Monday, March 22, 2021

"Finally Free" Dinner Party -- Tips and Tastes!

Rick and I are fully vaccinated and so are our friends, Mark and Jan. So a celebration was in order, this time, inside!


I haven't cooked for anyone other than Rick in over a year and I didn't want kitchen angst that evening. I wanted to be able to enjoy the company of our friends from the minute they walked into the door until the moment they left. Here's how I avoided that.

The Day Before

The afternoon before our dinner I did a basic house pick-up (with vacuuming and dusting to be done the afternoon of the party). Then came the fun part -- putting together a cheery centerpiece. (More on that in an upcoming post)

The Day Of 

The morning of our party I started with making brownies (to be served with gelato) for dessert. I just amped up a box recipe (much as I would have preferred to go from scratch). Once they were cool they went onto the serving platter, sealed up to stay fresh till dessert.

My menu was Asian ginger salmon, the spinach/orzo/feta dish I've mentioned here before and roasted tomatoes. Jan was bringing a salad. We'd also have wine and cheese with Rick's bread before dinner. 

 

Both the salmon marinade and spinach dish involve some chopping. I wanted that over and done. So, I chopped my garlic, scallions and spinach for the spinach dish and got out the other non-perishable ingredients and put them in my mise en place bowls in the morning. (I almost always do mise en place, even when just cooking for us, at least for non-liquid ingredients.)  I also made my salmon marinade in the morning and in the early afternoon began marinating the salmon (1-8 hours), periodically "basting" it. 

(Recipes below, sorry the photo is such a mess!)

Vacuuming, dusting and mopping the kitchen floor was done in the early afternoon. I also cleared out the coat closet which was pretty packed from our own coats over the winter!

The table was more or less set by mid-afternoon and the buffet area (aka the top of the short bookcase) was cleared off and "set" with a pretty arrangement in a Mary Englebreit teapot that had suffered a broken lid.


While we were having wine and cheese, I assembled the spinach dish. It takes about 15 minutes or so to cook, and stays warm well. I also got the roasted tomatoes prepped and ready to go in the oven when I put in the salmon.

We could easily enjoy our snacks before dinner while catching up. The salmon takes about 20 minutes so I judged the time accordingly. 

And then, we simply enjoyed! Bad selfie!


A few of my favorite kitchen tips:

Setting up mise en place bowls (I use mini-ramekins and small bowls made by a local potter) really helps things run smoothly. It helps tremendously not to have to stop and measure everything, especially if you have a lot to do in the kitchen that day. 

Clean up as you go. Have you ever watched Julia Child's original "French Chef" episodes, before there was a kitchen staff to provide step outs? She cleans up from step to step. If your kitchen is small like mine, those things that need to be discarded can be tossed in the trash or disposal or compost tin as you cook. Or, follow the Rachel Ray trick of having a garbage bowl handy for whatever need to be pitched. It makes the final clean-up so much easier.

Keep a running list handy to write down items that are running low or that you've used up. I just used all my panko the other night and it went on the next week's shopping list. That way you always know what you are out of -- especially if you don't use it that often so you're not checking your supply on a regular basis.

Not everyone would agree with this but one of my favorites is to post your favorite recipes inside your cupboard doors. If there's something you make regularly (but not enough to have memorized!) and really don't care if the inside of your cupboards are bulletin boards, post them there. It saves time (not looking up in your cookbook -- which cookbook was that now?) and saves counter space.

The Recipes

Salmon (I wish I could remember where I first saw this -- one similar was on several sites -- this is how I do it:

1/4 c. soy sauce  /  3 T. brown sugar   / 1 T. finely grated ginger   / 1 large or 2 small finely grated garlic cloves  /   pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Combine marinate ingredients and pour over a large piece of salmon or up to four salmon steaks. Marinate for at least a half hour but you can do it up to eight and I say the longer the better. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your salmon. If using larger salmon, cut into individual pieces and serve on a platter garnished with lemon slices and parsley or dill.

Hint: Use about a 3" piece of ginger for grating, peeled with a spoon. The grating is what takes longest in doing this!

