A few weeks ago I got an email from Renee from Kitchen Conundrum that I had won a copy of Cristina Ferrare's Big Bowl of Love cookbook. Yahoo! To enter her contest, she had asked readers to leave a comment about a recipe they love to make at home for their friends and family. Here is what I said:
I love making classic chocolate chip cookies – everyone always loves them and fresh out of the oven there is nothing better. I would love to win this cookbook for my mom! **
Her question to readers was utterly perfect considering the "Big Bowl of Love" theme of Cristina Ferrare's new cookbook - the entire cookbook is devoted to simple, delicious recipes that you can share with family and friends. Cristina describes each of the recipes in such a warm and genuine tone that it just makes you want to be home. So naturally, her book and recipes made me think of my mom and how much she would love this cookbook. Of course, when I actually won it I had a few self-indulgent moments paging through it and some more self-indulgent thoughts about keeping it, but in the end I gave it to my mom as a Mother's Day present; I knew she would appreciate it more than I would and it seemed like the perfect gift for her.
But to make the gift even more perfect, I escaped home for two short days to surprise her and give it to her in person. I combined a celebration of Mother's Day, my father's birthday, and my grandfather's 90th birthday (can you believe it! Ninety years!) into a few whirlwind hours back in Ohio, and every moment of my time at home was precious and heart-warming. Of course, we celebrated with birthday cakes and special dinners and lots of hugs and kisses, but one of the best times was a small, relaxing celebration lunch with my parents in our own backyard.
I love my parents' antique-style knives. I also love my mom's lilacs.
I set everything up so we could have a lunch that would be elegant enough to be 'special' but nothing that we would have to fuss over. Life has been hectic for my parents (and for me) and I think we all really cherished time where we could relax, and just enjoy the pleasure of simple conversation and time spent together.
When I looked through Big Bowl of Love before I gave it to my mom, I immediately knew my parents would love the recipe for White Bean Spread since they loved my homemade hummus. Plus, the recipe was easy enough that we could whip it up in under 10 minutes, and be outside with our feet up and a drink in our hands.
The beautiful La Marca cork cage, and the more beautiful straw-colored prosecco.
Did I mention a drink? Well of course we couldn't have a sophisticated backyard soiree without having a little indulgence, right? I knew I wanted to make my Sparkling Wine with Lemon Thyme Sorbet, but there was no time to make sorbet and I didn't have any prosecco - so I improvised.
Before lunch when my mom and I were out running errands, I made her wait in the car while I went into World Market and picked up a bottle of La Marca prosecco, and later we stopped and got some store-bought lemon sorbet. Could it be any easier? When I made the drink for my parents at lunch they were both in love... and of course asked for refills.
Overall, the lunch was completely perfect. The rainy spring weather held at bay for a few hours while we languished on the deck, slowly savored our food, and relished in family time. We had no schedule, no agenda to attend to, and nothing else to distract us from each other (and our food).
Recipes like this Easy Herbed White Bean Spread, and cookbooks like Cristina's are just the sort of things that busy families and busy people need so they can carve out some time to spend with loved ones. Oh sure, you could go out and buy some fast food or go out to a fancy restaurant, but why do those things when it is so easy to keep it at home and keep it simple.
Thanks Renee for a great cookbook, thanks Cristina for great family recipes, and most of all, thanks mom and dad for much-needed family time.
One year ago: California Cutie Pie
**My mom and dad are making more recipes from Big Bowl of Love - tonight they were making roasted chicken broth and also guacamole - so this is clearly a useful cookbook with solid recipes.
**And just in case you are interested, these are the chocolate chip cookies I make. Love them.
Easy Herbed White Bean Spread
Adapted from Cristina Ferrare's Big Bowl of Love
In her cookbook, Cristina says you can make this recipe with dried, soaked, and cooked beans, or with canned ones. Usually I prefer to use dried beans in my recipes, but to make this quick and easy I used canned beans. The garlic, scallions, and thyme give this dip a nice savory flavor, and the lemon makes it bright and happy. Next time you want to make hummus, give this a try - it is a nice change of pace.
1 15-ounce can of white beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Dash of ground black pepper
1 scallion, green parts chopped
1/4 tsp minced garlic
Leaves from 2 small sprigs fresh thyme
Juice from 1/2 lemon
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
For serving: a baguette, or crusty french bread, cut into slices
In a food processor, combine the beans, salt, pepper, scallion, garlic, and thyme. Using on/off turns, pulse just until beans are pureed. Add the lemon juice and two tablespoons of the olive oil, then process until smooth. Check for consistency - if it is not smooth and creamy, add another tablespoon of olive oil and process again.
To serve, garnish with a few leaves of thyme and spread on fresh bread.