As you read this article, I can pretty much guarantee that the holidays are on your mind. You’ve either just produced the obligatory Thanksgiving bird, sides and pies or have been lucky enough to dine with someone else who made the effort. Or maybe you’re getting ready to endure a torturous car ride to eat with people related to you whom you’d rather not see for another 12 months. That’s probably a story best left to another bottle of wine.
But in any case, you have had the occasion to sit down with people at the table and eat. And regardless of the caliber of those vittles, it was an event. You had real conversations and laughed and probably learned something new about the people you were with. Your life is made richer for these experiences that take place around the table. It is an event worth repeating, but it doesn’t have to require so much effort next time.
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you I love to eat. Those closest to me will also tell you that I am a lazy cook. By that I mean I like to get a lot of bang for my buck. If I go to the trouble of all that mise en place and mess-making, I want something to show for it. And somehow I have managed to make friends with people who eat and cook like me. One friend and I trade off meals at least once a week. If we can’t eat what’s been made, it is probably guaranteed to freeze well.
Lately I have taken to making a meal and doubling or tripling it. I can then invite over other busy friends, and we can feed our broods together. There is a great feeling in fostering the growth of a real community. Our kids can help one another with homework or laugh at something on YouTube and then we can gather at the table/kitchen counter. This is an old-fashioned idea but makes so much sense. And if you don’t have a table big enough for all those people, just surprise someone with a meal at their front door. I can guarantee the payoff will be worth it!
Need inspiration? Here are a couple of menus to throw into your rotation. Scale them up or down, as the number of diners changes. These are dishes you can prep in the morning before work and cook when you get home. And if you happen to have any leftover salmon, it would be great the next day on a bed of greens or with some wilted spinach.
Meal One: Grilled Pork Tenderloin (marinate in a ½ cup Moore’s marinade for 30 minutes), Fingerling Potatoes with Sun- Dried Tomato Mash (recipe below) and Fresh Spinach Salad with Mushrooms and Bacon.
Meal Two: Roast Salmon on a bed of vegetables (recipe below) and McEwen & Sons cheese grits.
Fingerling potatoes with sun-dried-tomato mash (Serves 16)
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil, plus a little more to drizzle
1/4 cup coarsely chopped rehydrated sundried tomatoes (about 14 halves in ¼ cup hot water) zest from one lemon
1/4 cup grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 pounds fingerling potatoes, washed and sliced about
4 shallots, sliced
1) Preheat the oven to 350º F.
2) Place the basil, olive oil, tomatoes, lemon zest and cheese in the bowl of a food processor and blend until they form a paste (or mash), thinning with a little warm water if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3) Layer the sliced potatoes in a large prepared baking dish in a single layer. Dot with spoonfuls of the tomato mash and scatter with some of the shallots. Repeat in layers until you’ve used all ingredients. Drizzle lightly with a little olive oil.
4) Cover with foil and cook for an hour or until tender. At this point, you may opt to remove the foil and broil for a few minutes to get a crispy top layer.
Roasted Salmon on a bed of vegetables (Serves 4)
1 large piece of salmon, skin removed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and slice
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced
½ red onion, sliced
2 stalks celery, chopped into
¼ cup butter juice of one lime (or more if you prefer) salt and pepper, to taste
1) Preheat oven to 400° F.
2) Scatter vegetables in the bottom of a prepared glass baking dish large enough to accommodate the piece of salmon. Lay the salmon on top and dot with pieces of butter. Squeeze lime juice over the top. Season with salt and pepper.
3) Bake for 30 minutes. Let rest five to seven minutes before serving.
Christiana Roussel lives in Crestline and is a lover of all things food-related. You can follow her culinary musings on-line at ChristianasKitchen.blogspot.com or on Facebook (ChristianasKitchen) or Twitter (Christiana40).