The Spinach/Orzo/Feta Side dish -- from New York Times

4 scallions  / 2 lg. cloves of garlic  / eight cups packed spinach (8 oz but I tend to use a little more), chopped a bit if too large   / 1/2 to 1  t. salt   /   1 3/4 c. chicken stock   /   1 c.  orzo   /   Zest of 1 lemon   /   3/4 c. feta and more to garnish   /    1 c. chopped parsley or dill (optional but good)   /   1 c. peas (optional -- I don't use them)

In butter or olive oil, soften scallions and garlic over medium heat. /  Add spinach in batches if necessary till wilted, then salt, stock, orzo and lemon. Bring to simmer, then cover and cook about 15 minutes.  Add feta and parsley/dill if using. Serve garnished with more feta (and I like lemon wedges with this to use at will.)

Roasted Tomatoes

Halve Roma tomatoes and if pithy inside, take out center ribs. Salt, pepper and a small drizzle of olive oil. Then add your favorite hers (I use basil, oregano and thyme), a bit of parmesan cheese and if you have them, panko or bread crumbs. Bake. You can put these in with the salmon for 20 minutes at 400. I like a little more time in the oven. 

Bon appetit!

Sharing with:    Tuesday Turn About     /    Let's Keep In Touch   /     Share Your Style       /     Pink Saturday     /     Love Your Creativity!    

53 comments:

Lynne said...

Oh my, sounds and looks wonderful.
Brave you were . . .
I would have been stressed to the max.
Sounds like you have made this before . . .
I say bravo . . . for sure.

When I/we are entertaining I need my “specials”
to be something I can make blindfolded,
and/or have something I can have made up before.
I can make “the final end” to look quite nice
but in the process the kitchen would look like a disaster.
Pots, pans, dishes, spoons, dabs and dollops all over.
Seriously . . . So once again, I am impressed
and sending you a “well done” my friend!

The best part . . . keeping it real,
isn’t it wonderful to be together with friends, once again!

Martha said...

I'm so glad you were able to have a nice normal evening with friends! Your table is set beautifully and the food sounds perfect. I already do all the tips you mentioned other than keeping recipes in the cupboard doors. My old tried and true recipes are memorized and since this time last year I rarely repeat a recipe. I love trying new ones and it's now become a hobby I guess. :)

Marilyn Miller said...

First, how wonderful to be able to meet with friends in person!!!
I also prep ahead of time and clean as I go is a must. Good tips!
It sounds like the perfect menu too. Yummm!

Misadventures of Widowhood said...

Gosh, I'm so glad you got to do some old-school entertaining again. Old school meaning no masks or social distancing. And I'm drooling over those roasted tomatoes. I eat one raw more days of the week than not and I need to try them your way.

Linda Sue said...

OH my WORD! NORMAL but not really normal, I would say exceptional. What a grand hostess you are, The dishes have my tummy rumbling. YOU DID IT!!! YAY, vaccinated and celebrating! WOW! Did we ever think of this day??? Well done, Ms. Jeanie, You rock!

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

That orzo dish sounds great! I think I'll write it down. I'm not a salmon fan, so I'll pass on that, but even the roasted tomatoes are something I would make! How nice it must have been to enjoy a dinner and wine with friends, since you've been so careful for so long. -Jenn

anno said...

mmm.... ginger salmon, roasted tomatos, and spinach/feta/orzo! Wine! Brownies! Friends!

This all sounds wonderful, and a wonderful way to celebrate the return to "normal." There is hope ahead, for all of us...

R's Rue said...

Yum

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

What a wonderful get together with good friends and such good food, Jeanie. And like yourself, I too set out all the ingredients first and clean up in between. Thanks for including information on the foods served.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Your dinner looked delicious and I'm sure it was wonderful being able to enjoy friendship around your dinner table again! We hope to have Easter dinner together as a family, as all of the adults have now been vaccinated. I'm so excited!

Karen said...

I love your china. I'm very fond of salmon and can't wait to try your recipe. I bought some Norwegian wild caught just waiting for a great idea.

Laurie said...

You should write a book on entertaining! You make it all look so seem so easy! It sounds perfect from start to finish! Very happy people in that photo!

Anca said...

Fantastic! Having friends over for dinner after an year of avoiding people must have been amazing. I'm so happy for you. I love the look of the tomatoes.

La Table De Nana said...

Your excitement at having company is palpable!I love your table setting:)I only entertain family now so all my sute sets of 4 and 6 and not really in use..as we are more..But I did love doing this..Happy for you..All the special touches..:

David M. Gascoigne, said...

