Perfect Little Starter Plate

April 6th, 2012 · 10 Comments · Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Quick, Rituals

One of these days Andy will write his post calling bull$#@t on starters. (He could, in fact, fill a book dedicated to calling bull$#@t in general.) “Why,” he always asks “do we spend so much time putting together a delicious dinner if our guests are just going to fill up on cheese and crackers and approach the table stuffed before they even lift their forks?”  I think he has a point, but I also know that a well-curated starter plate is one of the great pleasures in life, and if assembled correctly can actually make you hungrier. As usual, I have a formula in the back of my head when I’m putting one together. It goes something like this:

Perfect Starter Plate = something sweet + something crunchy + something pickled + something from a pig + something aged

The trick is just to not have an obscene amount of any one thing. Above, you’ll see a small hunk of aged Manchego, about a quarter pound of Parma (you could do regular prosciutto or Serrano ham), some cornichons from Trader Joe’s (the best in my opinion and there would be more in that bowl if the girls didn’t eat them like popcorn right from the jar), and some pecan-raisin crackers from Eli’s Bread. Lesley Stowe’s raincoast crisps (Whole Foods) hit the sweet-crunchy note nicely, too.

Have a great holiday.


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Todd’s Minty Peas

April 14th, 2010 · 11 Comments · Dinner, Vegetarian

When we have families over for dinner, we like to have the usual spread of above-average cheeses — La Tur, Humboldt Fog, Trader Joe’s twisted bi-color cheddar sticks. But the starter that inevitably manages to stop guests mid-bite is a relatively recent discovery: Todd’s Minty Pea Dip. It’s technically a Jamie Oliver recipe, but the first place we ever had it was at our friends Todd & Anne’s house and have not been able to refer to it as anything else since. Todd, a master trawler of farmer’s markets whipped up the dip for us during peak produce months, and I was shocked to discover that it was made from frozen peas. Served with some crusty bread slices, the humble little dip can easily hold its own alongside market behemoths like corn and tomatoes. It also happens to be versatile (we’ve had it as a dip, spread on a sandwich for dinner, mixed with ricotta and sealed inside ravioli) and, unlike corn and tomatoes, can be enjoyed year round.

Todd’s Minty Pea Dip

In a food processor, whirl the following until it is the consistency of guacamole.

-1 cup frozen peas, thawed
-handful fresh mint leaves
-2 tablespoons-ish fresh Parm
-juice from 1/2 lemon
-1/3 cup olive oil

Garnish with some more shredded Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with baguette slices or spread across a piece of crusty bread.

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