Cooking for 25… Happy belated birthday, Aunt Ginny!

My Aunt Ginny’s birthday party was last weekend, and my mother and I (and several amazing helpers) concocted and executed a menu for 25 people:

Appetizers:

Mini Sandwiches: Egg salad, Tuna salad and Avocado-Cucumber
Onion Dip

Potato Salad (contributed by my lovely Aunt Darlene)
Pasta Salad
Shrimp and Orzo Salad (contributed by my lovely Aunt Candace)
Arugula Salad (my mom made this is and it was far and away the most popular dish; almonds, green apples, fresh Parm, evoo and s&p – adapted from a Whole Foods salad)

Main Dishes:

Chicken-Zucchini Skewers
Poached Salmon w/ Avocado Sauce and Dill-Tomato Sauce

Desserts:

Birthday cakes!

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Tuna Salad Sandwich Rounds (20-24 rounds)

Ingredients:
2 cans tuna in olive oil, drained
3 tbsp mayo
1 large roasted red pepper bottled in oil , rinsed, drained, and finely chopped
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon (I used less)
Salt and pepper
Unsalted butter, softened
24 thin slices whole grain bread (or whatever kind you like; we used a mixture of white and wheat)
Small bunch fresh parsley, very finely chopped

Method:

Mix the tuna and next 3 ingredients in a bowl; season to taste. Chill for 15 minutes up to overnight. When ready to prepare, Scoop salad onto rounds of bread, top with remaining rounds and lightly butter the edges of the sandwiches. Roll in fresh parsley. Stack, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Egg Salad Pita Pockets (20-24 pitas)

Ingredients:
8 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and chopped finely
4 tbsps mayonnaise
2 tbsps Dijon mustard
pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
24 mini pita pockets (we used a mixture of white and wheat)
unsalted butter, softened
watercress sprigs for garnish

Chicken kebabs

Makes 6-8 kebabs (we quadrupled this recipe… it was epic)

1lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 zucchini, sliced very thinly lengthways
6–8 metal or wooden skewers or sticks of fresh rosemary, lower leaves removed, tips kept on

Marinade
1 handful of fresh coriander
1 handful of fresh mint
3 cloves of garlic
6 spring onions
1 red chili
zest and juice of 1 lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes and place in a bowl. Blanch the zucchini strips in salted boiling water for 30 seconds then drain and allow to cool.

Blitz all the marinade ingredients (except the olive oil) in a food processor, then loosen to a paste with a little olive oil. Add the marinade to the chicken pieces and mix well. Allow to sit for up to an hour. Then weave the zucchini strips in between the chicken pieces on the rosemary sticks or skewers. Grill for around 8 minutes, turning regularly, until cooked.

If you need to keep warm, sprinkle with a bit more oil and cover loosely with foil.

**Recipe from: JamieOliver.com

Poached Salmon with Dill-Tomato Sauce

Sauce (for 1lb salmon)
1/4 cup light mayo
1 tbsp low fat milk
1 tbsp minced fresh dill or 1 tsp dill weed
1 tbsp lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
1 small tomato, diced

Poaching (in the microwave!)
sprayed or lightly oil-coated ceramic or glass dish
2 salmon fillets
3 tbsps water, if more salmon use more water
1 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
4 lemon slices
Cover dish and salmon with plastic wrap; poke holes to vent.
Microwave on high for 6-8 minutes, turning 1/2 way through (unless, of course, you have a rotating tray in your microwave). Fish should flake easily with a fork.
Let stand 2 minutes, serve with sauce.
Thanks to my Aunt Ginny for this recipe! So easy and so delicious.

Gemelli with Tomatoes, Olives & Ricotta

Coarse salt
8 ounces gemelli (or fusilli or penne)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
10 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed (optional)
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/3 cup fresh basil, torn
Fresh ricotta cheese, for serving

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente. Drain. Drizzle with just enough oil to coat, so the pasta doesn’t clump.

Pulse sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, capers, and garlic in a food processor. With machine running, add oil in a slow, steady stream, and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Toss together pasta, sun-dried tomato vinaigrette, grape tomatoes, olives, basil, and salt. Transfer to serving plates. Top with a scoop of ricotta, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with pepper.

**Recipe from: Zested (the picture here is prettier than mine… check it out)

Photos:

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It was a wonderful party. I got to see my cousin Anna for the first time in years, and our two new baby cousins were there looking precious and perfect. And my Aunt Ginny, who has been there for me my whole life, was I hope at least a little surprised that we were all there!

