Monday, April 13, 2009

the christians and the pagans

Well, it was a busy week. One of my very best and oldest friends, Emily, was in town from Wednesday until Sunday morning, so I got to spend some good time with her. We spent a great deal of time trying to avoid my apartment because her cat allergies, which I had been hoping to lessen by vacuuming and doing lots of laundry, were totally out of control. She actually slept in the hallway outside my door one night, which is a funny story but not very comfortable for the sleeper. But other than that, it was a good trip: good food (oh, Hopleaf... I had the CB&J and it was amazing), good shopping (I gained a cheap ring and a $10 rolling cart that triples the amount of usable countertop space in my kitchen, and she got a beautiful peridot ring and a funky pendant shaped like a miner's head with gems as the eyes and headlamp), and a good movie (The Wrestler, which I expected to like but kind of exceeded my expectations, even though I had to not watch the wrestling scenes).
After Emily got on the bus back to the airport Sunday morning, I made a quick grocery run and started in on my contribution to Easter dinner, three different spreads intended to be eaten on small slices of bread as an appetizer. (More about those later.) When we got to her house, Rose-Anne told Anna and I with a smile that she never anticipated hosting a dinner celebrating a christian holiday. But really, we weren't, although Ian (our fourth guest) brought some delicious bunny-shaped shortbread to share. We were just celebrating eating together, on a day when many people eat together, and there was no discussion of anything remotely christian-themed. Mostly we discussed the ways that medical research and music go together (or could go together), because Rose-Anne is a scientist, Ian is in medical school, and Anna and I are performing musicians. It was a highly intriguing conversation, but it was difficult at times for me to pay attention because I was so full I could barely bring myself to continue eating.
Here's the menu:
*Mushroom Walnut Spread, Spinach Artichoke Dip, and Olive Tapenade served on bread, made by me from the Chicago Diner cookbook
*Salad with greens, cucumber, raw sunflower seeds, tomatoes, and bean sprouts that she sprouted herself (I love my friends) with a delicious lime-y dressing from Anna
*Quiche courtesy of Ian's wife Daphna. I usually don't like quiche much (too eggy for me) but this was pretty freaking delicious.
*Asparagus and Pesto lasagna from Rose-Anne. So good! A creamy pesto sauce, sauteed asparagus, and pasta baked with cheese, it was to die for.
*Bunny shortbread cookies :)
*A buttermilk pie with oatmeal crust and strawberries, also from Rose-Anne. Buttermilk pie is one of my mom and grandma's staple holiday foods, so it made me happy to see it at our spread.
So that's a ton of food. And it was all delicious. Wonderful. I left stuffed pleasantly to the gills.

And here are the two most successful recipes from my side of things. These were both definitely good enough for another go-round.

Artichoke Dip

This was suggested to me while I was extremely jet-lagged in Alaska last year. I got picked up at the airport by some friends of Erica's who were positively slaphappy for some reason, and so we talked (or they talked and I nodded and grunted) about many things, and one of them was how good this dip is. So I made it. And it was pretty freaking good. The crushed red pepper is just the spicy touch needed to move it from pretty yummy to pretty delicious.

1 15 oz can artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 cup mayonnaise, eggless or regular
1 tbs fresh chopped dill (1 tsp or so dried)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound (or a six oz bag) spinach, rinsed, cooked, and chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded mild white cheese
2 tbs parmesan cheese
1 tsp hot pepper flakes

Food process or blend the artichoke hearts until they are semi-smooth. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the rest of the ingredients. Spread the mix into a flat baking dish (a pie plate worked just fine) and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes for some gooey goodness. (You can also broil it, but broilers make me nervous. If you go that way, just get it brown and bubbly and call it good.)

Olive Tapenade

This seemed unusual for me, in that it incorporated ricotta cheese into something that I think of as just consisting of olives and oil and spices. But it was actually the big winner for the evening, spread-wise.

1/2 cup black olives
1/2 cup green olives
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes (if they're in olive oil, reserve it to use later)
1/4 cup chopped green onions (optional)
1 cup soft tofu or ricotta cheese
drizzle olive oil

Put all of the ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor and process until fairly smooth. Drizzle in the olive oil (perhaps retained from your tomatoes?) for a creamier consistency.


Rosiecat said...

My goodness, it was amazing to me the amount of food we ended up having last night! Amazing and wonderful :-)

I'm so glad we had a great potluck party. After you all left, I just kept thinking to myself, "This is the way we build our family." Because really, that's how I feel every time you, Anna, Ian, or any number of my other friends comes over for dinner, a snack, whatever. You're my Chicago family.

Emilyon said...

Oh, damn. I wish I could have stayed one more night. That sounds awesome. And it's not really a Christian holiday, anyway. It's a good ol' pagan holiday appropriated by the Christians. Thanks again for having me!

ammie said...

Emily, I wish you could have stayed too! Alas. And we did discuss the pagan origins of the holiday; I feel perfectly happy celebrating things like that by hanging out with friend and eating a ton of food :)
And Rose-Anne, I agree with you. I feel so strongly connected to the friends I share my time with here. It's a lot like family, without the compulsory nature and awkward silences of such things.

Shawn said...

My family didn't talk about redemption or resurrection either, and theoretically we're Christians...