Saturday, April 25, 2009

Easter Eggs

An Easter without dyed eggs is like Christmas without a tree, mornings without coffee, the Monkees without Micky.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Proper Southern Punch

Spring is in the air, and while young engagees dream starry-eyed dreams of wedding day bliss, friends of a certain age and responsibility dream dreams of bridal showers and luncheons. The at-home shower, I fear, is becoming as antiquated a notion as pagers and pantyhose, to be replaced by catered affairs in charming locales or, on the more familiar end of the spectrum, the round table in the corner at a local chain restaurant and the promise of all you can eat.

My generation is probably the last that will remember the showers given to her and the showers I gave my friends. I remember especially a bridal shower I gave my friend Julie in which the menu was taken from Southern Living. I know I still have copy of this article tucked somewhere in an attic memory box. As I recall, the menu featured something fruity, something cheesy, something savory, something chocolate, and a cake. We held the shower at my mom's house and invited Julie's friends, especially women from her church. It was a Sunday afternoon in July and we all wore our Sunday best, which I'm sure included pantyhose and heels.

I mentioned the food, but didn't think of the beverage, the most important aspect for a Sunday afternoon in July. In fact, I can't even remember what punch I used, because I've since found a real keeper, a tea punch recipe from a Junior League cookbook, so you know it's good.

This is from Main Street, published by the Junior Auxiliary of Franklin, Tennessee, which, if you have never been there, is the heart of God's country and pretty high in the list Top 3 Places I Could Contentedly Spend the Rest of My life.

Tea Punch

3 cups brewed tea
3 cups orange juice
3 cups pineapple juice
1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 cups sugar
6 cups ginger ale

Mix the tea and juices in a large pitcher. Stir in the sugar until dissolved. Add the ginger ale just before serving. Pour over crushed ice in tall glasses.

Yield: one gallon

This is the recipe as written. Since I happen to own not one, but two punch bowls, I would rinse out a punch bowl, surround it with lovely cut flowers at the base and pour the punch into it. Serve with your grandmother's monogrammed sterling punch ladle (which is never to be confused with the soup ladle, for goodness' sake, people will think you are ill-bred and a heathen), which you have polished for this occasion. Put out a silver tray with all those cute punch cups, freshly washed. And know that you are part of a rite, a memory and a passage from one life to the next, marking the end of a single life and entering a partnered life. And I won't breathe a word if you decide to go sans pantyhose.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cheese, Please, and Beans and Greens

Looking for an easy little something to go with soup, I remembered these bite-sized cookies of Parmesan and Cheddar. It's just four ingredients, really, just adding butter and flour to the shredded cheese. They're baked in a moderate oven and emerge slightly chewy, puffy and tender. The perfect little dipper for your bowl of homemade Cream of Tomato Soup (I love Crescent Dragonwagon's version from "Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread.) Or perhaps dunked in this warming vegetarian beans-and-greens soup.

We name the cheese cookies Geronimo's, for the children's book character Geronimo Stilton, a mouse and reporter, narrator of a charming series of First Reader books. And I know you'll go to your nearest Borders store to find that series for your beginning readers.

Geronimo's Cheese Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup shredded Parmesam cheese
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse just until mixture comes together to form a dough. Remove work bowl from processor and, using whatever little hands are available (my three year old loves this part), form walnut-sized balls and place them on a lightly greased baking sheet (the slick wrapper from the butter works especially well for this purpose). Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, or until set, but not really brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Don't let them cool too long on the baking sheet or they may stick. When cool, place in a paper-towel-lined airtight container.

Beans and Greens Soup

4 cups water
2 leeks, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
3 stalks celery, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 can V-8 juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cooked chickpeas or your favorite beans
2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped

In medium saucepan over medium flame, heat water. Add vegetables, except for beans and spinach, bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and let simmer until softened. Add V-8. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper. You could even add fresh herbs at this point; a little thyme or basil might be nice. Finish by adding the chickpeas and baby spinach and heat through. Serve with the cheese cookies above or some cheesy garlic bread toasts.