Friday, May 20, 2011

Dinner with Friends Part II: Hosting

Recently M and I have had the opportunity to host a few friends for dinner.  Our first, real dinner-party-for-the-sake-of-having-a-dinner-party guys!  It's fun to treat our friends to a nice meal, and it's been great to learn to work together this way.  When we made Thanksgiving dinner we fought out of a pressing sense of tradition (holiday's are stressful, right?), but by last Saturday, we didn't peck at each other about cooking at all. 

It's not like we fight a lot, we don't, but cooking has a way of putting me on edge, especially when someone is in the kitchen watching me.  It tends to make me self-conscious which makes me needlessly defensive.  (Boy I sound like a dream, don't I?)  Anyway, the moral of the story is that, through practice, I'm getting more confident and less defensive (hallelujah), and M and I are learning to be a team in the kitchen.  And that's swell, kids!  We both want to be great hosts one day, and I'd say we're on the way. 

We had a tapas-style menu (though not necessarily traditionally tapas recipes), with many different bites and flavors to sample.  For starters we served prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe (Malcolm did that all by himself!) and Whole Foods spicy olives.  The sweet, salty, and spicy elements all worked really well together.  
For the meal we served a "shrimp and asparagus salad" which was sort-of-not-really a combination of these two recipes from Martha Stewart for Asparagus with Prosciutto and Lemon Sabayon and Grilled Seafood Salad

Basically, I sauteed shrimp with red onion and red pepper flakes, all tossed lightly in half lemon juice and half olive oil.  Meanwhile, I cooked asparagus in boiling water for 3-4 minutes until it was softer and bright green.  Then I put it in an ice bath to cool, followed by air drying for 10 minutes.  Finally, I cut the stems into bite-size pieces and tossed it all in approximately 2.5 tablespoons each of olive oil and lemon juice.  It was delicious!

Next we had chorizo and oven-dried tomatoes on toast, which vaguely followed these two recipes, both also from dear Martha: (for braised chorizo, for oven-dried tomatoes) but both presented some challenges. 

Chorizo is often featured in tapas dishes; it's a Spanish sausage which can come in many different forms- some cured, some very soft.  Despite the plethora of chorizo recipes out there, we had a real difficulty finding any.  We bought the only sausage labeled chorizo after searching Ralph's, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods.  It was very soft, so much so that after (I guess) not pricking it enough, it exploded in couple of places in the pan, and basically fell apart from there.  It tasted delicious spread on bread (I keep saying "like pâté" though I really have no idea how people eat pâté) and topped with the tomatoes, but I would be careful about trying it again.

Also, the oven-dried tomatoes recipe calls for you to bake them in the oven at very low temperatures for 3 hours.  When we did that, exactly as the recipe called for, they came out burned to a crisp.  No, thank you, one hour turned out just fine for us, maybe not completely dried, but flavorful and delicious.  Luckily we had enough time to try the recipe again, and I've made the one-hour version since this to good success.

We rounded out the menu with my dad's rosemary roasted potatoes, devilled eggs, a green salad, and squares of pizza provided by Lovely Linda:
For desert we made a blackberry, apple, pear cobbler for Linda and Roberto, because they'd never heard of one.  Luckily, it came out well and I was able to show off this very American of dishes to good reviews by all involved.  Who cares that the desert wasn't remotely Spanish when it tastes this good?   
I made this arrangement when Linda and Roberto came to dinner.  Yay for Trader Joe's flowers- $9 baby!
I'm feeling good about getting practice, but a little guilty about basically always using Martha's recipes. I know, I'm sounding like a broken record.  What source do you guys use for recipes?  I'd love to hear your entertaining tips!    


  1. I like to search for culinary inspiration (and procrastinate studying) on and - a virtual feast for the eyes. A few of my favorite blogs: LiveLaughEat, OhSheGlows, Chocolate and Zucchini, and Globetrotter Diaries.

    Hope you enjoy reading these as much as I do!

    - Celestine

  2. Julia Child really is pretty awesome and completely approachable. And good old Mark Bittman makes a good jumping off point.