Cupcakes + (Basil) Mayo + Martha = a party (for a special girl)

What to do, what to do.  I have been cooking plenty lately, but I haven’t been photographing much at all.  It always seems to slip my mind.  I have decided, however, that I must soldier on and continue to write since at least I can do that ex post, and perhaps over time my photographing instincts will develop.

As if my daily rounds of the food blogs were not enough inspiration for me to get in the kitchen, I now have the farmers markets which are in full and glorious swing.  We are right in the peak of strawberry season, the cherries have come remarkably early this year, and tomatoes are just starting to appear.  I’m in heaven.  And to top it all off, I threw a party last weekend.

My cousin has just graduated (apparently they call it “promotion”, not “graduation” these days, but I find this ridiculous and confusing and refuse to go along with it) from middle school, and, based on my own recollections of middle school, I find this an impressive achievement.  And every impressive achievement deserves a party.  Naturally, my planning started with dessert.  I wanted to make cupcakes, and there are so many enticing cupcake recipes out there that I couldn’t settle on just one so I decided to have a selection: cookies & cream and strawberry.  Much credit to the sources of the cake recipes as they were both delicious.  I went rogue with the frosting, however.  The cookies & cream cupcake recipe called for cream cheese frosting which I’m not nuts over in general and which really doesn’t sound like the best complement to cookies and cream to me (just my opinion; didn’t try it so I guess I’ll never know for sure).  Instead I went with a basic chocolate buttercream which I ended up partially winging as I started with a recipe but quickly realized that the proportions couldn’t possibly be right and I was just going to have to make it up as I went along.  Miraculously, it turned into one of the better frostings I have ever made.  The strawberry recipe called for a buttercream frosting, but I was doing that for the other cupcakes, and I really wanted to go for a strawberry shortcake effect, so I decided on straight whipped cream.  Actually, I tried my hand at stabilized whipped cream, using gelatin, which worked . . . kind of.  The cream did last for several days without separating, but some of the gelatin-water mixture solidified before I got it mixed in and I had to pick out little bits of jelly from the cream.  I’m filing this away as one to work on later.

So that took care of dessert.  For the rest of the food, I wanted simple and classic (and all finger-edible, no dips or spreads).  Deviled eggs were an obvious choice (who doesn’t love deviled eggs?), and this got me thinking mayonnaise.  Last year, my mother had a basil plant that fancied itself a rhododendron bush, and, in an attempt to use it all, I made basil-everything, including mayonnaise.

The mayonnaise idea came from an article in Bon Appetit, and it’s a fantastic one.  More people should make their own mayonnaise; it’s really not hard, just takes a little patience, and it’s so much better than mayonnaise out of a jar (which I don’t even like).  You can add any sort of herbs or flavoring agents you want to the basic product, whip it in the blender or cuisinart, and poof, fantastic building ground for deviled eggs, tuna salad, crab cakes, or . . . BLTs.  Since I had the mayo, and since it is June, I decided to make mini-BLTs.  I won’t make a big thing of writing out the recipe, because you can figure it out.  Take a baguette (or similarly-shaped loaf of bread), but it up, toast the slices, spread mayo on them, top with sliced Roma tomatoes, lettuce, and crispy bacon.  They went like hotcakes.  The rest of my menu came from Martha: Chili-lime cashews (I used almonds as well), parmesan spirals (not my favorite, and the one disappointment on the menu), and goat cheese-stuffed mushrooms.  The nuts were my favorite, totally addictive.

I was going to include the dinner that I made on Tuesday in this post, but I have run on rather longer than I expected about my party, so I think I will break the two up and write about my adventures with unusual Italian cooking later.  Get excited . . .

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