Henna party (selects) 15

I spent my childhood summers in a part of India where 110 degrees Fahrenheit is a cool day. So I rejoice when the weather here turns hot, as it makes me think of home. That's when, to welcome the season, my friends and I gather for our annual "henna party," a sumptuous feast for the senses featuring an afternoon of delicious food and pure pampering.

On the menu this year were a variety of Indian treats: baby semolina cakes tempered with curry leaves and coconut, quesadillas stuffed with Paneer (an Indian version of cottage cheese), a range of tangy chutneys for dipping, and a pitcher of cold Indian-style coffee (Nescafe with vanilla ice cream, crushed ice and a bit of milk). The biggest hits: delicately spiced shrimp fritters and mango lassi — a milky, palate-cooling drink that complemented the fritters spectacularly.

Because I expected a large to-do, I asked guests to bring dishes to round out the meal. My circle of friends resembles a U.N. cultural delegation, and the food they contributed reflected this — we had Tiramasu, candied ginger scones, Indian samosas and the ubiquitous spinach dip, all laid out on a table decorated with a golden sari and rose petals.

Meanwhile, out on the deck was the day's true extravagance: two local henna artists ready to work their magic. Henna is an all-natural dye that can be applied to the skin in a variety of motifs, from simple symbols of friendship to intricate, purely ornamental patterns, all in a gorgeous crimson-amber color that stays on for about two weeks. Having it applied is like spending time in a luxurious spa. The dye has a cooling effect on the skin that, coupled with an earthy aroma, is truly therapeutic: a soothing way to celebrate the beauty of summer — and my guests. 

Tiny  Treats
Henna party (selects) 08

Scrambled Paneer Tapas

Yield 10 pieces

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes


2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 spring onions, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 ½ -inch ginger root, roughly chopped

2 Serrano green chilies, seeded and minced

1/4 small red bell pepper, finely chopped

1/4 small green bell pepper, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, roasted

2 cups grated paneer

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

2 tablespoons cream

Table salt to taste

10 tiny pitas


1.  In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the spring onions and sauté until transparent.

2.  Add the cloves and ginger, sauté for another thirty seconds. Add the green chilies, bell peppers and cumin seeds. Sauté for another 3 minutes.

3.  Add the paneer and cook, stirring constantly. Add the turmeric and mix well. cream. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until all the ingredients are well mixed and the paneer is warmed through. Salt to taste. Serve immediately spooned over tiny warmed pita bread.



Mango Lassi

Henna party (selects) 02

3 cups plain yogurt (regular or nonfat)

1 cup canned mango pulp (can use 1 cup fresh ripe mango or frozen mango pieces, plus a few teaspoons sugar)

1/2 cup water (or 1/4 if using frozen mango)

5-6 ice cubes

Put all ingredients in a large blender and blend well. Add more water for a thinner consistency. Serves 4.

(photo credits -are Nate Lankford) 



How do you celebrate your friends? Post a comment here and you will be entered into a giveaway of my FAVORITE book of this year – Spoonfed by Kim Severson.  It is a fantastic book that celebrates the cooks who saved her life. A terrific, funny, touching read that will make you wish that the book never ended. 

Post a comment by 4:00 pm today, May 10 2010, and I will pick a winner at random 

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  1. I try to find ways to celebrate them that are tailored to them. Once, a friend jokingly complained that as the youngest of 5 sisters, she never had a new Barbie doll of her own. When her birthday came around, I threw her a Barbie party–we had a Barbie cake and all the guests brought Barbies and Barbie clothes. It was a big hit.

  2. I have become the unofficial cake baker for my group. I try not to make the same cake/design and incorporate what ever their favs.

  3. I will mango lassi’s for this afternoon’s snack.
    After reading your post I’m not sure I celebrate my friends enough. My best answer is by being supportive to their ideas and choices. But I think I can improve.
    Do you think a henna party would be fun for a little girls bday party? When they are old enough to sit still long enough.

