Monday, April 28, 2008

Last Night's Dinner: Er...Grilled Cheese Brunch (and a little bit of a food flashback)

About a year and a half ago, our friend Alicia suggested that a bunch of us have a once a month standing date for brunch. She volunteered to host it (though everybody would contribute something) and we decided on the last Sunday of each month.

Fast-forward a year and a half, and while our record has been a little spotty (we jettison the summer and holiday months - we're all just too busy), we're all still in love with the idea. From the very first brunch, when we got happily snowed in with our breakfast foods and mimosas, the brunch tradition has been marked with a certain kind of carefree Sunday-ness. The kind that you really only feel in college.

This spring, with a feisty (and gigantic) great dane puppy taking up residence at Mike and Alicia's, we decided to move the brunch to our house (anything to take advantage of the new kitchen). Yesterday was our inaugural event.

As a group, we decided to reprise a favorite theme from last year: the grilled cheese party. Originally inspired by an old issue of Domino, the party is just about the simplest thing ever. It's so easy for a host. We set out plates of meats and cheeses, a variety of breads, and some other random ingredients and accoutrements, like honey and mustard and apple slices and basil. With our grill pan and Jen and Bill's panini maker fired up, everybody's responsible for cooking their own. It's fun and is there anything better than melted cheese?

We have a handful of accompanying dishes, too - pastries and salad and fruit. Plus, yesterday I made a chunky tomato soup with a bit of basil puree to drizzle on top. Cooper, of course, complained that "tomato soup should be creamy" but I thought it was pretty delicious, even if it did involve blanching and peeling 15 roma tomatoes (and grilling and peeling numerous red peppers).

The recipe was courtesy of Jamie Oliver, one of his simple-and-good meals from The Naked Chef. It's his first book, and it was the very first cookbook I ever bought, purchased on my way home from work one night when Cooper and I had just started dating. After years and years of dining strictly on pretzels and guac or carryout sushi, my domestic side revealed itself. Next thing I knew, I was writing a food blog and rolling my eyes at storebought salad dressing. How far I've come.

Also a sign of how far I've come? When I went in search of a good tomato soup recipe, I opened Jamie's book to find a handwritten recipe for sauteed chicken with basil, red onion and sundried tomato. Really simple recipe, waaaay too many strong flavors. It was the first meal I ever made for Cooper.

I'd made a huge deal out of learning to cook and cooking for him. In preparation for my big night at the stove, I spent a week at work scouring the internet for a recipe I thought I could handle. For whatever reason, I thought that this assault on the taste buds sounded good. Then I took a day off work just to do the shopping and chopping. And it took me all day.

Then, when the time finally came to show off my stuff, I choked. Cooper ended up actually cooking the chicken. It's a story he loves to tell.

Anyway. I've come a long way, and the little trip down memory lane made me smile. But I'm digressing. The point of all of this is: grilled cheese brunch. Great party. Have one.

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