Dinner for My Annual 29th Birthday!

birthday dinner
Happy birthday to me…
Happy birthday to me…
Happy birthday to little delicious me…eeee…
Happy birthday to me!

Though today is my actual birthday, I started celebrating in delicious style no less, a little early with friends late last week (hot girls out on the town for a very hot dinner) and this past weekend, and the best birthday present I got was a dinner party…thrown by moi!

You see, because of a nasty workload, I don’t get to cook at home much these days. In fact, it is quite accurate to say that if it weren’t for online food blogger events like the Paper Chef, Sugar High Friday, and Is My Blog Burning? where I down two espressos at 10 PM and stay up all night to bake a fresh fig and honey mascarpone tart or a buttermilk feta cheese souffle, I wouldn’t be cooking at all. So an opportunity to cook dinner for a group of friends is truly a treat.

birthday trio
tuna tapenade, cannelini bean puree and fresh tomatoes and basil

We started with bread and a trio of tuna tapenade, roast garlic and cannelini bean puree, and chopped fresh tomato and basil. An antipasto platter had marinated artichokes, cheese, pepperoni, salami,and melon balls wrapped in prosciutto. Yes, I said melon balls. I wouldn’t have used melon at all (why taint prosciutto with fruit?!) but you know, I have to use that silly melon-baller at least once a year!

Salad was simple – just greens and a few other colorful vegetables tossed with a red wine vinaigrette. I roasted my very own red bell pepper! I’ve done it many times before, but it always amazes me when I end up with a pile sweet, roasted peppers.

ricotta gnocchi
i’m weak. i went back to ricotta for an afternoon of gnocchi
tyler's chicken in white wine with lemons
tyler florence’s *sigh* chicken in white wine with lemons

Ooh la la, I’m going to get all fancy and use the word “primi!”

Our primi was herbed ricotta gnocchi. Though I am not a complete stranger to ricotta (Hi, I know you through Lasagne, right?), we met formally for the first time at an event back in the spring time – Paper Chef. And what can I say? Ricotta and I spent one hot night in the kitchen together. White chocolate ricotta cheesecake in almond crust with fresh berries ended up being a short-lived fling. I didn’t think much about it after. I’m a wiser and more mature woman now and I’ve learned to enjoy the moment for what it is, and then just let it go. ;)

But though I tried not to think about ricotta, I couldn’t help it. It seemed like everywhere I turned, I was reminded of ricotta. Had ricotta always been there, and I had just never noticed it until after our cheesecake? Or really, was ricotta now everywhere? Plastered on the L.A. Times with a naughty drizzle of honey. Going for a slippery romp in melted butter in the May issue of Bon Appetit. Massaged into a ball of mozzarella. I couldn’t get away from ricotta, even if I tried. I was a mess.

So I gave in and went back to ricotta.

This time, it was a little more serious – ricotta gnocchi. It sounds like it could be complicated, but really, it only requires time. Time to get ready by draining for several hours (of course, if ricotta is fresh, you can go at it right out of the gate). Time to work eggs, herbs, grated parmesan into ricotta, with a gentle nuzzle of flour at the end. Time to let it cool down in the fridge. Time to massage the ricotta into little balls. Time to let the balls rest in the fridge again. Then they go for a slippery dip in simmering water. They come out soft, puffed, and glossy, and lounge in melted buttery afterglow.

But alas, for all the time I invested into ricotta gnocchi, there was something missing. There was no chemistry. There was no spark. Ricotta gnocchi wasn’t bad. In fact, I could even say it was good, but did I want to spend every day of the rest of my life with it? Not really. Would ricotta gnocchi work for one night at a party? It sure did. :)

But chemistry there was with Tyler Florence. Er, I mean with Tyler’s book, which was my first birthday gift. (My Mom’s gift to me *raises eyebrows* last month doesn’t count). Already, I have flipped through Eat This Book from cover to cover at least five times, and I’ve only had it since Thursday night :) I used his recipe for chicken in white wine with lemons as inspiration, and ended up with chicken breast in a white wine, lemon, and caper sauce. Big broad pieces of chicken breast would have looked much prettier, but hey, in a teeny tiny L.A. apartment where people have to eat with plates on their laps, it’s function over fashion. The chicken had to be cut so my guests didn’ have to balance a plate on their laps while using a fork and knife.

What a luckyluckylucky girl I am, for not only did I get to cook over the weekend, but I’m dining out all week, too. Turning 29 every year ain’t so bad after all :)

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous June 22, 2005 at 12:00 am

Happy Birthday Sarah!


2 sarah June 22, 2005 at 12:51 am

thank you all for your wishes of a happy birthday :) so far, so good. dinner last week was good. dinner and lunch over the weekend were good. and dinners all week this week will be good, too. how lucky lucky lucky i am!


3 Clare Eats June 22, 2005 at 1:10 am

Happy birthday!
Your dinner looks soo good!

You need to get the freshest ricotta you possibly can… mmmm

Toast sourdough bread, rub with garlic, spread ricotta, salt, pepper, fresh tomato slices, basil…. HEAVEN!

Tyler is definatelu *sigh* worthy :)


4 Stephanie June 22, 2005 at 3:19 am

Happy Birthday!

