Jules' housewarming party was this weekend. After years wandering from one home to another, Jules has finally settled in a gorgeous 1950's home in Richardson, Texas. The house came with a Viking range -- an irony considering Jules is anti-kitchen. This is not to say that Jules is anti-food; she most certainly is not: she appreciate excellent food. She just doesn't enjoy the process of cooking. "It's like taking a beating," she tells me. She claims not to be able to boil water and goes into full-fledged Beaker panic mode when confronted with the idea of entertaining.
After it became obvious that Jules was planning to gloss over the big move into her new home, I and several close friends browbeat her into hosting a housewarming party. Jules, notorious for finding such events stressful, consented only when I promised to fly in for the party and to cook. This was not completely altruistic; there was a Viking range to be enjoyed, after all.
Twenty guests were expected over a three hour period and I decided that it was in our best interests to make relatively stress-free appetizers and dishes that could be rotated out easily. We settled on a rotini pasta salad tossed with pesto, a baked salmon in a honey-balsamic marinade, and several little appetizers: rosemary-gorgonzola gougères, baked Brie, crackers, baguettes rounds and cheeses, and these little sundried tomato pesto tarts. For sweets (because I can't resist any occasion in which we can produce four or five desserts!) we used more mini tarts and piped in chocolate mousse; pastry cream in puff pastry shells topped with raspberries, mini pain au chocolat, and chocolate dipped strawberries.
These tarts were wildly easy - simply cream cheese beaten with a prepared sundried tomato pesto and then piped into blind baked pastry shells (made by cutting store-bought pastry and lining them in a mini-muffin tin) and topped with fresh rosemary from Jules' garden. Extra shells were used for the chocolate mousse -- making it a versatile appetizer and scrumptious sweet bite. I'm all about ease and bloodless entertaining. Plus, Jules could easily replicate this two-in-one combo for other occasions.
Personally I'm convinced that she'll start enjoying the domesticated stuff more now that she has wonderful tools at her disposal -- a Viking gas range, a sunny kitchen, and a home meant for entertaining. In fact, I've already informed her that she will be hosting a Christmas tea party for her girlfriends -- and this time, no Beaker squealing or waving of the hands. I take this as a good sign.