We feel lucky to be surrounded in our neighborhood by terrific people we really like. We invited our Japanese neighbors Isamu and Akiko and their children for dinner one night — they are such nice people, and Akiko takes my child to school on the days when the bus arrives too early and we miss it, or never arrives at all.
It’s hard to know what to cook for people you don’t know well, so when Akiko mentioned that they had honeymooned in Lisbon, I settled on Spanish food. We had sauteed pasta with lobster, which is one of those 2 hour, 15-step dishes, even when I skip the whole lobster abbatoir thing and use Better Than Bouillon lobster base. But it is insanely delicious, and it usually makes enough for leftovers the next night.
So what did I make for dessert? Something simple like ice cream and cookies? Fresh fruit? No, of course not. I made Spanish Orange and Almond Cake , an 18-step recipe that includes lining a springform pan with parchment, zesting 8 oranges, separating 6 eggs and toasting and grinding almonds. Making it dirtied so many utensils that after a while it was almost comical. This photo doesn’t even show all the dishes — they wouldn’t all fit in the frame.
Once I’d made these two delicious-but-involved recipes, do you think I had time for bread, salad or hors d’oeuvres? I feel bad for my guests, and for Japanese-US relations — everyone was famished by the time we sat down, and there was nothing on the plate but lobster spaghetti and a piece of storebought French bread. I’ll always be curious to know what they said to their friends back home about their dinner in the home of their American neighbor.