Greetings from Washington DC! I’ll be here for the better part of January for a presidential politics seminar; dress pants and heavy coats are the name of the game and my food adventures will be limited, unfortunately. A few months ago I asked a few of my favorite food bloggers from around the web to help share their talents in this space during my absence. Each contributor has been so generous and kind with their time and talents, honestly their gifts floor me.
Today’s guest post is from Sarah, of The Yellow House. You can read more about the where the name originated on her about page, but Sarah describes that her blog is about living well in a way that’s unfussy (sign me up, now). She’s a prolific writer, sharing stories and recipes in her space with an understated sophistication and ease. She speaks to me. I think she’ll speak to you too, as Sarah provides the kind of room for reflection and consideration that, to me, make a blog meaningful. Plus, anyone who has the gumption to go on a hike with a ceramic mug of coffee is a woman I’d like to call friend. Okay, enough of me. Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your talents and wisdom here on Happyolks….
As I write this, New Year’s Eve approaches. I find myself thinking a lot about gathering friends and family into my home and what it’s all really about. I’ve come to a conclusion: we’re simultaneously too serious and too flippant about entertaining.
Our priorities are misplaced. On one hand, there are material goods and preparation to worry about: the menu, the drinks, cleaning the house—-these seem to occupy most of our time and energy. On the other hand, there are the immaterial aspects of a gathering—the camaraderie, the forks clinking on plates, the laughter. These we spend no time preparing for—rather, we expect them to just happen. Usually, of course, they do. But somehow, I really doubt that there’s a direct link between amount of time and money spent preparing menus and wine and the level of laughter at a dinner party.
This is not to deride the planned menus and the wine —- I like those very much. It strikes me, though, that some of my best “gatherings” have been impromptu late night affairs, sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor with cheap beer, the ends of a loaf of bread, and some butter and pesto. The laughter and the camaraderie were there, but the menu planning was notably absent.
But I am guilty, perhaps more than most, of focusing over-much on these material aspects of gathering, convinced that my hospitality and love and welcome are best conveyed through abundant food and seamless presentation.
The flipside of all this is that we fail to take seriously the simple act of gathering people in, of welcoming them to our home, of the opportunity that entertaining implies. In 2012, I’m going to try and relish the facilitative role of gathering. Less stress over the details, and more emphasis on what a privilege it is to be surrounded by friends. Good things happen when you bring people together for the sole purpose of enjoying each other—whether or not you include all the trimmings.
Goat cheese toasts with yellow split pea spread
Stress-free gatherings are well-complemented by simple finger foods like this. Constructing the toasts is also a good job to give to guests to keep hands busy, bringing the gathering into the kitchen.
- A crusty baguette
- 1 cup dry yellow split peas, picked through and any dirt or pebbles removed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6-8 ounces soft goat cheese (if you find herbed chevre, that works well here)
- Black pepper
In a saucepan, bring the yellow split peas and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally, cooking 20-30 minutes until split peas are very tender. If they need more water, add it and cook longer until they’ve cooked through. Remove from heat.
Slice the baguette into 1/4-inch slices. Arrange the slices on a cookie sheet and toast them under the broiler until golden brown. Keep a close eye on them because bread under the broiler can go from golden to burnt in a minute (guess what? I scorched mine a little and it still tasted good! You can see it in the photos. So it’s okay. Stress-free, yes?) Remove toasts from oven.
Add olive oil and kosher salt to the split peas and stir with a wooden spoon, mashing a bit to the desired consistency. I left mine pretty chunky, but this could become much smoother depending on your preferences.
On each toast, spread a layer of goat cheese. Then, top with the split pea spread and black pepper. Variations on this are endless—use lentils instead of split peas, or top with a garnish like microgreens or chives.