The Easter holiday always serves as a strong reminder of how much I favor brunch celebrations. Brunch provides the perfect balance between sweet and savory dishes, as well as an excuse to sip champagne at 11 am. Throw in brightly colored eggs, my favorite flowers (tulips), and children so excited over Easter eggs you’d think there was gold in them, and you have the perfect spring holiday.
I love when a group of people just click; when conversation flows so easily that three hours after dinner has been served folks are still chatting away, sipping their wine, and nibbling on the odds and ends left on the table. I’m lucky to have such a group a friends very close by. By close by I mean literally across the street. One is my former roommate, the second is my old roommate’s former roommate, and the third is the second’s current roommate (who were roommates in college). A lot of roommate connections.
Our group is full of skilled cooks, so we always dine in. These evenings are extremely laid back, to the point where my outfits often closely mirror pajamas. After gorging myself at the apartment of two of the girls last week, I only felt it right that I host the next dinner. I’m on a perpetual hunt for dinner party appropriate dishes- things you can make ahead that aren’t too fussy, but still provide something special for your guests. Despite the fact that this orzo recipe has been sitting in a cookbook on my shelf for years, I only recently discovered it. Given the results, it will definitely be a summer staple. Coincidentally, I also think it would make for an excellent Easter brunch dish.
I’m headed to Boston to celebrate the holiday with my family and some long time family friends. I don’t know what it is about Easter candy, but I seem to favor it the most out of all the holidays (perhaps it’s the pastel colors?). As I shared with my mother earlier this week, just because I’m 25 doesn’t mean I still don’t require a box of Peeps to myself.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Roasted Shrimp and Orzo adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home
Serves 6 dinner size portions
1 lb orzo
1 1/2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails on
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup chopped fresh dill
3/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 chopped red onion
1/2 chopped scallions
1 English cucumber, unpeeled and diced
1 1/4 cup good feta cheese, small dice/ crumbled
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Set a large pot of water, 1 tsp salt, and splash of oil to boil.
Once boiling drop in orzo and cook til al dente (8-9 minutes). Meanwhile whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, and several grinds fresh black pepper. Once pasta is cooked drain, pour into serving bowl, and toss well with dressing. Set aside.
Lay shrimp on a baking sheet, drizzles with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roasted for 5-6 minutes. Shrimp will be light pink when done cooking.
Add the shrimp, chopped herbs, scallions, onions, cucumber, 1/2 tsp salt, and several grinds black pepper to the orzo. Toss gently to combine. Next add the feta and fold carefully into the orzo. Set aside at room temperature for an hour to allow the flavors to blend or store covered in the fridge until ready to serve. Dish can be made one day ahead. Remove from fridge 1 hour before serving and taste to adjust seasonings. You likely will need to add a bit more lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
After writing Monday’s post, it got me thinking about chocolate chip cookies. Truth be told, I don’t love them. If faced with a plate of cookies, I’ll go for a peanut butter or sugar cookie over a chocolate chip. Beyond that, ever since I started making Compost Cookies, I’ve had little desire to make any other kind of cookie. You see, I am completely and utterly addicted to any confection that has the salty sweet component. Kettle corn, chocolate covered pretzels, fleur de sel caramels- yes please.
The thing is, I like my salt. I detest when food is under-salted, and I tend to be pretty strong minded when it comes to determining how much salt something needs ( you’ve been warned). Therefore, it’s no coincidence that one of my favorite food bloggers is Ashley of Not Without Salt. If there ever were a kitchen mantra for me, that would be it. Given Ashley’s attention to this crucial ingredient, I am very trusting of her recipes- including this one. A simple cookie recipe at its core, it’s the cooking process, sugar combination, and sea salt (of course), that makes these chocolate chip cookies extraordinary. To access the recipe, see the link to Dana Treat’s post* at the bottom of Ashley’s post. Read Dana’s description and you’ll be even more convinced to cease all searches for the best chocolate chip cookie.
We live across the street from what is supposedly one of the best Pho restaurants in the DC area, Pho 75. Pho 75 was actually the first place I ever had pho. Brandon’s friends are unusually big Pho fans, to the point that one of them coined the phrase getting on the “pho train,” to communicate to their co-workers that they were going to Pho 75 for lunch. True story. If you’ve never had it, pho is a hot noodle soup, served with thin slices of beef, and topped with fresh bean sprouts, jalapenos, thai basil, and lime.
So why am I talking about pho and showing you pictures of popsicles? Well, aside from serving up hot noodle soup, they serve coffee. With each cup individually brewed, Vietnamese coffee is extremely dark and thick, almost syrupy in nature. The signature sweetener for their coffee is sweetened condensed milk. A thin layer coats the bottom of each cup and the coffee is poured on top. When stirred together it creates this incredibly rich and candy-like beverage, unlike any average cup of coffee. This cup of jo also transforms well into a delicious frozen treat, thanks to David Lebowitz’s ingenious idea.
These pops served as the perfect recipe for breaking in my new popsicle mold (best Amazon purchase ever). With only two ingredients, they could not be simpler. Depending on the size of your molds, you may need to increase the recipe- I doubled mine. You could also use decaf coffee to turn these into a show stopping summer dinner party dessert.