Can you believe its been another year? So so fast, and yet, for parts of it, not nearly fast enough, as tends to be the problem with years in general.
2013 was good in many ways.
And if you did get your copy, and liked it, recommending it to friends and family, buying a second copy as a gift, posting it on your blog or twitter or facebook or Pinterest, choosing it for your book club, writing a review on Amazon...this will not only make me the happiest girl in the world it will keep me employed.
Also in 2013 this happened:
Which is frankly the second best single thing to happen to my life after this:
In other bits of 2013 fabulous, I gained a brother, two nephews, and a niece, all of them supremely awesome in ways too numerous to mention. If I had designed them myself from scratch I couldn't have done any better, and they are, to a one, a tremendous addition to the family.
Also I acquired a spectacular sister-in-law-by-choice, since my brother from another mother Officer K managed to convince a smart, gorgeous, funny girl to be his Missus, and to be the last piece in the puzzle our gang had been missing.
This started to happen:
Which is noisy and expensive and terribly thrilling.
And finally, to put the cherry on top, I just signed for two more books AND a digital cookbook, so I get to keep doing what I do, thanks to you all for that! (please refer back to the top for ways to buy Out to Lunch so that they don't regret that decision, if you don't mind, please, and thank you very much!)
We will be ringing in 2014 with a very small group of dear friends. In a perfect piece of happenstance, it will include one couple that have been with Charming Suitor for decades who have now become two of my favorite people, one couple that have been with me for ages and are now near and dear to his heart as well. One couple of much beloved friends of CS who I've never met, who have recently moved back to Chicago, and I'm eager to match faces with the warm and funny stories I've heard over the years. And a possible drop-in from one of our besties who lives in NY but happens to be in town for the winter, and who we can never get enough of.
We're going retro for the meal, replicating many of the details I remember my from my childhood, when my parents loved to host New Year's Eve. The funny thing is that their menu was also nostalgic from their own childhood, so our menu is essentially 1950s by way of the 1970s!
We're doing oysters and shrimp, sweet and sour meatballs and pigs in blankets to start. (I may or may not break down and get some port wine cheese spread, it is so dangerous, but I do have a craving...)
Salads of crisply chilled iceberg wedges with homemade thousand island dressing. A prime rib of beef so enormous Fred Flintstone may wander by. Twice baked potatoes, classic creamed spinach. And tomato pudding.
No you didn't read that wrong. Tomato. Pudding.
Nora Ephron, a loss I took very personally this year, said that when she entertained, she never did the traditional 3 on a plate parties, one protein, one starch, one veg. She always served four things. The fourth thing was important to her, and equally important that it be whimsical or surprising in some way. Unexpected. Fun. A bonus. I love this premise. It promises abundance, and smiles, and gives me an excuse to make one more thing, which you all know isn't exactly a burden.
When we were looking at the menu, I needed that fourth thing. It had to be of the era. Something almost silly, but still delicious. And very unexpected. And frankly, it needed to have a little acid in it to help balance the rest of the rich dishes. Tomato pudding was a natural.
When I was little it often appeared on holiday buffets. It's dead easy, you probably have the ingredients lying around. You can make it three days ahead and reheat it, and it tastes even better when you do. it is sweet and savory, deeply tomato-y, with a soothing nursery food quality. And leftovers are quite yummy with an egg or two and some crispy bacon in the morning.
I thank each and every one of you for sharing this year with me, and look forward to what the next one brings. I hope however and with whomever you celebrate, you do it with joy and abandon and abundance. I hope what lies ahead for all of us is delicious, literally and figuratively.
And if you get a chance, try the tomato pudding.
Serves 6 (you can double this recipe easily for a crowd, just bake in a 9x11 inch dish instead)
2 cups dried bread cubes, crusts removed (use good bread, white or wheat doesn't matter)
1 stick melted butter
1 c brown sugar (loosely scooped, not packed here, or it will be too sweet)
½ c tomato paste
½ c tomato puree
¼ cup orange juice
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put the dried bread cubes in a 8 inch square or round casserole dish. Pour melted butter over them; toss to combine. Combine brown sugar, tomato puree, orange juice in a saucepan. Heat to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.
Pour hot mixture over bread cubes. Bake until puffy and the corners of the bread cubes are browned, 35-40 minutes.
And if you have a surprising or fun bonus dish of your own, be sure to share!
Yours in Good Taste,