I have been wanting to tell you about this for some time now. The Friday of Memorial Day weekend, we decided to throw an impromptu dinner party with just our family. We suddenly realized we had so much to celebrate! Our oldest is loving his new job, his girlfriend was leaving for Kuala Lumpur the next day to give a presentation during a convention there, our youngest, Zach was leaving for Vienna on Sunday to study German for six weeks and then vacation in Poland and Eastern Europe. Agata, his Polish girlfriend, just became a US citizen that week and her birthday was the next day! So we definitely needed a party, right?
So rather than going to the country on Friday afternoon, we stayed in the city and went grocery shopping. Everyone pitched in and after arriving home at 6:30 pm with the groceries, we had a full three course dinner to sit down to at 8:30 and we even had appetizers before. While we shopped, Zach and Agata set the table and sliced gobs of garlic for the mushrooms and the tatsoi. I wanted to do red snapper fillets and my fish market was too busy to deliver to me so I asked my Brooklynite son if he could hook up with his fish monger. He didn’t call to answer – he just texted me this picture!
We started with a leftover hummus dip that I had made earlier in the week and a wonderful store bought artichoke dip with vegetable dipping sticks and some crostini. The girls put together the pancetta wrapped mushrooms and I grilled those in a grill pan while the beets were roasting, rice was steaming, arugula and tatsoi were being washed. Corn nuts and toasted almonds rounded out the cocktail hour.
Here’s our salad to start – roasted golden and red beets on a bed of arugula topped with toasted walnuts, Gorgonzola cheese and a sherry vinaigrette. My husband picked a beautiful Pinot Noir to go with the whole dinner.
Our main course was red snapper fillets topped with olive oil, salt and pepper, a little dried Greek oregano, sliced plum tomatoes and thawed frozen baby artichoke halves, all oven roasted. I finished the fish with a drizzle of O & CO Olive Oil with Lemon and served it with steamed Jasmine rice on which I had drizzled some melted unsalted butter with chopped parsley. Everyone oohed and awed at the rice. (Sometimes just a little bit of good butter suddenly makes it special.)
And the sautéed tatsoi with olive oil and garlic was a huge hit. I found that at this little farmers market by my office, right outside of the mayor’s building, City Hall. I’m sure it was just picked that morning in New Jersey. The greens were amazing! And of course the fish was so fresh and so delicious! It could have stood on its own with just olive oil and salt and pepper.
Dessert had to be simple – Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream with Swedish butter cookies spread with Nutella. Simple, but really good! (Who doesn’t like Nutella?)
Many toasts were had and we all sang the Star Spangled Banner to Agata, which put her in tears. She and her mom are so happy to be citizens and they can even still keep their Polish passports. God Bless America followed while we all cleaned up. Sing-a–longs are just so much fun! It was a wonderful LOVE filled party.
P. S. Everyone arrived safely to their destinations, thank Goodness.
I share this story with you to encourage you to not let a spur of the moment reason to celebrate pass you by because of some silly justification, such as that you hadn’t planned it. We all need to celebrate these special moments in life. Dinners don’t always have to be a big deal with numerous recipes. All of this I just made up on the fly (when you cook a lot, this is easy to do; if you don’t, check back with me and I’ll keep sharing my secrets) and I used some good store bought items (the dip, the frozen artichokes, the whole dessert). The quality of your ingredients do matter – the fish was so darn fresh, and good quality olive oil and finishing butter also matter, along with super fresh vegetables. With these you can have a feast, made simple, as long as it’s made with LOVE. The real point is about getting people together to celebrate the good times, the accomplishments, the travel, whatever is on your plate (no pun intended). Sure, you could even order up food, but if you make it yourself, you also get the bonus time of everyone working and being together in the kitchen. Why is it that even with large parties, everyone always ends up in the kitchen? Because kitchen parties are always the best, because that’s where the real co-creation happens!