My friend and I were having a bit of a debate, over Facebook, about whether keeping an orderly house is something that people should prioritize, despite having little ones. She wrote a long note about how she keeps her place clean and is ready for company at any time.
I quoted part of this poem to my friend:
The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
for children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
Truthfully, we do prioritize keeping the house (fairly) clean. But, sometimes I wish I didn't care because the evenings and weekends can become one chore after the next. Also, I was just a bit annoyed with my friend for writing a domestic manifesto about how easy it is to maintain such a lifestyle without acknowledging that she has never had to work for a living and has regular help from nannies.
My friend also talked about making great meals for her family: "I don’t only buy groceries or make great suppers for company (as I used to) and then eat just okay the rest of the time. But I make a conscious effort to always cook great food for my family, as if company’s always coming over."
Clearly, if I didn't value great food, I wouldn't be blogging about food for 6 years. But - I don't always cook great food for my family. For one, it's not only me that cooks (not to say that R cooks crap food - just that we don't have traditional gender roles in our house). Sometimes, we just don't have the energy. Or, sometimes, I just want a bowl of cereal for dinner. Plus, I kind of like the idea that having guests over is a special occasion that should be marked by extra effort.
Giz says that the cardinal rule when having guests for dinner is to make a recipe you know well, to be sure that you will be serving something that tastes good. I pretty much break this rule every time.
Last weekend, we had guests over and I really wanted to try a recipe from the Savory Pies cookbook of which I got a review copy.
Tomato Caprese Tarts with Chive Oil
1/2 cup fresh chives, coarsely chopped
1 cup evoo
flour for rolling
2 (14 ounce) packages frozen all-butter puff pastry, thawed in the fridge
3 ounces well-chilled low-moisture mozzarella cheese, coarsely shredded
18 large cherry tomatoes or small Sweet 100s (on the vine, if possible)
1 egg yolk lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water, for egg wash
fresh whole basil leaves, for garnish
aged balsamic vinegar
Bring to a boil a small saucepan half-filled with unsalted water. Add the chives and blanch for about 10 seconds; they should be very bright green. Drain in a colander and run cold water over them to stop the cooking. Pat dry with paper towels.
Put the chives and half the evoo in a blender. With the machine running, add the remaining olive oil in a slow stream until completely pureed.
Let the chive oil stand 1 hour and then strain through a fine-mesh sieve lined with a double thickness of damp cheesecloth. Discard the solids.
On a lightly floured work surface, use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll 1 package of puff pastry to a 10 x 15-inch rectangle, a scant 1/4 inch thick. Use a 4-inch cutter to make 6 pastry rounds. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. On a freshly floured work surface, use a freshly floured rolling pin to roll the second package of puff pastry to a 10 X 15-inch rectangle, a scant 1/4 inch thick. Use a cutter to cut 6 more 4-inch rounds. Then use a 3-inch cutter to cut out the centers of these rounds, creating rings. Save the trimmings for another use.
Brush the outside edges of the rounds with egg wash. Carefully lay the rings on top, aligning the edges. Use a fork to prick the pastry at half-inch intervals inside the raised border. Refrigerate until chilled, about 20 minutes.
Set an over rack in the center position. Preheat the oven to 425F.
Divide the mozzarella among the pastry rounds, about 2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) each, keeping it inside the boarders. Lay 3 tomatoes on top of the mozzarella; it's okay if they touch or overhand a little. Leave the vine attached or remove it, as you see fit. Give the tomatoes a spritz of cooking spray (preferably olive oil). Brush the tart edges with egg wash and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
Bake until the pastry is golden and the tomatoes are just beginning to crack and blister, 15-20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with lots of fresh basil leaves. Serve chive oil and balsamic vinegar on the side as a dressing.
Verdict -- these tarts were really good! I can see myself serving them over and over again, kind of like this puff pastry recipe. They're pretty easy to pull together. My critiques would be that I didn't think that the chive oil added much to the recipe. I'll probably try pesto on the side next time instead. Also, I didn't like how the recipe basically suggested setting a bunch of puff pastry aside for another use. I knew that if I set it aside, it would go to waste. So I just re-rolled the pastry and made 10 tarts instead of 6.
On a side note -- I also tried the pizza dough recipe from the book and loved it! Great flavour and texture. It's our new "go to" pizza dough recipe.