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Beginning of Summer and Graduation

It’s been almost three weeks since I graduated and it’s still barely sunk in. It’s so foreign to me, taking a day trip to New York without feeling guilty for putting off a paper, or going in the car without bringing flashcards. But it’s been an amazing few weeks. Now that I have no obligations, I get to spend as much time as I want playing with my sisters, taking pictures, playing the guitar, manning the cooking school booth at the farmers market and of course, cooking up a storm. In fact, cooking up a storm is the first thing I did when I got home, Sunday, June 6th. The moment my diploma was safely out of reach from any sisters or cousins who might want to color it in, I put on my apron and went to work on final preparations for my grad party.

The highlights of the party were the cheese table (above), and a cookie-candy bar (below) that was as much of a hit with the grown ups as with the kids. Doing tables like these isn’t hard. After the jump are some tips for doing one at your own party.

And for dinner, mom really outdid herself. Among the things she made were Salmon en Croute with dill, lemon and black pepper cream, Beef Tenderloin with Stilton Sauce and assorted grilled vegetables with herbs de provence. But perhaps the highlight was this fabulous, and foolproof, bacon-arugula quiche. It’s one of our absolute favorite things to make here at the test kitchen, and we’re very excited to share it with you. Click for the recipe!

Bacon-Arugula Quiche

– One store-bought deep dish pie crust or your favorite homemade crust rolled out into a deep dish pie pan
– 6 bacon slices cut into half inch pieces (we highly recommend Nieman Ranch)
– 1 heaping cup of chopped shallots
– 2 cups of arugula
– 1 cup whipping cream
– 3 large eggs
– ½ teaspoon salt
– ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
– 1 ¼ cups shredded gruyere cheese (five ounces)

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 and bake the pie crust until it is just slightly browned (approximately 8-10 minutes. Let cool, and then line the edges of the crust with tin foil.)
2. Fry bacon in a medium non-stick skillet until crisp, but not burned, about 5 minutes.
3. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel to absorb grease.
4. Pour hot grease into a shatter proof glass measuring cup (do not use plastic).
5. Put 1.5 tablespoons of the bacon fat back in the skillet, and add the shallots.
6. Sauté the shallots until they are slightly brown over medium heat (2-4 minutes).
7. Add the arugula and sauté just until the arugula starts to wilt, and then remove from heat.
8. Whisk together the eggs, heavy cream, salt and pepper.
9. Add the gruyere cheese to the egg mixture and stir well.
10. Place about a cupful of the egg/cheese mixture on the bottom of the pie.
11. Sprinkle evenly the sautéed shallots and arugula and then the bacon.
12. Pour the rest of the egg/cheese mixture into the crust and bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until the custard is almost firm and is slightly browned.

Tips for doing an exciting and beautiful theme table:

  1. The food doesn’t have to be expensive, or even that unusual: what matters more is what you do with it. Especially at the candy table, most of the things we served, like Reese’s Pieces, chocolate-covered pretzels, or even vanilla meringues, are very easy to find
  2. Discount stores are goldmines. Stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Home Goods have huge supplies of unusual or hard-to-find candies, plus beautiful jars and platters.
  3. Everything looks prettier with ribbon.
  4. Create layers by making the platters or jars different heights. That way not only can you see everything, but the table becomes much more visually appealing.
  5. A few whimsical touches go a long way. Putting homemade labels on the candy table to-go bags, putting cheesecloth on the cheese table, stacking up so many ice-cream cones they begin to curve over, or even putting a small dish of nickels next to the gumball machine shows that you went the extra mile to make it really special.

Written by Gabrielle

Gabrielle is a snap-happy college student with a small budget and a big appetite. Her column on the Fig Test Kitchen documents her adventures learning to cook for herself and reminds us all to take life with a Grain of Salt.

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