Monday, October 26, 2009

Epicurean Adventures: Family Sunday

So, I know last week I talked about how I have NOT been cooking up a storm ... well, this is no longer true, I'm happy to say. Family Sunday was a massive hit, and definitely will be a repeat event.

We started off the morning with a run to Best Yet, a little supermarket in Oakdale near our house, that carries a pretty good selection of local produce and goods. My family was coming over for the first time to come check out the house (as opposed to peeking through the windows of the empty place, which they'd all done after we put our offer in ... 2 months ago!). A run to the deli counter got us some fresh-sliced Boar's head Virginia ham, Ovengold roasted turkey, and low-sodium American cheese. A run to the dairy section got us a dozen large eggs. A segue into produce (because I apparently have no self control and cannot be trusted in a supermarket) got me a big bag of mixed bell peppers for a dollar, a bag of three bunches of asparagus for a dollar, a length of fresh-cut broccoli on the stalk as long as my arm for $1.50, and the biggest cauliflower I ever did see. Seriously, this thing needed to be chopped in half in order to even fit in my refrigerator.

Then off to the bagel shop. We live up the block from a place called The Bagel Doctor, but being house-poor makes your bargain-hunting skills a bit more keen, to say the least. So I made my way over the other side of Sunrise Highway and went to B&B Bagels and got a deal that was so good, I actually called the day before to make sure they'd honor it. I found a coupon in the local Pennysaver type community publication for a dozen bagels for a mere $2.95! This is pretty much unheard of, and on a Sunday morning, when bagel shops are at their busiest, it definitely seemed to awesome to be true, especially since their dozen usually goes for $9.60.

It wasn't! I waited on line for a really short amount of time, especially given that the line snaked out the door, and placed an order for a fresh-baked, hot, spongy dozen. The place smelled fabulous, and definitely did bagels the old-fashioned way -- boiled then baked. But they took it a step further, baking the bagels on hot slate ... delicious!

I was really impressed with their selection, which ran the gamut from the basics like plain, everything, egg, cinnamon raisin, and et cetera to practical specialties like no sugar (in plain and everything -- I got one of these for my diabetic grandma), whole wheat, and multi-grain. They didn't have as many "adventurous" bagels at some other places, but did have French Toast, powdered sugar and all, and egg and bacon, which I never really trust to have anything better than Bac'n Bits (I get these for my dog).

So back at my kitchen, armed with bagels (thrown in the oven to stay warm), eggs aplenty, center-cut bacon, and cold cuts, we were ready to get down to business, and a lovely breakfast smorgasbord was had.

The day got even better, though, since after my family left to go on about their day, Boy's family came over for football, dinner, wine, and mojitos. I made one of my specialties, a 7-layer eggplant parmesan casserole, and preceded that with my own take on the fabulous roasted pear salad I had at Vintage in St. James on my birthday.

The eggplant dish was prepared the day before, since frying eggplant makes the house smell and feel like oil (not pleasant for guests ... unless they're like me and are really, really fat inside), it's time-consuming, and messy. I make the breading myself and bread in three steps, so this was a step best taken in advance so that the entire night isn't spent in the kitchen. But nerd that I am, I wouldn't have minded too much. I mean, seriously, look at my kitchen!

Crushed garlic, fresh onions, plenty of tomato sauce, skim milk moist mozzarella and ricotta cheese, parmesan of course, and generous sprinklings of herbs and spices made this a 45-minute wonder as my GE Profile stove quietly baked one of my most in-demand dishes.

The salad was comprised of organic baby spinach leaves, fresh local mesclun greens, candied pecans, fresh strawberries, sliced thin, and in-season Bosc pears. Instead of roasting, I did a quick saute in olive oil SmartBalance spread (half the calories, better for you, and actually pretty buttery) with the thinly sliced pears to warm them up and break up fibers and bring out the sugar, and threw in a generous hand of Gorgonzola. Tossed with fat-free balsamic vinaigrette and voila! Salad was served.

Boy's brother brought over a lovely bottle of nice champagne, and his mother came bearing a big bottle of Pinot Grigio, which was definitely a great complement to the vegetarian theme of the meal. My future sister-in-law is a borderline vegetarian, so she was able to eat her fill and enjoy herself, which made me really happy. But food-lovers, don't judge her by her inability to eat or enjoy dead animal! She's helping out with the next Family Sunday with her absolutely fabulous Beef Wellington ... and not eating a single bite. :)

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