I tend to see cooking as an art form. Not in a hoity-toity kind of way, more in a creative way.

In General
When I think about cooking, I tend to think about how to get different spices to play off of one another, contrasting textures and temperatures to make one feel the food differently and think about it more, colors and presentation to engage the person eating. I usually don't really know what I'm going to make specifically until I'm in the supermarket looking at what's fresh, taking into consideration the weather, if it's a special occasion or not, and who's coming for dinner. It's the whole experience.

So what's the "style"? No idea. It's a mutt, heavily influenced by Italian and French cuisine, with flavors dropped in from Mexican and Spanish spices, Asian fusion elements, and a healthy respect for American cooking. I guess that'd make it "New American Cuisine", if you needed to give it a name. On another level it's akin to the "Slow Food" movement, save that I don't need to bore the crap out of people by taking all day to make a meal. But the feeling is there - the meal is an experience.

People aren't coming over to only eat (or if they are, you invited the wrong people) - they're there because they're your friends, friends of friends, or family. There's stuff to talk about. There's drinks to be had. You may be cooking the meal, but you should feel comfortable enough about doing it so that you can enjoy your company at the same time.

Hopefully the recipes and the attitude that I hope comes across in them can help you feel like you can successfully pull of a dinner party for 10 in a small studio apartment with a shoebox sized kitchen and not feel under huge amounts of pressure.

Following Recipes
Not to shoot myself in the foot here, but if Coming for Dinner does anything for you, I don't want you to follow the recipes. Part of the biggest problem in putting this together was trying to re-test my recipes, as I don't follow recipes. Which I think is a good way to think about cooking - get the general jist of the recipe and what it's meant to be, and start cooking. I think it makes you more comfortable when you're not constantly checking the recipe against what you're doing. Sure, use the recipe as a guideline, but play with it, experiment. This will make you a better cook.

I have measuring spoons. I just don't use them, unless I'm baking. And quite honestly, I don't think there's any meal that you're ever going to make where you have to use exactly 2 tablespoons of a spice or it will be ruined. Sure, you might want to be in the neighborhood of 2 tablespoons, but it's not going to ruin a meal if it's a little under or a little over. What could ruin the meal is stressing over constantly measuring things out.

I measure by using my hand. I cup my hand, and with it mostly cupped, pouring a rounded mound into the center just about equals a tablespoon. Is it exactly a tablespoon? Nope. Does it work every time? Yes. But what about a teaspoon? Cup your hand a little less, and the same deal. Everytime. (Don't worry - for the recipes in here, I spent the past year retesting and measuring what was in my hand to translate back to the recipe "correctly".)

The Art of the Holding Pattern
Something I've noticed when people come to my place and watch me cook, and that I've talked about with a whole bunch of people, is a lot of peoples' frustration with trying to get everything to come together at the same time when it's getting closer to serving time. Especially if there's a guest who's late, or you're just dying for a cigarette before you plate up. For as long as I can remember, something I've inherently done in making dinners has been figuring out where food can go into a holding pattern. Where can you slow the meal down without burning it? Where can you stop the meal entirely without ruining it? When is the last point before you need to cowboy up and wrangle everything together to serve it? Clearly there is no one answer to this, and it's something you come to learn as you become more comfortable both cooking and socializing while cooking. Throughout the recipes you'll see where I've made suggestions as to how to start thinking about this. I hope it helps.