We have always gotten lots of questions related to cooking for a crowd, but lately the topic seems to have gotten hotter. These days, so many of us are choosing to entertain in with friends rather than going out to restaurants. They might be cheap, pot-luck, or high-end, but for whatever reason, dinner parties are on the rise.
So it was with great interest that I opened a new book from Williams-Sonoma called Cooking for Friends: Fresh Ways to Entertain with Style.
Title & Publisher: Williams-Sonoma Cooking for Friends, by Alison Attenborough and Jamie Kimm, copyright Weldon Owen Inc/Williams-Sonoma Inc, published by Oxmoor House, 2009.
First impressions: The book is very well-organized with approachable but not boring recipes, and gorgeous photographs. Some of the authors' favorite recipes are presented in a "Four Ways" format, like the savory tart below, an approach that I appreciate for its inspirational quality. This kind of presentation makes home cooks more likely to try to experiment on their own, loosening their grasps on written recipes, learning to trust their inner flavor guide to create their own concoctions.
The angle: Simple, seasonal, conversation-starting menus for entertaining.
Recipes for right now: Spring White Sangria (fresh mint! fresh dill!), Quick Grilled Squid Salad, Poached Chicken Soup with Lemon and Spinach, Gnocchi with Radicchio and Gorgonzola, Chocolate Caramel Tart.
Recommended? Absolutely. This is a book to get you to plan a dinner party if you've been in a cooking slump. Attenborough and Kimm make it look effortless yet totally glamorous. Just what we need for times like these.
greek-style tomato and feta tart
puff pastry sheet (1/2 package), thawed according to package directions
cherry tomatoes 1 cup, halved
ripe tomatoes 8, thinly sliced
feta cheese 6 oz, crumbled
fresh oregano 1 Tbsp chopped
sea salt and ground pepper
fresh thyme 6 sprigs
Preheat oven to 400° F. Unfold pastry sheet on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out into a 9-by-13-inch rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Cut in half lengthwise into 2 rectangles. Transfer rectangles to a rimmed baking sheet. Using a fork, prick each rectangle evenly over entire length. Fold in 1/2 inch of pastry along entire edge of each rectangle to create a border.
Arrange cherry tomato halves, sliced tomatoes, and feta cheese on top of pastry rectangles. Sprinkle with oregano, season with salt and pepper, and top with thyme sprigs. Bake until puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, cut each tart into 4 pieces, and serve.
• Cooking for Friends (Williams-Sonoma, $34.95)
• More posts about Cooking for a crowd
More 2009 Book Reviews
• Big Food by Elissa Altman
• Edible Schoolyard, by Alice Waters
• The River Cottage Meat Book, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
• Milk, by Anne Mendelson
• The New Steak, by Cree LeFavour
• Cooking For Two, by Jessica Strand
• A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg
• Fresh Food From Small Places, by R. J. Ruppenthal
• Picture Yourself Cooking with Your Kids, by Beth Sheresh
• Eat Feed Autumn Winter, by Anne Bramley
• The Complete 15-Minute Gourmet, by Paulette Mitchell
• Heirloom Beans, by Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo
(Images: Petrina Tinslay)