Food with Friends: The Art of Simple Gatherings, written by Leela Cyd, features an assortment of sweet treats and savory bites designed for entertaining and get-togethers. Add an international flair to your table with Irish Soda Bread with Rum-Plumped Figs & Candied Walnuts, NYC Black & White Cookies, Dutch Orange Blossom Hagelsag on Toast, South Indian-Style Veg Cutlets, Turkish Red Lentil Soup, Argentinian-style Chard Empanadas with Pistachio Crema, Japanese Matcha Mochi, and other worldly offerings. I will also be sharing her recipe for Matcha Egg Cream following the review.
Disclosure: I received this book as a part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Leela Cyd is a food blogger and photographer based in Santa Barbara, California. She is also a longtime contributor to The Kitchn and has been featured in Food & Wine, Sweet Paul, The New York Times, Kinfolk, and more.
Food with Friends
Chapters are divided based on the type of gathering: Secret Ingredients, Style File, Breakfast & Brunch, Teatime, Happy Hour, Potlucks & Picnics, Desserts, and Tiny Takeaways.
Leela begins by sharing a short list of some of her favorite pantry ingredients to help boost the flavors of a dish- including cheeses, finishing salts, oils, and mustards. I enjoyed the personal touch of the Style File section with beginner tips on where to source food props, how to set the table, style the food, and photograph it.
What stood out the most for me was the absolutely gorgeous photography taken by Leela herself with food styling by Ayda Robana. Every single recipe includes a photo, generally of the finished product and often full-page. A couple of the more complicated recipes also have step-by-step photos to accompany the instructions, such as how to braid the Chocolate-Orange Challah with Saffron or brush edible flowers onto Sugar Cookies.
Every recipe includes a headnote describing the dish, its inspiration, serving ideas, and substitutions. Pre-planning and storage notes are also mentioned. Measurements are provided in US Customary.
This book is a great pick for those who enjoy entertaining, but don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen. Many of the dishes are sweet-based, but there is a nice blend of savory treats and offerings as well. I appreciated that beverages were not forgotten, though meat-lovers won’t find anything here. There are even a handful of snacks for vegans.
Many of the ingredients are readily available in the average American grocery store. A few may require venturing to an International food market or purchasing online such as whole cardamom pods, tahini, matcha, bee pollen, burrata cheese, rosewater, cacao nibs, orange blossom water, sweet rice flour, harissa, and fresh flowers. While the recipes overall wouldn’t be considered “kid-friendly” (though I’m sure the Unicones-decorated ice cream cones and a few others will be big hits), I can see this book being used often as my daughter grows for tea parties and the like, particularly with the whimsical pastel and floral notes among the ingredients.
Matcha Egg Cream
Matcha Egg Cream is a delicious, yet interesting beverage. Contrary to its name, you won’t find any eggs or cream in the ingredient list. Leela was inspired by the traditional Jewish Egg Cream with seltzer water, chocolate syrup, and milk. She adapted it a bit by substituting matcha (green tea powder) for the chocolate and adding some sweetened condensed milk. The drink comes together quickly by simply shaking together the matcha and milks in a tightened jar, then pouring together with the ice and carbonated water. It reminded me of a green tea flavored cream soda.
Matcha is a powder created by grinding whole green tea leaves. There are various grades. The higher quality grades are made from the fine, new leaves from the very top of the Camellia sinensis tea bush. Use the premium grades for drinking, while the lower culinary grades are fine for baking. Be careful when storing matcha. It can become stale and brownish when exposed to oxygen. I have been able to find matcha at the local Asian food markets and more recently in the tea section of larger supermarkets. It is also available on Amazon: Jade Leaf Matcha Green Tea Powder.
Looking for more recipes with matcha?
I also made the Spiced Strawberry-Balsamic Lassi, The Queen Bee, Coconut Lamingtons, and Maple Kettle Corn.
This wasn’t my first time trying a Strawberry Lassi, but I loved Leela’s take on it. She adds a bit of spice to the strawberry yogurt-based drink with the addition of balsamic vinegar, honey, date, and black pepper. It is so refreshing, plus easy to prepare with just the whirl of the blender.
The Queen Bee is one of the a few types of Tartines and Small Toasts Leela features (you will also find Beet-Tinted Chèvre & Radish Toasts, Charred Lemony Asparagus & Raclette, and Tostada de Tomate). I bought bee pollen from the local farmer’s market and have been looking for new ways of using it other than in smoothies and yogurt bowls. I loved sprinkling it over toast! Toasted slices of bread are spread with butter, then topped with toasted wheat germ, bee pollen, and honey. It was another easy to make snack.
Coconut Lamingtons are Australian squares of pound cake coated in a layer of chocolate and shredded coconut. Leela takes them a step further by incorporating even more coconut. Coconut milk is added to the batter of the pound cake itself and the cut squares are coated in large coconut flakes instead of the small shredded pieces. I made a bit of a mess with the coating, but they were overall delicious.
Leela includes three toppings for homemade popcorn. The Maple Kettle Corn caught my eye and I actually made popcorn on the stove for the first time to try it. It was a huge hit. Popcorn kernels are popped on the stovetop in a little coconut oil and coated in a caramel made from maple syrup and sugar. It is finished off with a sprinkling of smoked salt.
Matcha Egg Cream Recipe
Excerpt from Food with Friends
Matcha Egg Cream
- 2 cups ice
- 2 teaspoons matcha green tea powder
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
- 1 1/4 cups carbonated water
- Place 2 large glasses full of ice into the freezer to get frosty.
- In a screw-top pint jar, combine the matcha, whole milk, and condensed milk and screw on the lid securely. Vigorously shake the jar until the contents are uniformly combined. Take the glasses from the freezer and pour half of the matcha milk into each glass. Top each glass with carbonated water. Swirl with a large spoon and enjoy immediately.