Friday was my father's 79th birthday. He is running an out-of-town trial (he's a lawyer) and wasn't getting back to the city until late that evening, so we decided that the family celebrations would take place the following day, when we could get together at a reasonable hour without stressing through Friday rush hour traffic and the impending snow storm that never materialized here. Good thing, given how awful I felt on Friday...there is no way I could have managed company.
In the words of Scarlett O'Hara "Tomorrow is another day" and I felt much better yesterday. As it was, I had to promise Sara that I would not go too close to Dad or Abby (my niece) for fear of spreading this to them!
So there I was, preparing another birthday meal, and thanking G-d for the opportunity to do so. Sounds cheesy, I know, but my father is getting older, and Mom's EOAD has taught me not to take anything for granted. In Judaism, we are raised to thank G-d for giving us another day - we say a prayer upon waking each morning - Modeh Ani, and another throughout the day - Shehecheyanu. Birthday dinners are an extension of this for me, and how do I celebrate? Yes, with food!
Meal preparation is a little more challenging these days - Carlo, Davie, Daddy and Abby are carnivores. Becca can take it or leave it. Sara and I prefer to leave it. Lena is a pescetarian. Sara cannot eat seafood of any kind without having a reaction. Becca loves sushi. All but Lena eat poultry, but Carlo is getting sick of it. Sara, Dad and I are going more vegetarian these days, but I need to watch Dad's and my sodium and caffeine intake. Carlo and Becca love chocolate. Chocolate gives Sara and me migraines. Is your head swimming yet? Mine used to, but now I can keep it all straight, and can make dinners everyone enjoys - at the same time!! And then lo and behold, I discovered last night, some 38 years later, that my brother has a minor reaction to eggplant! Nothing that stops him from eating it, but yet another thing I need to remember - oy and vey!
So, I planned on a dairy, vegetarian meal. We started with my sister-in-love Renate's (aka Nati) bean dip, and nacho chips. My family gobbled up the whole bowl!
Nati first brought this dip to Mama Bruni's this past Thanksgiving. It was so delicious and the whole thing was devoured - in large part by my kids! She gave me the recipe, and it sounded pretty simple, so I didn't bother writing it down. She brought it again at Christmas time - again it was a huge hit. Then, this past month I tried to recreate it for my family, and it was not a hit.
At the last minute yesterday I decided to serve this dish, and facebooked Nati for the recipe. Nati is like Carlo, a busy person with interests that keep her far from the computer. As luck would have it, she came online 1 hour before everyone was expected here and gave me the recipe, which I will share with you at the end of this post. It was easy peasy, and I was able to whip it up in 5 minutes. Sara came down, gave the dip a questionable glance and reluctanctly did a taste test...I stood there with bated breath, waiting for the verdict...and then...a smile: "You got it Mom, it tastes like Auntie Nati's". Music to my ears! Really, truly - there is a teeny tiny tupperware in the fridge with the remaining morsels for someone's snack today.
OK...onto the meal: we had Gloria's Eggplant Parmesan (recipe link is on Favourite Recipes Page), fusili in tomato sauce, Greek salad, risotto proupettes (recipe link is on Family Recipes Page), Antipasto Calabrese, Parmigiano Reggiano and crusty bread.
On Friday Dad suggested that, since I was sick, we should scrap the party plans and he'd take us all out for dinner. NO WAY! I told him that was not an option, in my mother's words "It's a party" and it proceed as planned.
Yesterday, mid-way through my dinner preparations, Dad called again, asking if he could stop by Amadeus and bring dessert. Dad is usually in charge of dessert at family occasions (especially Pesach (Passover), when I find myself overwhelmed by the changeover of kitchen, etc), and he always brings a gorgeous delicacy from Amadeus. You can guess my answer - NO WAY! First of all, the cakes were cooling (as I tweeted to the 18 people kind enough to follow me on twitter), and secondly, there is no way that he was bringing his own birthday cake!
Having said that, I did need a crusty bread, and Carlo was up to his elbows in paint (he and Sara are painting her room this weekend), so I asked Dad to pick up a crusty bread. Oy is he cute! He stopped into Nino D'Aversa Bakery and picked up a beautiful loaf of crusty bread. On his way out he discovered a slab of parmigiano reggiano that was calling his name, and picked it up too. In the words of my mother "what a treat"! They were the finishing touches on our birthday dinner.
So we had dinner, most everything was devoured, and then it was time for cake. I admit it, I made the white cake from a box, but the icing was Buddy's, and I decorated it myself. Before you think I posted the wrong cake photo, somewhere along the line my girls gave their Zaida (grandfather) a "handle" of Z-Dog, and it stuck. So, it seemed fitting to put it on his birthday cake as well.
We sang, Abby blew out the candles when Dad said he was 3 ("are you 1, are you 2, are you 3"....) and we all celebrated my father's health and another year passing. Next year is the big 80, I guess the planning starts now. Again, it the words of Scarlett O'Hara "Tomorrow is another day...I'll think about it tomorrow".
Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food. B'Tayavon, Buon Appetito, and Happy Birthday Daddy!
Nati's Bean Salad/Dip
- 1 can red lentils
- 1 can black beans (I didn't have any, substituted with bean salad mix)
- 1/4 C red onion, chopped
- 1/2 red pepper, chopped
- 1/2 bottle Catalina dressing
Rinse beans well & drain. Toss with other ingredients and serve with nacho chips (scoops work well if you are serving as dip).