What a joy it must have been to be able to get together like this, and I have no doubt that a fine time was had by all, and the food sounds quite delicious I must say. We still have this to look forward to, but perhaps it won't be long. Miriam and I had our first shots on Sunday morning, but it will be four months before the second one will be administered. We received the Moderna Vaccine. Restaurants are opening up for patio dining and Miriam and three of her high school friends are gearing up for lunch en plein air. As for me, it's clean up the backyard time!

Penny from Enjoying The Simple Things said...

How wonderful that you could get together with friends for dinner! You meal sounds lovely. I make an Asian salmon dish with soy, sesame oil, orange zest, fresh orange juice and grated ginger. It is cooked in parchment paper.

DUTA said...

The beautiful picture of roasted tomatoes has reminded me that I'm fond of them. The simple things are the best!
Your menu and table arrangements deserve a 10!

Sami said...

How wonderful that you are back to "normal" Jeanie, how wonderful.
Love your dinner set Jeanie!
I also prep all my dishes before a dinner/big party, so I can spend time with the guests.
I love salmon, will have to try your recipe as well as the spinach/orzo salad.
I usually just roast salmon in the oven or fry in a pan without any marinade, just sprinkled with salt and pepper. Just recently we had dinner at a friend's house and they served salmon that had been marinated in lemon juice only and then it was grilled in the barbecue and the marinade makes it taste less oily.

Valerie-Jael said...

Looks like you had great food and a fun party! Hugs, Valerie

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Yay! I bet it was very fun to prep this meal knowing you would share it with friends! I also do the mise en plas approach and I often chop things days ahead of time. It makes meal assembly way easier when evening rolls around. Things like carrots, onions, celery, and peppers keep just fine when diced up. The onions can stink up the fridge but I put some Saran Wrap over them before putting the lid on the glass container and that helps a bit.

The menu looked awesome! So glad you could all be together!

The French Hutch said...

Jeanie, how wonderful you are now vaccinated and and can enjoy having your friends in for dinner. Hopefully, things are slowly returning to normal. Your menu for dinner sounds wonderful and the table setting looks like spring ( I have those plates, love them). Enjoyed your photos, your faces shines with happiness!

Pamela said...

I want to come to your dinner party! What a wonderful normal evening.

Sandra at Maison De Jardin said...

Good morning, Jeanie. How wonderful that you had an evening with good friends and complete with delicious food. Truly, a celebration. It does make one feel better having the COVID vaccination. Our 21 day period will be up on April 2.

Thank you for the recipes they look wonderful. Have a great week!

Joanne Huffman said...

Looks like an absolutely fabulous meal.

Salty Pumpkin Studio said...

Congratulations!

mel said...

So delighted to hear you're all fully jabbed!! (we haven't even started here yet...cue eye-roll lol) What a wonderful novelty is must have been to be able to sit down to eat with your friends. I'm so glad for you. <3 xo

ps. the food looks delish!! Will be scribbling down those recipes.

Anonymous said...

Jeanie, you did good my friend. Looks wonderful and oh, so good. Is it as wonde4rful as it sounds to get back out there? Did you have to drink a lot of wine before hand? I am pretty sure I will when my time comes..Stay well..xxoJudy

Nancy said...

CONGRATULATIONS on being fully vaccinated! It feels so good doesn’t it!
What a lovely meal you had and such wonderful fellowship was had! You are quite the hostess!
Happy Tuesday my friend!

Rita C at Panoply said...

I am so excited for you Jeanie! What a wonderful meal, too! It absolutely made my day to see this post. I want to make your meal, too. I agree with use of mise bowls. I bought a couple small bowls from Fiesta which I use just for this purpose, and have a set of small vintage ramekins which serve the same purpose. Wonderful occasion! Woot woot!

Prims By The Water said...

What a great dinner with friends! Love those bunny plates too! Janice

Pam Richardson said...

Jeanie, your meal sounds so very lovely! I am so happy you were able to enjoy your friends, we all need in person connections. Thanks for sharing your recipes and tips!

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

Congratulations - inviting friends to dinner is wonderful! Your food looks so yummy and I'm made for your bunny plates. The best part of course is being with friends.

