In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Monday, November 1, 2010

How To Make a Quasi-Quick Appetizer

I say quasi because it takes the tiniest amount of advance planning, but it's fast and cheap and easy otherwise. It's the perfect assemble ahead-pop-in-oven-this old thing? appetizer for a party, with the added bonus of being hot.

Practically Instant Carmelized Onion-Goat Cheese Pizza
1. First carmelize yourself a mess of onions. I like sweet onions like Vidalia, but any yellow or white onion will do.

It's a simple process: slice onions thinly into a heavy pan -- cast iron is best -- and cook with a little butter or olive oil or both slowly slowly -- it will take much longer than you think, but you don't really have to do anything but stir it once in a while -- until the onions brown. some people add sugar to help it along, but I think that's cheating and you have to watch it more closely so the sugar doesn't burn. Just do it the old fashioned way.

When the onions look like that (see above) you're done. Throw them in some Tupperware and hold onto them until your party. They will last a few days in the fridge.

2. The day of the party, take out a log of goat cheese and let it come to room temperature. Mash it up so it's spreadable.
3. Now spread a couple of table spoons on a pita bread, reaching almost to the edges. Don't make it too thick. Use less than you would if you were making a peanutbutter sandwich, but not as little as if you were spreading mayo on toast for a BLT.

4. Now, top with a couple tablespoons of carmelized onions. Not too many -- they are pretty aggressively sweet and oniony.

5. At this point, you can lay them on cookie sheets, cover with plastic, and let them sit in the fridge till the party that night.

6. When you are ready to serve them, heat the oven to 375 and pop in the cookie sheets -- don't do them all at once. Heat the pitas up -- it will take just a few minutes.

7. Now, when they come out of the oven, if you want to be fancy, there are all kinds of things you can do: sprinkle the top with crushed red pepper or a fresh grind of black pepper; sprinkle with the tiniest bit of chopped fresh rosemary (or basil, if it's summer) or shaved parmesan cheese. You also throw a whisper of lemon zest on there. Or stud with some chopped Kalamata olives (they can go on before or after the oven, ditto some thinly sliced prosciutto). But as is is plenty good.

8. Next slice the pitas into six pieces (pie shaped is easy to handle) and wander around with them on trays decorated with branches of rosemary. You should say "Hot Treat?" when offering them to people. People LOVE passed appetizers, especially hot ones.
9. Repeat with next tray. This is a good thing to make someone else do at your party. There is always some wallflower looking to help out in the kitchen. Use this to your advantage. (Plus it gives the wallflower a chance to say "Hot treat?" to people, which will be a new experience for them and may save them from wallflower status permanently.)

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