seafood paella

I need to be honest: moving to a new city, starting a new job, and moving (finally!) into a new home all really hinders me from working on my blog. All I want to do is write and cook, but sometimes it’s just hard. And among all these adjustments have been a number of celebrations in my family. My parents both celebrated birthdays this past month, and they each decided to throw a surprise party for the other. (keeping those secrets straight was crazy. thank goodness it’s all over!) We threw a beautifully elegant dinner party for my mom catered by Iris Catering, and I made a pretty darn good cake. My dad’s birthday was a little different.

My dad was celebrating a milestone birthday–I won’t tell you which one out of great respect to his privacy– but I will say a certain futuristic franchise just celebrated the same anniversary. You can figure it out. My dad also happens to be a huge fan of this franchise (along with my mom, and myself, and my husband), so how could we not have a themed party?img_4311

So how do you make Star Trek…I mean…who said that…into an elegant dinner? How do you have a party that isn’t TOO embarrassing or nerdy for the guest of honor? Well it took a lot of planning and many creative minds working together to plan a stellar party. I had the original ideas for this party, and my wonderful aunt, who just happened to return from culinary school in Ireland, helped to finesse the menu to truly make it out of this world.img_7594

Food in Star Trek is generally all creepy and weird looking, with live creatures moving around, unnatural colors, and weird textures(not that I’ve ever eaten any, but this is my observation based on watching all the series and movies). As appetizing as that may be to some, we wanted our menu to be high class with just a touch of Trek. We decided to create our own Spanish tapas, because they can look pretty funky but they are delicious. To make them Trekkie approved, we gave each menu item a Star Trek name.  Some of the names are completely made up using different planets and species from the series, and other  names I found from doing some online research.img_7164We also set the table in a classy yet funky way using white roses and succulents in gold drinking goblets (my aunt’s idea). How cute are they??img_7385The main course for the meal was a Spanish seafood paella. I had never made paella, but I ate LOTS of it when I lived and studied in Spain and happened to be placed in a home with a restaurant owner and chef…yes, it was absolutely amazing and I miss it dearly. My biggest regret is not working with him in the kitchen and learning all of his amazing secrets. So instead, I had to do my research for recipes on the internet. If you look up recipes for paella, they all look pretty similar and strangely bright yellowish-orange. I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I do. If the pictures don’t look good, I don’t stick around long enough to find out if the recipe is actually worth while. When I found decent looking pictures and recipes, the comments weren’t always encouraging. There would be some “expert” (not from Spain) who would point out all the flaws and how in-authentic the recipe was. img_1542Suffice it to say, we had several experienced chefs in the kitchen, including my Abuela, and we improvised on a recipe found in…wait for it…Food and Wine! I promise I use other sources, and no I’m not getting paid by Food and Wine to write. Although, that would be nice. It was legitimately the best recipe I found on the internet.  img_0996Our changes to the recipe: we added more garlic, we didn’t add butter beans, and we used shrimp, mussels, and squid for our seafood. Paella is ultimately a rice dish that can be transformed by whatever ingredients you choose. You can make it with just chicken, or just jamón serrano (Spanish cured ham), or just veggies. You can use different stocks: chicken, seafood, or vegetable. Paella is meant to be shared–to be a hearty, family meal.

Food is so powerful. We need it to sustain our lives, and it also brings us together, friends, families, and strangers. In my family growing up, we spent most of our time together in the kitchen or around the table with family and friends. When friends came over, we all gathered in the kitchen. This is not everyone’s experience, and I know that the kitchen does not bring a warm, fuzzy feeling to everyone. We are entering the holiday season with Thanksgiving just next month. We also have a very important election coming up. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the negatives of life, some that are very valid; but I encourage you to think about what is most important in your life, and to cherish that and give thanks. Sit down to the table with your family. Invite some people over. Give thanks.

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