Sounds like a wonderful meal; cooking is such a release for me, so I know what you’re feeliing. Of course, when you have to do it every single day, you lose a bit of that joy…thank heavens for foodie events!

I don’t know…the thirties seem to be a lot better than the twenties…


5 Lindsay June 22, 2005 at 3:32 am

happy birthday, sarah!!!!!!


6 Xericx June 22, 2005 at 5:37 am

Happy B-day. Keep up the great work!

I wish I could cook…..I buy cookbooks but NEVER use them. hah.


7 Anonymous June 22, 2005 at 5:42 am

Wow. Making your own ricotta gnocchi takes skillz!

Congrats on making it this far. Just think, someday, when you’re 30, you’ll look back at this 29th as one of your favorite 29ths ever. Although I’m sure that’s a long ways off! — SoCal


8 Anonymous June 22, 2005 at 6:52 am

A Delicious Delicious Birthday to You! Happy Birthday, Little Ms, Delicious!

-Mel CH


9 Medna June 22, 2005 at 2:32 pm

Happy Birthday!

Fabulous stuff.


10 Kirk June 22, 2005 at 3:05 pm

Sarah – A most delici-yoso Birthday to you again!!!!


11 Ruth Daniels June 22, 2005 at 5:08 pm

A very happy birthday. Like you, I usually celebrate my birthdays for at least a week and my sister thinks a month is too little. So have a great 29th for the rest of your life!!!


12 sarah June 22, 2005 at 5:14 pm

i am so amazingly *wow*ed by everyone’s wishes for my happy birthday. too sweet – all of you!

clare: i am going to try your suggestion of fresh ricotta and bread. so simple, yet i am finding these days that the simpler the preparation, the better something tastes.

stephanie: i hope you’re right about the 30s, er i mean, the eternal 29s ;)

again, thank you all. this is a bit of a tough week, but the birthday and the happy wishes is making it bearable :)


13 Anonymous June 22, 2005 at 5:48 pm

Happy Birthday! I was going to buy you something from your wishlist, but I can’t seem to figure out how – sorry.


14 Zarah Maria June 22, 2005 at 5:58 pm

I was gonna say happy belated birthday, but seeing you’re enjoying it for a week (as you should!) I’m gonna stick to HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!


15 sarah June 22, 2005 at 7:42 pm

how sweet that you wanted to buy me a birthday gift! it’s just a wish list, things i don’t really need, because really, every material thing i would ever need in this life, i have. but {hugs} to you for such sweet intentions!


16 SweetKali June 22, 2005 at 8:14 pm

“Happy Birrrrthdaaay!!! To Yoooou!!!! Hafty Birfdaaaaayyyyyyy (the 2 year old version)To Yooou!” sounds like your annual 29th birthday was just wonderful!!!!


17 hermz June 22, 2005 at 8:50 pm

There was ricotta in the gnocchi?!? Nobody tells me these things. Well, happy birthday anyway. =P


18 rena June 22, 2005 at 9:37 pm

hermie tells me dinner was fantabulous! happy birthday, and keep cooking!


19 Clement June 22, 2005 at 10:01 pm

Happy birthday Sarah! May you have a most delicious week!


20 Melissa June 22, 2005 at 10:36 pm

lucky you – a birthday on the longest day of the year! hope you enjoyed every last minute of it, and since i’m a day late, *happy birthday week* ;)


21 Anonymous June 23, 2005 at 12:08 am

Happy Birthday, Sarah!

What a wonderful dinner you threw! Thanks for all the great posts. I feel so lucky to be able to read your posts and learn so much about food and restaurants.



22 Indira June 23, 2005 at 12:19 am

I enjoy reading your experiences in restaurants and at your kitchen. Your posts always make me laugh and you seem to be such a nice and sweet person.
Happy birthday Sarah.


23 eatzycath June 23, 2005 at 1:00 am



24 Helen (AugustusGloop) June 23, 2005 at 1:05 am

Happy Birthday Sarah! Dragons rock! =)

May your year ahead be filled with more delicious adventures, tasty mouthfuls and moments of culinary genius than you can poke a camera at!


25 Eve June 23, 2005 at 1:39 am

everything was delicious sweetie! happy birthday and thank you for having some leftovers!


26 babe_kl June 23, 2005 at 2:28 am

happie belated burpday!!


27 Anonymous June 23, 2005 at 3:35 am

belated happy birthday, sarah! seems like you had one delicious day! wishing you many more.


28 stef June 23, 2005 at 3:38 am

whoops, sorry, that was me — stef


29 Kirk June 24, 2005 at 7:47 pm

Since this is your 29th ;) I thought I’d go ahead and meake sure you get 29 comments !!!!


30 Rebecca July 14, 2005 at 8:31 pm

Can you send me the recipe for the gnocchi. I have a less than stellar pumpkin gnocchi recipe and am thinking the two together could make some magic. Can you be persuaded to share?


31 sarah July 14, 2005 at 9:20 pm

hi becky! well of course i will! its actually just a cobination of recipes that i culled from various books and the internet :) send me an email with your email address: deliciouslife at gmail dot com


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