Now that I'm on the East Coast, I've been trying to see my aunt and uncle who live in Brooklyn every few months. Why not, right? It's an easy, 3 1/2 hour bus ride from Baltimore. The hardest part is finding a weekend that works for both parties! "Every few months" doesn't sound like very often, but once you consider other travels and commitments, it's harder to plan than you'd think. But every time I visit, I spend the bus ride home thinking about how glad I am that I set aside a weekend to make the trip. And how lucky I am to be a part of such a great, loving family! New York is an amazing city to visit, but my favorite part of each trip is spending time in the kitchen with my aunt. We have a very similar cooking style- recipes are merely suggestions, music should be playing in the background, and a glass of wine in hand makes the experience even better. So we just have a lot of fun cooking together! In December when I visited, they were hosting a baby shower and I helped my aunt make ALL of the food. Enough to feed 40-50 people! We were cooking all weekend! It was so much fun. High pressure though, right?! One of my favorite things we made was paté. One traditional (chicken-liver), one vegetarian (roasted red pepper and walnut). Take your pick- they're both amazing!!

chicken-liver pâté

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 medium shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1 pint fresh chicken livers, approximately one pound, trimmed
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/3 cup Madeira or port
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter begins to foam, add the shallots and sauté until translucent. Add the livers, thyme, salt and Madeira or port, then increase to high heat. Cook, occasionally stirring, until the wine has reduced and the livers are lightly browned, about five minutes. You have to be a bit careful here because you still want them to be very soft and pink on the inside. Add the contents of the pan to a blender or food processor, along with the remaining butter and cream. Purée until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Pack the pâté into a glass jar or bowl, then smooth the top with a spatula. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid and refrigerate until firm, about two hours. Serve over toast with a baby pickle on top to add some texture!

roasted red pepper and walnut spread

2 (7-8 ounce) jars roasted red peppers, rinsed and drained
1 cup coarse baguette bread crumbs
1 cup walnuts, toasted
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Purée all ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add the olive oil in a slow stream and blend until incorporated. Serve over toast!

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