  4. I celebrate my friends by inviting them over for a delicious convivial meal; by being a helpful guest when they invite me; and by trying never to turn down a party invite. That said, I don’t celebrate them enough… This post is a nice reminder to try and do that!

  5. A group of friends (and I) turned 50 the same year and decided we couldn’t let this achievement go without getting together, even tho we were scattered across the country. We met in the middle (Kansas City). I brought fixings for muffaletta sandwiches (easy to tote), I baked a mini bundt cake for each of us —blanketed in dark chocolate icing—(a bit challenging to tote), champagne and strawberries.
    I loaded up champagne glasses, flowers from my garden, a blanket for our picnic, and we met in the Kansas City Rose Garden (kansascityrosesociety.org) on a beautiful summer day.
    I also celebrate friends who are closer (geographically speaking) with spontaneous dinners after foraging at the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays. It seems as if food is always involved…

  6. It depends who the friends is 🙂

    I sometimes celebrate by taking them out for lunch or buying a plant or book I know they’ll love.

    My favorite way is to write a card telling them what they mean to me and how the world is a better place because they are here.

  7. My Marwari friend does this each year- all women of a family gather together in each of their homes – enjoy great food, exchange gifts and apply gorgeous mehendi – it’s called sinhara and part of their culture- I was lucky to be a part of this a couple of times – what fun!
    I would love to call friends over tea and both Indian snacks and bakes – or probably do a cook-off together 🙂

  8. those tapas look really good

  9. I celebrate my friends by making cookies and homemade treats. I also give them cards with long messages in them for their birthdays or for Christmas. I write about times we’ve shared together, funny stories, inside jokes, or anything else that comes up. And then I always include a line about how much they mean to me.

  10. You know, your post actually reminds me that I need to celebrate my friends more often! This year, we’re hosting a crawfish boil for friends and family – it’s a great opportunity for everyone that is special in our lives to gather and enjoy company.

  11. We celebrate our friends by trying to have regular Game Nights and Get Togethers whenever we can. 🙂

  12. What a fun and unique idea you posted about. Now that everyone is so plugged in, I celebrate my friends by sending them hand written cards and letters at random times throughout the year. It’s such a treat to find something other than a bill or a wedding invitation in the mailbox – especially from a friend you don’t get to see all the time!

  13. I celebrate my friends with homemade treats! In today’s world we are quick to pick something up for someone who needs to be cheered up or congratulated, but we are reluctant to take the time to prepare and make something from scratch for someone. The time and thought put into it makes it extra special, and it usually costs less money… Usually I make food, but sometimes it is a homemade item like a framed picture or a piece of jewelry. I find the recipients are flattered and surprised when they realize you have gone out of your way a little bit! Makes it all the more fun!

  14. Rose in Ohio (@RoseMillsOhio)

    I celebrate my friends by getting together with them for FOOD, sometimes home-cooked, sometimes a meetup at a place they like. I also pray for them and let them know it!

  15. I bake sooo much stuff for class and friends. I love to feed them, they love getting fed 🙂

  16. Our celebrations almost always center around food. My husband and I love to cook, and so spending the time to prepare a special meal for friends is not only enjoyable (though it can also be quite exhausting) but also a nice way to use our time and energies to show them how much we value them. We make it a point to remember their unique likes and dislikes when it comes to food and drink, and plan the meal around that.

  17. Oh, how fun it would be to celebrate with you. Always wanted to get my hands decorated with henna. My friends and I typical pick a nice small restaurant with good wine, delicious eats and end it with some coffee. Either that, or it’s a nice spread of cheese, fruit and beer on the back porch. I’ll take either one.

  18. The winner is – ALTA!! Congrats. Email me your addy, please!!

    thanks to everyone for the wonderful ideas and suggestions. i love these!

  19. Thank you for provide me with so good information, that is just what I want. Good luck to you.

  20. Your post is the best. I like it,because I learn a lot of useful from your blog,thanks.

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