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A funny thing happened on the way to this Monday… Salvador Dalí gave outlandish dinner parties; Dozens of chicken recipes from Punchfork and Cooking Light

-o- GOP: Romney v. … Santorum? Gingrich? -o-
I’m sticking with Romney (as is most of professional and popular opinion), but the news this week is still looking at Gingrich and the newcomer, Rick Santorum. And, despite numerous press gaffs, Rick Perry vows to press on.

Here’s The Washington Post‘s take on the state of the race; read NPR‘s article for more. Here’s the AP‘s story on Perry.

-o- Nicholas Lemann’s commentary on Ron Paul -o-
It’s been awhile since I had the time to read The New Yorker, but suddenly I spend hours (and so much money…) on the metro during the week and so have returned to reading it whenever possible.

Read the fun and fascinating commentary “Enemy of the State” here.

-o- Salvador Dalí gave off-the-wall parties -o-
Well, yeah… I have personally visited the Salvador Dali museum near Barcelona, Spain, and I would never have imagined otherwise. Check out the video below of one of Dalí’s dinner parties. I  wish I could see the full menu!


(image from Photos of Spain)


(image from my trip to Spain in Fall 2007)

View the video of the party here on Foodista.

-o- 10 most popular stories on TheNewYorker.com this year -o-
I really enjoy reading The New Yorker. Thanks to the sensitivity and generosity of my mom, I’ve had a subscription for a few years now. Though I have gotten very into the headline-based news gathering Twitter offers me, I still cling to “knowing a lot about a few topics” as a worthy pursuit. The New Yorker offers that, with features by regular and constantly improving writers such as Jeffrey Toobin and Malcolm Gladwell.

Among this year’s most popular stories: “The Tweaker” by Malcolm Gladwell, November 14, 2011 (“the real genius of Steve Jobs”) and “Looking for Someone” by Nick Paumgarten, July 4, 2011 (“Sex, love, and loneliness on the Internet).

Here’s the collection.

-o- Fantastic Collection of Chicken Recipes on PunchFork -o-
On top of my list to try: Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Grilled Chicken with Spinach and Melted Mozzarella.

Check out the whole gallery.

Also, get some of the featured chicken recipes in the January/February issue of Cooking Light below. Find all of the recipes from this issue here.

-o- Balsamic Chicken
-o- Chicken and Rice
-o- Chicken and Rice with Mushrooms
-o- Chicken Enchiladas
-o- Chicken Piccata
-o- Chicken Pizza
-o- Chicken Quesadillas
-o- Chicken Spaghetti
-o- Chicken with Olives and Lemons
-o- Chicken with Pepperoni-Marinara Sauce
-o- Chicken with Root Vegetables
-o- Chipotle Chicken
-o- Creamy Chicken and Mushrooms
-o- Green Curry Chicken
-o- Maple-Brined Chicken with Sautéed Brussels Sprouts
-o- Maple-Mustard Glazed Chicken
-o- Moroccan-Style Chicken Tagine
-o- Sautéed Chicken with Olive Tapenade
-o- Sautéed Chicken with Onion Jam
-o- Sautéed Chicken with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
-o- Spicy Chicken Quesadillas
-o- Szechuan Chicken Stir-Fry

-o- 6 Startups to watch this year -o-
Where would my weekly post be without a Mashable mention? Here are the 6 companies to watch in 2012, according to Sarah Kessler:

-o- Skillshare (website)
-o- Zaarly, Taskrabbit or something similar (Zaarly website | Taskrabbit website)
-o- LevelUp (website)
-o- Dwolla (website)
-o- Eventbrite (website)
-o- Codecademy (website)

How many of these have you heard of? Can you guess what they offer?
If you are part of a startup company, what is your new idea, and why does it deserve a place on this list?

Read Kessler’s article here.

-o- Where does the Nook stand in the eReader game? -o-
The New York Times looks into the eReader market and reports that, according to its sources, Barnes & Noble holds around 13 percent of the market. That’s certainly more than I would have guessed, considering the number of die-hard Apple fans and the fact that Amazon.com is a giant, and the Kindle was around first.

Read the article here.

-o- Nature’s Weirdest Events -o-
BBC Nature‘s  list of eerily strange natural events.

Among them: the tongue-biter, or Cymothoa exigua, one of hundreds of an isopod or louse which attaches itself to a fish’s tongue after entering through the fish’s gills.

Ceratothoa imbricata in Blacktail (c) Nico Smit
(image via BBC)

-o-  Random House’s collection of “Best of 2011” Book Lists -o-

Random House collected dozens of the year’s “Best of” lists in one place! Here’s the loot.