Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dinner Parties: Summer Easier Than Others

Maybe you've noticed. It's been a while since I threw a dinner party or cooked a really out-of-the-ordinary and not just thrown together sort of meal.

It occasionally gets to me, believe it or not. When I don't entertain guests in a long while, I feel like I'm neglecting my friends, as well as myself. For all that others might write about taking the time to cook a decent meal, I don't always do it myself. (You will almost never hear about those quick-and-dirty meals for one here.)

I do like cooking! (Or did you figure that one out already?) I do! And since I've fallen in love with local foods, I've become even more aware of the need to cook wholesome dishes with quality local produce.

But until the farmers' market returned, my CSA started, and other things in my life settled down a bit, I wasn't ready to do much more than wing it in cooking for two.

I'm inspired again, happily, and I have plenty of produce at hand to use and to share with friends. So I invited a trio of lovely damsels -- the faithful Persephone, the Contradancing Queen, and She Who Cannot Be Labeled -- to share in a very simple but satisfying summer meal.

I pulled out my easiest summer favorite, rice paper rolls. Using leaf lettuce and gorgeous purple-red amaranth from my garden, mint from the Renaissance Man's garden, steamed asparagus and carrots from the farmers' market, and whole wheat noodles, we wrapped our own little salad rolls and dipped them into spicy peanut sauce for an open-air dinner. With some of the faithful Persephone's hibiscus-lemon herbal iced brew, it was just right for a sunny, breezy pre-summer evening.

After dinner, instead of heading to the local strawberry festival, we enjoyed fresh strawberries from my CSA basket, dipped straight into rose-petal-infused whipped cream (the real stuff!) -- a dessert that you can't beat in the middle of June.

We could have simply rested after that, but no -- we pulled out yarn and needles, and my friends gave me my first knitting lesson. I know, it doesn't really have anything to do with food, but it made for an eventually relaxing end to the evening's festivities. (Once I ripped out my work and started over again, of course.)

It's evenings like this that remind me that friends don't truly need to be impressed by my cooking. Taking the time to cook something out of the ordinary is appreciated, yes -- but simple good food and delightful company is all we need.

And knowing that can make dinner planning a lot easier this summer!

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At 6/16/2008 4:56 PM, Blogger Kelly said...

oh, my. That sounds SO good.

I haven't planted my amaranth seed yet, wonder if it's too late.

My fava beans? no beans. flowered like crazy but I think the sudden heat made them say no thanks, maybe next year. drat.

At 6/17/2008 7:11 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

It was definitely tasty, Kelly... one reason why I try to make the rolls at least once (if not more!) each summer.

Certainly worth giving the amaranth seed a try -- my plants have jumped up about 6-12" in the past week!

I'm only seeing a few pods on my favas, but I haven't looked closely in a while.


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