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Spring is the ideal time to invite the neighbors in for a casual get-together, and to get re-acquainted.
Before the party, draw a simple reproduction of your street on heavy cardboard to display in your living room for the guests to see. Include each neighbor's name and house number at the appropriate spot on the street.
As they arrive, have the neighbors write their names and house numbers on name tags. At the same time, have them write their names, addresses and phone numbers on a sheet of paper to Xerox and distribute later.
While everyone mingles, pour sangria from a large glass pitcher filled with orange, lemon and lime slices or other fresh fruit; pass olives and homemade crackers.
Finish off the menu with a prawn-filled tomato aspic ring, deviled eggs and peach cobbler.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded (2 to 2 1/2 cups, loosely packed)
1/4 cup water
Preheat oven to 325°. In a large bowl or in the food processor, mix the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Put in butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cheese and blend until it is evenly coated. Blend in the water to form a dough that will hold together in a cohesive ball.
Divide dough into 2 equal portions for rolling. On a floured surface, roll out to about 3/8-inch thick. Cut into bite-sized squares. Arrange on an ungreased sheet, making sure the edges of the crackers are not touching.
Bake for 15 minutes. Turn crackers over and continue baking another 10 to 15 minutes, until medium brown and crisp. Cool on racks. Makes 70 to 80 crackers.
Adapted from "Crackers" (Gravity Publishing, Oakland)
1 1/2 pounds medium-sized prawns, cooked and shelled
2 cups French dressing, preferably homemade
Marinate prawns in dressing in refrigerator for a day. Serves 8.
Old-Fashioned Deviled Eggs
6 hard-cooked large eggs, peeled and halved crosswise, not lengthwise
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon each prepared mustard and white vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Mash yolks with mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar and salt until smooth. Pipe or spoon filling into egg whites. Refrigerate in a covered container until serving.
1 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
4 cups tomato juice, divided
1/2 stalk celery, chopped
1 green onion, sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 small jicama, diced
1 small cucumber, seeded and diced
Lightly oil a 6-cup ring mold. Sprinkle gelatin over 1 cup tomato juice; set aside. In a saucepan, combine 2 cups tomato juice with the celery, onion, basil leaves and sugar. Bring just to boil, then simmer 5 minutes. Strain mixture and reserve juice. Add gelatin mixture to hot juice, stirring until gelatin dissolves. Stir in remaining 1 cup tomato juice and lemon juice; chill just until consistency of unbeaten egg whites. Stir in jicama and cucumber; pour into mold and chill until set. Serves 8.
Serving suggestion: Unmold aspic on a chilled platter.
3 pounds freestone peaches, peeled and sliced (6 cups)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Soft Biscuit Dough:
1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup buttermilk
Position rack in lower third of oven; preheat oven to 400°. In a large mixing bowl, whisk or stir the flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt to blend together. Cut in the butter until uniformly crumbly. Slowly add the buttermilk, tossing with a fork just until the mixture holds together to form a soft dough. Toss the fruit mixture well; spread evenly in an ungreased 9-inch square baking pan. (Any 2-quart baking dish is fine.) Spoon the dough on top, then spread evenly to cover as much of the fruit mixture as possible. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon sugar over dough.
Bake uncovered for 10 minutes; lower oven temperature to 350° and bake 25 minutes or until the fruit juices are bubbling and the biscuit dough is golden. Cool 30 minutes before serving. Serves 8.
Serving suggestion: Serve warm in individual dishes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Flo Braker has been teaching baking techniques and her sweet miniatures across the country for twenty years and is the author of several cookbooks.