Party Time

The year is filled with occasions to entertain and, as the weather in the Metropolitan area gets nicer, I have found I do more and more of it, especially eating outside. For me, that means serving new and interesting dishes or taking them out to eat. I prefer to cook! Here are some new recipes that I think are great for company.

CUCUMBER, PEA & MINT SOUP

Cucumber, mint and peas seem made for each other in this cup of green, cooling comfort. To make it Seriously Simple, make the sup with frozen petite peas that have been defrosted.  Just make sure it is very cold. A great starter. Worthington shows you how to lighten the burden of party planning through tested techniques and ingeniously simple shortcuts. Sample menus, arranged by season to take advantage of fresh ingredients, offer inspiring templates for no-stress entertaining. From: Seriously Simple Parties: Recipes, Menus & Advice for Effortless Entertaining by Diana Worthington (Chronicle Books).

Soup:

1 European cucumber

2 cups fresh shelled peas (about 2 pounds unshelled) or 2 cups frozen petits pois (small peas), defrosted

4 scallions, light green and white parts only, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1/4 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

Relish:

1/4 European cucumber, finely diced (saved from making the soup)

1/3 cup frozen petits pois, defrosted

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup sour cream for garnish

Prepare soup: Cut 3/4 of the cucumber into 2-inch chunks. Rice the rest finely and set aside for the relish. In a large blender combine cucumber chunks, peas, scallions, mint and broth, and blend on high until completely pureed. Add the sour cream and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper to taste and blend well. Taste for seasoning. If the soup is not totally smooth you can pour it through a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl. Refrigerate soup until chilled, at least 4 hours.

Prepare relish: Combine diced cucumber, peas, mint, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and mix to blend well. Taste for seasoning.

Just before serving, stir the soup, which may have separated during refrigeration. Pour the soup into small bowls or cups and garnish with the sour cream and relish. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

LEMON-TARRAGON DEVILED EGGS

Soft, fresh goat cheese is the surprise ingredient in these ultra creamy deviled eggs. Fresh tarragon is available in farmers markets and supermarkets starting in the spring. From Chicken and Egg: A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes by Janice Cole (Chronicle Books).

6 hard-cooked eggs, sliced in half lengthwise

1/3 cup fresh goat cheese, softened

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon, plus sprigs for garnish

1 tablespoon thinly sliced green onion, green part only

Scant 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest, plus slivered zest for garnish

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Scoop out the egg yolks with a small spoon and put them in a medium bowl.  Blend with a pastry blender or fork until crumbly, about consistency of coarse sand. Stir in the cheese until well blended; add mayo, and stir until smooth and creamy. Stir in the green onion, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Spoon egg yolk filling into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch star tip, and pipe the mixture into the egg whites. Or spoon the filling into the egg whites. Garnish with tarragon sprigs and slivered lemon zest before serving. Serves 6.

HINT: When cooking hard-cooked eggs, add enough water just to cover the eggs, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat immediately to medium-low or low and gently

Boil for 9 minutes. Don’t let eggs rattle around because of fast boiling water.

ROASTED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH FETA AND CHERRY TOMATOES

This is one of those dishes you’ll find yourself making time and time again. The marinade, made in a blender, gives the chicken an intense flavor. Roasting the tomatoes intensifies the sweetness of the pump cherry tomatoes. Start the recipe the night before. From Chicken and Egg: A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes by Janice Cole (Chronicle Books).

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Greek

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for garnish

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

8 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 pounds)

2 cups cherry tomatoes

6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (3/4 cup)

Fresh oregano sprigs — optional

Combine oil, lemon juice, garlic, dried oregano, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes in a blender or small food processor, and blend until smooth. Drop the chicken thighs into a large re-sealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over them. Massage the marinade into the thighs. Place in a shallow pan and refrigerate overnight, or up to 24 hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat oven to 425˚F.  Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil.  Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade and arrange on the baking sheet. Discard remaining marinade.

Roast chicken for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and arrange tomatoes around the chicken, coating them with the chicken juices in the pan. Spoon some of the feta over the thighs and the rest over the tomatoes. Arrange fresh oregano sprig, if using, over the tomatoes.  Roast for another 10 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in the center, tomatoes have softened and deflated a little, and the feta is lightly browned and soft.

Place chicken on a serving platter and arrange tomatoes around them. Spoon any feta from the bottom of the pan over chicken and tomatoes. Garnish with oregano sprigs if desired. Grind a good dose of pepper over the whole dish before serving. Serves 4.

For more recipes or details about Sheilah Kaufman, visit www.cookingwithsheilah.com.

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