I love this book! It’s hilarious, realistic, and full of great advice. Truthfully, I had no idea how enjoyable and entertaining Confessions of a Serial Entertainer by Steven Stolman would be when Gibbs Smith offered me a review copy. We love to entertain and we usually go all out. But every now and then, when people stop by, we just pull out whatever cheese, crackers, olives, and fruit we have on-hand, open a bottle, or two of wine, and relax in the garden. A great gathering isn’t just about great food, it’s about making people feel special. While we don’t throw grand cocktail parties on the scale of Steven Stolman, we do love inviting people into our home. We pick a theme and pour over cookbooks and magazines choosing each course. Sometimes, it’s just, “Remember those great stuffed artichokes we had in Santa Barbara? We can make those!” Other times, a family member requests a specific cuisine, like the time we went all out to create a Chinese feast for my dad’s birthday.
In the kitchen, as in life, no matter how well you plan, things can always go wrong. Sometimes it’s really funny; other times, it’s just frustrating. The great thing about Steven’s book is how real it is. He loves to entertain and is truly accomplished at creating the right atmosphere, inviting the right people, and providing the right food. But the thing I like best about him is how down-to-earth he is quipping, “…but above all, one must have a sense of humor about pretty much everything – from a spilled glass of red wine on a white rug to a burnt roast. It’s going to happen at one time or another, so why get all bent out of shape?”
Isn’t this the real world we live in? Just as people rarely post unflattering pictures of themselves on Facebook, people rarely post about disasters on their blogs. But things can go wrong at the most inopportune moments! Once, when John was doing too many things at once, he grabbed a bottle of Champagne from the fridge which promptly slipped from his hands which were coated in Olive Oil, and crashed and exploded all over the kitchen and whoever happened to be standing nearby. After we all finished laughing, everyone helped mop it up and sweep up the broken glass and we switched to wine.
So many entertaining books lead you to believe that unless you make impossibly complicated recipes and everything is perfect, your party will be a disaster – a lot of this came from the 50s when there was so much pressure on young mothers about making the perfect impression on the boss, the neighbors, and anyone who happened by. In all practicality, the success of a party is how much people are able to relax and enjoy themselves, not how horribly complex the menu is. I think more people would be inclined to entertain if they read Steven’s book. Some of the food is complex, but most of it is really easy to put together. He includes plenty of dishes people can help themselves to – although he loves making his way through the crowd with a serving plate. One thing he does insist upon is a beautifully laid table, as do we. It creates a festive atmosphere and makes people feel like part of something special.
Stolman’s inspiration for perfect party foods comes from tried and true family favorites and classic community and church cookbooks from the ’50, ‘60s and ’70s. His book spans everything a host needs to entertain with style including: dips and cheese spreads for crackers, delicious entrees, breakfast casseroles, and scrumptious desserts. And with recipes like Idiot’s Prime Rib, the book is fool proof for even beginners. ~ Press Release
Although I tabbed several recipes to try, we settled on “Karen’s Special Baked Shrimp and Feta.” For a showy first course, this would be fabulous served in individual gratins. Since we we just making it for the two of us, we cut the recipe in half and served it over Penne pasta. It was delicious and came together quickly. We would, however, recommend doubling the amount of fresh dill. The fresh lemon really shines through.
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 Large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill
- 2 (28-ounce) cans chopped tomatoes
- 2 pounds raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 12 ounces crumbled feta cheese
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- Juice of one lemon
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- In a large straight-sided saute pan, heat oil over medium-high heat.
- Add onion, garlic, and dill and cook until soft.
- Add Tomatoes.
- Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
- Continue cooking for 25 minutes, or until thickened.
- Stir in shrimp and cook for 5 minutes.
- Spoon shrimp mixture into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
- Top with feta and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.
- Sprinkle with parsley and lemon juice just before serving.
This book is a perfect gift for newlywed couples who want to entertain. It provides support and encouragement with fail-safe recipes and a sense of humor. Steven’s outlook on life makes you wish to be a guest at his house. So, if you’ve been wanting to entertain more, get this book and make it happen!