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

How absolutely wonderful, Jeanie! I am rejoicing with you! Fully vaccinated friends! Your dinner party looks great. The food, the centerpiece, the dishes and your company surely made for a delightful party. I couldn't agree with you more about your kitchen tips! What a happy post to read.

Linda @ Life and Linda said...

So happy for you. Such a joy to entertain some guests. Your menu sounds delicious. The table is darling.

Angie {North Trail Living} said...

What a beautiful get together-- everything looks wonderful. Also thank you for including the recipes. Look yummy.

Carola Bartz said...

How lovely to finally being able to get together with your friends and have dinner with them INSIDE!!! You dinner sounds delicious, I think I made that spinach/orzo/feta dish once (it was good). I like the marinated salmon, that's something I will try one day.
I always prepare everything before starting to cook - it makes the process of cooking so much easier and more enjoyable as well. I also clean up while cooking, it just comes natural. The only exception is when I cook Chinese food in the wok, because you can't leave the cooking alone.

shoreacres said...

Surely someone in the course of that evening cried, "Free at last, free at last -- great God almighty, we're free at last!" I'm just thrilled for you, and pretty darned impressed with your menu, too. I like salmon, but I'm not very inventive with it. I'm going to try your recipe -- probably the orzo, too.

William Kendall said...

It sounds like you enjoyed yourselves.

eileeninmd said...

Hello Jeanie,

Your dinners sounds lovely. Everything turned out perfect, your were well prepared with your meal and your dinner guest. Love the cute centerpiece! Take care, have a happy day!

Iris Flavia said...

Oh, this sounds soooo ... like fun, so great, so "normal" again!!!
Great selfie!!! I enjoyed this immensly. Fun, free post!

Divers and Sundry said...

Definitely cause for celebration! That salmon marinade sounds delicious. Thanks for these recipes. I'm ready for something a bit different :)

gigi-hawaii said...

Excellent recipes! I have copied them down and will try them out. You all look so happy and what a pretty table setting! Love your blog so much, Jeanie!!!

I need orange said...

How fun you were finally able to do this!

Neither of us is fully vaccinated yet. (I get my second shot this weekend, he just had his first last weekend.)

I'm looking forward to "just" thinking the unmasked who are TOO CLOSE are jerks, rather than thinking they are potentially murderous jerks.

In the first week of March, last year, I had lunch with a friend. I am surely looking forward to being able to do that again!

Sandra Cox said...

How wondrous. Beautiful settings, delicious food and great fellowship. Who could ask for more.
We've been out to eat 3 xs now. The first time in over a year. I was really disgusted last night. We went to a pizza spot we hadn't been at since COVID broke out. NONE of the employees were wearing masks. I won't be going back until COVID is in the rear view mirror.

Evi Erlinda said...

Thank you for great recipes, Jeanie!

My Grama's Soul said...

Wow, what a feast...and your table is so very lovely. Isn't it amazing how a vaccine can change one's life so completely.

Jo

Red Rose Alley said...

So glad you got to have a little dinner party with your friends, Jeanie. All the preparing earlier made it easier for you to visit and have special time together. I'd love to see your Mary Englebreit tea pot sometime. I didn't see it on here. I have her calendar every year. The roasted tomatoes look really good. I'm glad you had a good time, Jeanie. I know how much you missed your get-togethers. : )

~Sheri

My name is Erika. said...

How fun. Isn't it funny how 2 years ago we wouldn't have thought so much about indoor dining with friends, and now it is a big deal. I love the bunny plates too. I am glad you made this event a big celebration. It was much needed (I am guessing) after all this isolation. Your food looks delicious and your table looks beautiful. Hugs-Erika

Julie Briones said...

So happy for your "free" celebration! Congrats!

Curtains in My Tree said...

Wow that all looks lovely especially your bunny plates and of course the food
So glad you had a dinner party

janice

Lowcarb team member said...

Oh what a joyful and scrumptious post :)
Everything sounds wonderful and looks wonderful.
Many thanks for sharing the recipes.
So pleased you had a great time.

All the best Jan

Katie Mansfield said...

I'm so happy for you. We have dinner with friends this Thursday night.

crackercrumblife said...

This looks amazing! That spinach/orzo/feta dish - yum!!! And those rabbit plates!!! I love them. So happy you got to have this dinner party. :)

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