Throw a party like a pro


Say you have guests coming over at the last minute. What do you do?

Well, if you’re Ina Garten you throw together a last-minute summer supper party beginning with Bibb salad with basil green goddess dressing, ciabatta garlic bread, linguine with shrimp scampi, and summer fruit crostata.

If you’re not Ina Garten, you ask yourself “Doesn’t ‘scampi’ mean ‘shrimp’ in Italian? So isn’t ‘shrimp scampi’ just a way of saying ‘shrimp shrimp’’”?

But getting back to Ina Garten, who calls herself the Barefoot Contessa: If you do have friends dropping by, you’ll want to know how to prepare those foods. Fortunately for you, Williams-Sonoma is going to demonstrate exactly how to make them on July 24 at 6:30 p.m. The good news is you’ll get to eat the food. The bad news is it is going to cost you $50.

By the way, if you aren’t Ina Garten, you may ask yourself “Why does she call herself the Barefoot Contessa? Has she ever seen the movie The Barefoot Contessa? Things don’t work out so well for Ava Gardner.”

Meanwhile, also in July, the store will offer free cooking-techniques courses every Sunday beginning at 10 a.m. On July 7, the class will be about baked rustic fruit-based desserts. On July 14, it will show how to can tomatoes. Ways to turn vegetables into pickles (not just cucumbers) will be the topic of the July 21 class. And on July 28, the subject will be recipes that use produce bought at a farmers’ market.

On July 10, the monthly Cookbook Club will delve into Paris to Provence, by Ethel Brennan and Sara Remington. The instructor will make a three-course meal from recipes in the book: gougères (amazingly addictive little savory puff pastries), pistou à la Provençal (a summer vegetable soup with basil), and crepes with banana-honey and almonds. The cost of the Cookbook Club, which includes eating the food and a sort-of autographed copy of the book, is $75.

To register for any of the classes, call 419-475-6368. The Williams-Sonoma store is in the Westfield Franklin Park mall.

Bastille my heart

Storming the Bastille in 1789 had more of a symbolic resonance in the French Revolution than a practical one: The famed and feared prison only held seven prisoners at the time. But the date of the confrontation, July 14, has come to represent a major milestone for the Republic of France.

Bastille Day is even being celebrated in Toledo, at the Walt Churchill’s Market at 3320 Briarfield Blvd. in Monclova Township. Naturally, it is being celebrated with food (how French!) and wine (also, how French!).

Specifically, a four-course meal from Chef Toby Herman with the courses paired with appropriate wines, French, of course.

The meal begins at 1 p.m. with an aperetif of a Clos de la Treille 2011 Bordeaux Sec. After that will be the salad course, an apple-hazelnut salad with goat cheese, served with Domaine des Valanges 2011 Macon-Prisse “Le Clos.” The entree (in France, that’s what they call the appetizer) will be bouillabaisse with a glass of Couly-Dutheil 2012 Chinon Rosé.

The main course — the plat du jour — will be duck Provençal with potato gratin and vegetable, with a Chateau Tour Bicheau 2009 Graves. And the dessert will be brandied-prune ice cream with a foie gras-veal reduction and pineapple (if nothing else, it sounds intriguing) and a Uroulat 2011 Jurancon Moeulleux.

All of this can be yours for $64.99, not including tax or tip. But you’ll have to act fast; they only have room for 28 diners.

Call 419-794-4000 for reservations or information. And if you do go, maybe you should wear the tri-colors (blue, white, and red). It isn’t necessary, but it would be kind of classy.

Oh, nuts!

Ordinarily, we don’t run information about studies that have been paid for by the people who would benefit financially from the information in the study.

But a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition contains at least a little bit of information that is of general interest: Eating walnuts every day can help protect against heart disease among people who have diabetes or are in danger of developing it.

As you might guess, the study was paid for by the California Walnut Commission, and therefore should not be viewed without some measure of suspicion. Perhaps we should file it under the category of Important, If True.

The study was conducted by the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, which looked at a total of 21 people, all of them overweight. Half of the subjects (there were originally 24, but three dropped out) ate two ounces of walnuts every day for eight weeks, the other half did not. The people who did eat the walnuts showed a noticeable improvement in their blood vessel function compared to the control group of non-walnut eaters. And healthy blood vessels mean healthier hearts.

One possible reason for the improvement suggested by Dr. David L. Katz, the director of the research center, is that the walnuts helped the subjects to feel more full so they wound up eating less food that was bad for them. Significantly, the people eating the nuts showed no increase in their weight.

A couple of caveats here: Twenty-one people is an awfully small sample size, especially when half of them are in a control group. The diets were not standardized, meaning the subjects ate whatever they liked but that 10 or 11 of them also ate two ounces of walnuts a day. And the people who did not eat the nuts actually lowered their blood pressure. No one can figure that part out. The people eating the nuts did not raise theirs, but the people who did not eat the nuts saw a drop in their blood pressure.

The conclusion, then? Eating a small amount of walnuts every day may lead to a healthier heart among people with diabetes. And so may not eating walnuts every day.

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