Salad Bar Party 2017

Its hard to believe, I have been having salad bar parties for five years! Here's the link back to the post of the first one. You can see my punch was a bit more attractive for that party. The idea is everyone brings an ingredient to add to the salad bar, and then everyone can go down the line and even make several very different salads. It ends up feeling interactive and community building, I think.

This is a tradition I've been really happy to keep going because I feel like it was a really great idea to start off with. It doesn't require much cooking which is great for summer months, sometimes people have extra produce in the summer from their gardens or CSA memberships, and its really healthy and refreshing so it just feels perfect for this time of year. I thought I'd break it down how this year went.

Alright, so first on this punch... uh what can I say, everyone thought it was like a science experiment. Started out with Joy the Baker's Lavender Lemonade, which as far as I am concerned, that recipe is a national treasure. Then I decided to add plain Polar seltzer instead of the water. Then I thought I would make this beautiful lovely punch by freezing strawberries and edible flowers into blackberry sorbet as a massive ice cube. Unfortunately, it didn't quite freeze all the way. And putting the edible flowers in the freezer kind of crushed them in a weird way. The whole thing ended up looking a bit like a chilled cabbage soup, which could be cool if the food theme was from the 1880s. But it was way frothy and bubbling over in a way I kept finding to be hilarious. This whole scenario could probably be recreated in a cool way for a Halloween party with a different color scheme. And those there on the lower half of that photo are popovers from the King Arthur Flour mix you can get in the grocery store. I added Penzey's Bouquet Garni into the batter and sprinkled sea salt on top of them, and I thought they turned out great. Needless to say, the basket was totally empty by the end of the night.

In this photo below, I made a sangria with this Finger Lakes penguin wine which I think is perfect for this purpose. Its not too fancy that you feel like you are ruining it, and its not so bad that it ruins the drink. I added a whole ton of fruit (lemons, blackberries, raspberries whatever else was around), some orange juice, a dash of Cointreau and Chambord, and let it set in the fridge over night. I also got those cactus straws from Target because somehow I've become completely cactus obsessed these last six months. Rule number one of entertaining especially if you are offering alcohol is to make sure people have enough water! Thus, the big ol' dispenser on the left. These oversized margarita glasses which were a wedding present from my friend in Michigan turned out to be perfect for the ridiculous foaming punch. Somehow the science experiment aspect seemed to be more noticeable when sipping from a thick recycled glass goblet the width of one's face.

In this photo below we've got Mario Batali's olive oil and orange cakes, which I made in a muffin pan and added a bunch of rosemary to, and sprinkled sea salt on top. Also, Joy the Baker's Snickerdoodles, from this great book I've continued to use for half a decade now, which turned out great. And finally there in the back, there's a potato salad recipe I made from one of the first cookbooks I ever started cooking from. Its really great because it has you peel stripes into the potatoes which gives a nice mix of the skins and the dressing being able to sink into the insides of the potatoes. Roasting them gives a nice flavor, and then mixing the potatoes while they are still warm gives the dressing really an extra chance to marinate with all the flavors. Its a beautiful recipe, and a beautiful cookbook in general. Sometimes you think of potato salad as being overly drooping with mayo, but this with its capers, shallot, mustard, and cornichons couldn't be more the opposite of that situation. 

Party attendants brought all kinds of great items to have with the salad: sunflower seeds, cranberries, feta, grilled chicken, rye bread, and on and on and on. We had a few dressings, a Dijon lemon vinaigrette my husband has been making for years he basically seems to make up on the spot, a fabulous Green Goddess dressing with all kinds of herbs from A Boat, a Whale, and a Walrus (my husband picked this book up for me at the author's restaurant in Seattle), and Chrissy Teigen's Airport Chinese salad dressing.  They were all great, and its nice to have some variety of creamy, tart, and bright flavors. One year I went overboard and made way too many salad dressings, but I think actually three is the right amount as long as they are different enough from each other. 

And finally there was pie! Again with the edible flowers too.. I got this recipe from The Great American Cookbook which features recipes from every state. This lime chiffon pie was from the Florida section (I made it with graham cracker crust instead of regular pie crust because I thought that would fit the theme better). Everyone seemed to like it! The lime custard part was a little fluffy because it had some fluffed egg whites mixed into it, and I added some Penzey's vanilla beans to the meringue topping, which I thought put the flavor over the top.  

Its been a life ambition of mine to have a party on my patio. We were out there for a bit (it seemed about to thunderstorm, was quite humid, and also not really big enough for everybody because we didn't want to venture out beyond the overhang in case it started to pour). But we did make it happen, so that is something (just like when I made Baked Alaska) that I can cross off my bucket list. Just a reminder that if you don't make an effort to do the things you want to do, history can just pass you by. But all in all, I would say Salad Bar Party 2017 worked out well, and I look forward to doing it again next year!


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