Sunday, August 08, 2010

Planning a menu--and a happy grandmother's picture

Ignore the goofy grin. This is very much a proud grandmother photo. I'm wearing the T-shirt that Morgan and Kegan made for me, with a little help from their mom. Susan took this tonight when she and Jay came for supper.
I'm convinced more than ever that successful entertaining depends less on your ability as a cook than on  your ability to plan a menu. Tonight we had a cold supper, perfect for a warm day like today (101, with heat index of 108). My mom used to chill a can of salmon and serve it on a platter with cucumber, mayonnaise, and I forget what all. I've talked before about the Pisces tuna I order from a cannery in Oregon. Recently I also got six cans of salmon, and we tried it tonight. I fixed a platter of deviled eggs, cherub tomatoes, cucumbers, asparagus and salmon, and served it with a vinaigrette, mayonnaise, and lemon. None of us used anything but the lemon, and the salmon was delicious.
I also made the County Line potato salad that I loved so much at the party last weekend. It was great and Jay, who never will take home leftovers, took a huge helping of potato salad--he had some cockamanny argument that it wasn't leftovers because it hadn't been cooked and wouldn't have to be reheated. Look up the recipe online, because it's all over the place. I learned something while making it. Back to Mom's cooking again, but she learned years and years ago from the Italian cook at the hospital where Dad worked that you should peel and cube the potatoes while hot and pour vinaigrette over them. Let that soak in and cool before adding mayonnaise, mustard, onion, celery, whatever. The directions for County Line potato salad call for boiling the potatoes in their skins and refrigerating them for half an hour. I refrigerated them overnight, and oh my goodness, they were so much easier to peel and dice. You make the sauce, including onion and celery, in a separate bowl and then add the potatoes. For once, I followed the recipe to the letter, and it was delicious if I do say so. I could have eaten two helpings again but I was aware of the sour cream and mayo, even if both were "light."
Usually I don't fix dessert, but last week I wrote about Blue Bell ice cream, so I had to buy some. I bought peppermint/chocolate and served it with a mint chocolate sauce I had in the fridge. All three of us licked our bowls clean.
My point about planning: the cold platter, potato salad, and ice cream went together so well and made a perfect meal for a hot summer night. And as Susan said, conversation was as lively as always. We had a good time.
Nor did I lounge away the day. I wrote almost 800 words on my novel and feel I'm back into it. A busy week ahead, but I intend to keep writing. There's a challenge on a mystery blog to write one page a day before you ever turn to the internet. Good idea, but not one I find myself following. But I'm going to write a page--or more--every day.
As I walked out on the porch tonight when Jay and Susan were leaving, I said to think that in a month we'll be having cocktails and maybe dinner on the porch. We all sighed. This 100+ heat seems endless. We've been encouraged with the promise of scattered showers, but I'll tell you how scattered they've been: yesterday morning when I went to the store the streets were dry, but when I got  six blocks away they were wet with large puddles indicating a good-sized rain. So frustrating!

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