Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Family Dinner

MY SISTER wrote:
Hi, I'm having a dinner for two of my good friends Friday night. They both are
pretty saavy in the kitchen themselves. I need to do most of the preparation Thursday so I can feed them at a decent hour Friday night. Any ideas for a menu that will knock their socks off?




I'd probably do this - it's very little cooking, therefore not much heat:
  • Chilled Avocado Soup, garnished with chopped scallion and lime wedge
  • Radicchio and field greens salad with sugar snaps, jicama, and stone fruits, tossed with raspberry, blackberry, bramble, or balsamic vinaigrette.
  • Warm sourdough rolls with dill-herb butter
  • Crab and Shrimp cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Aioli
  • steamed green vegetable, such as broccoli, baby spinach, or fresh green or yellow beans (or a blend) - whatever looks best at the store
  • grilled nectarines with vanilla, buttermilk, or creme fraiche ice cream, or frozen yogurt

The avocado soup is in the Vollstedt What's for Dinner? cookbook p43; it's really easy. For best results, look for organic free-range chicken broth in the store, and use yogurt instead of sour cream. Before refrigerating, pat a sheet of plastic wrap right onto the surface of the soup to help avoid browning.

The salad, use a packaged blend or supermarket green mix, adding up to a head of sliced radicchio to the mix for some added bitterness. Slice some sugar snap peas and add them, and some jicama cut in strips. That could be done the night before. Cut up some stone fruits - apricots, nectarines, peaches, or cherries (slice bigger fruits thinly, halve cherries) - not a lot, maybe just one peach or nectarine for four people, and add to the salad just before tossing. Some almonds or cashews might be nice, too. For the vinaigrette, get a nice fruity vinegar, such as raspberry, bramble, cherry balsamic, etc. Chop a large shallot (or two small) and put in a small cup or bowl. Add a quarter cup of vinegar and let it sit for 15 minutes to overnight. Whisk in a teaspoon of dijon mustard and two or three tbsp of good fruity olive oil till well blended. Add salt/pepper to taste, and maybe some slivered basil, say a tablespoon or so.

I assume you can find some good bread or rolls; toss them in the oven and serve warm with the soup and salads. For a fancy touch, on Thursday combine 1 stick unsalted butter at room temp with a tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs, dill, basil or thyme would be nice, especially dill or basil. Tuck into a crock, and chill until dinner time.

The Crab and Shrimp cakes are also in the What's For Dinner? book, p 124-125. [ed. note: It helps that Mom often gets us the same gifts for Christmas - if I've been given a cookbook, there's a good chance both of my sisters have it as well.] You could do all of the steps through forming the patties, then refrigerate. They only get cooked 4 minutes per side, so would take no time at all on Friday. If this doesn't appeal, you do a fine seared tuna; grilled swordfish would also be nice. Both would be good with the red pepper aioli, also. Pick up a little parsley when you're shopping for garnish - presentation makes the meal!

The vegetable to go with should be whatever looks best in the produce section. Just steam it lightly while the seafood cakes are cooking. Serve with some sea-salt along side, if you wish.

The dessert I'm suggesting needs a grill, if you don't have one, I have an alternative suggestion, too. For the nectarines, combine 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar with 1/4 cup of honey and 1 tsp vanilla. Slice nectarines in half and remove stones. Brush fruit with glaze, and grill about 4 minutes per side. Remove carefully to cutting board, and cut into smaller slices. Serve with ice cream or yogurt, and drizzle with a little more glaze.

If you don't have a grill, get a quart of good strawberries. Slice in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup honey or sugar, and 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. Just before serving, grind 1/8 - 1/4 tsp of black pepper into the berries, and serve with ice cream or yogurt.

Sauvignon Blanc would be the obvious wine choice, but you could make a fruity Chardonnay work. Otherwise, ice tea would be good.

Hope that helps!

MY SISTER wrote:

Awesome!!!! Thanks so much!!! I do have a grill. This sounds great. Thanks so much for your help!!!!!




Mom called; she suggested you might need some help with the schedule.

Before your guests arrive, change clothes, put on an apron, set the table. Cut up the fruit for the salad, and any garnishes you want, like lime wedges, chopped scallion, or parsley. If using basil for the salad dressing, roll leaves into tubes and slice across into thin ribbons. Put the herb butter on the table. Put the aioli in a serving dish. Whisk the olive oil (and basil if used) into the dressing. Just before they arrive, turn on the oven for the bread.

When your guests arrive, chit chat, serve wine or a beverage, maybe a plate of olives or nuts. Let them kind of linger around while you toss the bread in the oven, and remove the soup, salad, and seafood cakes from the fridge. Saute the seafood cakes, and put the soup in small bowls or cups(have a guest help, if you like). Toss the salad, and put in salad bowl(s). When the cakes are done, turn off the oven, take out the bread, and put the cakes on a plate in the oven to keep warm. Steam the vegetable in the microwave or on stovetop until tender crisp - slightly undercooked is fine since it will sit for a few minutes. Remove from heat - it should keep warm well enough. Take off the apron.

Serve salad and soup with bread. Clear dishes. Refill wine or beverages. (have a guest help if you like) Serve cakes with aioli and vegetable.

Relax, chit chat, clear dishes. When about ready for dessert, put on coffee if desired. Slice nectarines for dessert, and heat grill. If reasonably pleasant, relax by the pool while you grill fruit. When done, cut up about 1/2 nectarine for each person, then top with yogurt or ice cream.

Hope it helps!

MY SISTER wrote:

Cool!!!! This really helps!!!! Thanks again for all your help!


So, how'd it go?

MY SISTER wrote:

Well, I hit it out of the ballpark! Everything went perfect and we all had a blast. Now they are dying to have dinners at their homes to show what they can do. The best thing was this was the first time where all the food was timed perfectly so I could sit down and eat with them and not be constantly getting up. Thank you so much for all of your help!!!! The dessert was especially yummy!

CODA: I love you, too, sis. I know we don't talk very often, or see each other. I know you voted for Bush, and listen to Dr Laura, and I know that you know how evil I think they both are. I know that we've always been very different even though you're only two years younger than I, and that every year we become more different. But I do love you. I know I'm terrible about saying it; I hope that I show it enough so that you know. Bon appetit!

1 comment:

julie beth said...

that was just so incredibly sweet.

plus, now i'm incredibly hungry. thanks a lot, randy. :)