blessing.

Summer Sunday Brunch

Blueberry Pancakes with Blackberries and Raspberries
Asparagus, Spinach and Feta Quiche
Garden Salad
Clementines, Mangoes and Bananas

My family started dropping by sometime after 2 o'clock, beginning with my mother, sister, and nephew; my father arrived after them, and my brother and Tina came towards the early evening. I made blueberry pancakes and stacked them on a platter with a dusting of powdered sugar, along with fresh blackberries and raspberries we had in our refrigerator.

Blueberry pancakes with blackberries and raspberries

I baked identical quiches of asparagus, spinach and feta with mozzarella, which I made earlier this summer from a Two Peas & Their Pod recipe. I recommend you try this; it's really good! Just be sure you squeeze out the excess water from the spinach after you wilt them on the stove, otherwise your quiche will turn out soggy and appear not to be cooked through. I made the simple pie crust I use for apple pie, which I posted in last year's "September Sweets."

Asparagus, spinach and feta quiches with mozzarella

The arugula, spinach, and mixed greens salad included leftover cherry tomatoes, mini sweet peppers, and cucumbers from the previous night, and was tossed with a basil vinaigrette. We also ate leftover chicken tikka masala.

Simple garden salad

In case anyone wanted more fruit -- I was especially thinking of my then-pregnant sister and my nephew -- my tiered server held clementines, mangoes, and bananas.

Clementines, mangoes, and bananas

Brooklyn Cocktail Party

For this evening, I was determined not to use the oven, since I and my kitchen got way too hot when cooking and baking for the Olympics get-together and family brunch (and I still needed an oven thermometer). Also, it can be difficult to properly time the preparation of multiple dishes that need to go in the oven or on the stove. I decided on a menu of hors d'oeuvres and finger foods with a signature grapetini cocktail.

Asian Chicken Salad in Boston Lettuce Cups
Smoked Salmon and Cucumber with Cream Cheese
Shrimp Cocktail
Prosciutto-Wrapped Breadsticks with Boursin Cheese
Miniature Caprese Salad
 Mediterranean Vegetable Chips with Onion Yogurt Dip

Bleu Cheese-Stuffed Olives, Mixed Olives, Roasted Mixed Nuts and Genoa Salami
Havarti, Herb Brie and Parmigiano Reggiano with Crackers, Fig and Walnut Spread, Strawberries and Grapes
Miniature Cookies and Brownies


Food preparation

I made a shredded Asian chicken salad that included Mandarin oranges, slivered almonds, green onions, and toasted sesame seeds. The yummy dressing was from and included brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, vegetable oil, and rice vinegar. To make this chicken salad more finger food-friendly, I served it in Boston (aka Butter or Bibb) lettuce cups. Next time I'll make this with a store-bought rotisserie chicken -- so easy.

Asian chicken salad in Boston lettuce cups

For the smoked salmon hors d'oeuvres, I bought a little less than a pound of fresh smoked salmon -- the trimmings from cut-to-order purchases, which shouldn't go to waste -- and was able to enjoy the smoked salmon after the party, on crackers and in scrambled eggs. These appetizers consisted of slices of cucumber spread with cream cheese, topped with smoked salmon and garnished with fresh dill.

Smoked salmon with cucumber, cream cheese and dill
The shrimp cocktail was served with a squeeze of lemon and extra spicy cocktail sauce.

Shrimp cocktail

I don't eat prosciutto, salami and the like, but that doesn't mean I won't prepare or cook meats. But my taste-tester husband wanted to help put these together, and he did a great job. He wrapped the thinly-sliced natural prosciutto around breadsticks that were spread with a layer of Boursin cheese.

Prosciutto-wrapped breadsticks with Boursin cheese

Insalata Caprese -- sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt -- is a classic Italian salad. My cocktail party version of cherry tomatoes, ciliegini ("little cherries") mozzarella, and basil was served on cocktail picks with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Individual mini caprese salads

Remember stirring onion soup mix into a container of sour cream to make a party dip for ruffled potato chips back in the day? Kevin Sharkey -- Martha Stewart's right-hand man and style and design authority -- never veers from the retro combination when throwing a party. To update this (and because I love Greek yogurt and even cook with it), I used Fage instead of sour cream. Served with TERRA Mediterranean chips -- which were an unexpected hit with the children -- it was a simple snack. We also had kid-friendly chicken nuggets and pizza rolls on hand.

Mediterranean vegetable chips with onion yogurt dip

Bleu cheese-stuffed olives, mixed olives, roasted mixed nuts, and organic Genoa salami helped round out the snack options. Behind the vase of flowers, you might make out the tiered server, which held cookies, brownies and fruit. One of the families that came over -- Julienne, Elliot, Noah, and Lydia -- also brought a delicious tiramisu for dessert.

Most of the spread, with beautiful blooms of yellow roses

The cheeses were havarti, herb brie, and Parmigiano Reggiano, placed on a board alongside crackers, Stonewall Kitchen Fig & Walnut Butter (I love Stonewall Kitchen products -- we went to a dedicated outlet store during our minimoon, but my sister gave this to me when she came over for brunch), strawberries, and grapes.

Cheese board with crackers, fig and walnut spread, and fruit

Our grapetinis were made with white grape juice, vodka, and St.-Germain -- I don't remember how many parts of each, but I wouldn't mind recreating them to let you know -- and garnished with frozen red grapes. We don't have real martini glasses because I want everything we own to serve at least 2 purposes, so the plastic ones reach all the way down to the base, which is why the grapes are sitting so low.

We also experimented and conducted blind taste tests with the Vinturi Red Wine Aerator and Vinturi Spirit Aerator, which our friends Peter, Joon, and kiddos Olivia and William brought for us. FYI, they really do make a difference!

Grapetinis with frozen grapes

Up next, the final housewarming installment:
Savor Summertime in the Slope


  1. ok, tommy and i decided that when we move you're going to have to come over and help us throw a housewarming party!! this all looks so incredible.

  2. I was randomly checking out your blog adn found this post..this looks like such a great party, what a nice job you did on everything! Looks awesome.


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