Sunday, March 02, 2008

A Cookbook a Week: RSVP by Nan Kempner

I know I said I was doing Amy Sedaris' book next, but I couldn't decide what to make. I finally settled on lemony Greek orzo soup and I haven't sorted out the recipe yet. So, we're skipping ahead to the next book on the shelf (three over from the old issues of Food and Wine and propping up 8 books on cheese -- RSVP. For those "in the know", Nan Kempner is the grande dame of NYC entertaining and the insider feel -- for those who entertain *by* those who entertain -- is the crux of this book. In RSVP: Menus for Entertaining from People Who Really Know How, it's fun to see first hand a party she threw for the Gettys or a Princess from Greece. Menus, invitations, table settings, and decor are all elegantly photographed and go well with the matter-of-fact name dropping. This book is good for ideas, but the recipes aren't great. Well, some sound great (like Fresh Figs with Lavender-Infused Cream and Chilled Herb and Leaf Soup) and others are pretty pedestrian (Beef Fajitas and Lemon Meringue Pie.) Either way, all the menus for garden lunches to formal dinners emphasize what makes a great party a success whether you're entertaining billionaire's or friends -- simple, fresh dishes that taste good. Warning, the recipes aren't well tested and unless you're enough of a cook to improvise, you're going to have some trouble with this cookbook. I know I did the first few times I used it (and I haven't made that much from it.) It's useful, though, if cooking for a large group since most of the recipes assume you're serving 8-16. With that in mind, I think I'll try the lemon-pepper biscuits. It's a basic biscuit recipe with lemon zest and cracked black pepper (easy to do if I want to adapt by own biscuit recipe as well.) It's a good idea book as well. I love mashed sweet potatoes and might like them even more with the gingerbread crust in one recipe.

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