I’m fairly certain my mother never once said to a friend, on the spur of the moment, “why don’t you stay for dinner?” She was the type of cook who planned and polished. She like to have everything in place before inviting anyone over the share a meal. How then did her elder daughter come to enjoy impromptu entertaining? Who knows (or cares), but the truth stands that my favorite type of gathering is a completely spontaneous one. Back in the life we had before our kids played fall and spring sports, we would often decide at 4:30 on a Saturday to invite friends to share dinner. We would just as often get a similar “come on over” call from a neighbor, and off we’d go carrying along whatever we had ready to contribute.
I know time tends to enhance memories, but I’m pretty certain that these unplanned gatherings were at least as good as, if not better than, any to which we gave forethought. They were more comfortable and relaxed, not weighed down by expectations. We made everything from macaroni and cheese to tamales, depending upon what we had on hand. Sometimes the kids would put on a show to entertain; sometimes they’d just run wild outside until the ice cream was served.
I was thinking about planned versus impromptu dining last night at Barnes & Noble as I leafed through The Kinfolk Table, the newly published cookbook from Kinfolk magazine. It is a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful book. Even if you’re not a cook (you know who you are), you should at least take a look at it next time you’re in the bookstore. Note to Ida Laerke’s Instagram fans: she’s in the book, if you need more enticement to check it out.
In between the weekly chore of making dinner and the intermittent investment of hosting planned parties live those small, intimate gatherings of friends old and young. Playdates. Cocktails on the porch. Hamburgers on the grill. Shared leftovers by a fire on the first cold day of the year. Friends. Food. Don’t wait to share either with the other, even if your house isn’t tidy or your floors mopped.
Week of November 4| 2013
Butternut squash soufflés | Green salad | Buttermilk cornbread
I prefer savory preparation of butternut squash, and I’m always looking for new suggestions. Here’s one that looks like a winner, so we’ll give it a try this week. I’m also going to give a second try to this buttermilk cornbread recipe after its Halloween debut. I added a pinch of sugar and baked it in a cast iron skillet. Round the plate with tender leaves of drunken woman lettuce from the farmers market. Yes, for real.
|Farm Plate, II
Roasted Root Vegetables | Rice | Pears & Arugula
There are many great recipes for preparing roasted root vegetables, which are plentiful around here this time of year. For more tips on preparing them, try Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food. To go along with the vegetables we’ll have Lundberg’s Wild Rice Blend, which is nutty and a bit sweet. Finish with pears, served over arugula for the non-children.
|Pasta Alla Norma | Sautéed Broccolini
I’ve been trying to find a way to sneak the eggplant into a dinner before the eggplant have to go to the compost heap. This recipe from Mark Bittman looks like it might do the trick, as long as I can prepare everything before anyone in my house sees the ingredients. Wish me luck.
|Slow Cooker Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Along with the plentiful squash and root vegetables at the market this week were some stunning fresh lettuces. Instead of having salad at each dinner, however, I thought we might try something different and make lettuce wraps – another family favorite. Here’s a new slow cooker recipe that looks similar to the non-slow cooker versions I’ve made in the past. Try it with me, and we’ll compare notes.
| Grilled Cheese | Apple, Pecan, Blue Cheese Salad
Dark nights need comfort food, and grilled cheese fits that bill every time. My children like cheddar, Bernard likes provolone, and I like goat cheese. The people who use their manners may also get bacon. To go with the sandwiches I’ll make a salad with apple, roasted pecans, dried cherries, blue cheese and some greens.