Friday, August 31, 2007
My favorite part of having company for dinner is setting the table, choosing dishes, staring at the linens for an hour deciding which to use. Okay my favorite 3 parts. And I like wrinkled white, almost sheer linens the best. At least for summer. Even though the mood of our get-togethers is never formal, I just like setting. I was always the setter in our family. Presentation. Presentation. Presentation.
I also like the flower hunt in the yard. With very little time for any gardening this year I resorted to one of my faithful crepe myrtles. She is so trusty. Whether she's dressed in white, autumn red, or scantily clad in bare branches, I can rely on her showiness. In the summer I like to deleaf the part of the branch that will go in the water and let them float instead of tangle. They look happier like that.
We are kind of saying goodbye to summer almost aren't we? It's still really warm but I can hear fall knocking on the door. So I considered our dinner a transition meal that should bid a nice adieu to the sweetness and freshness of summer. Which sounds like I thought about it way hard. But really I didn't. The salad. Mixed field greens, sliced strawberries, honey-roasted sliced almonds, croutons and cubed feta (I don't buy crumbled, I like to cut it myself).
The dressing. We need to talk about this for a minute and our conversation should begin with an apology if you don't live within driving distance to Nashville. Emily's Kitchen Sesame Vinaigrette is so, so, so good. Which should explain the homey looking bottle, inkjet label and the $6.99 price tag. Its just sweet enough, just tart enough, and so mellow I would swear it must have liquor in it. When you put it in your mouth it's like someone just told you you're beautiful. Actually its better than that. It's like someone just told you you're brilliant. It's liquid gold. It was made, served and sold at a favorite lunch spot of mine which ended up closing a few years ago. Then I happened to find it in the refrigerator case at Granny White Market, our neighborhood convenience store. Emily, I don't know who you are, but, thank you.
Alrighty. For dinner. Orzo and chicken with tomato, fresh basil, garlic and lemon.
With fresh cooked tomatoes I am very picky about the skins. I don't like them. I only eat skins when its cold tomato salad. But for fresh tomato sauces, or purees, byebye skin. You know the trick to easy deskinning? Drop them in a bath of boiling water, the one you're about to cook the orzo in. It only takes about 30 secs and those suckers pop, then you can peel off with one swoop. If they're already on a vine, leave them that way, cause its easier to fish them out. And don't worry about the yellowy stained water, it makes the orzo taste better.
In an iron skillet I piled up chopped tomato, tons of chopped fresh basil and garlic, juice of 4 or so lemons, salt, pepper, a spiral of olive oil and about 3 tablespoons of butter. If I'm making it with chicken I add about 1/2 cup whole milk, if I'm making it with fish I add white wine. Meanwhile I am skillet cooking chopped chicken breast which was first doused with salt, pepper, lemon juice, olive oil, dried oregano, dried basil. The cooked orzo is just kinda hangin out back there staying warm.
When the chopped sauce is nice and bubbly, I add some parmesan to make it thicker.
I pour all three components together in a big stainless bowl and toss together. Then taste, and add lemon, salt or parmesan as necessary. You could top with feta.
I am the worst when someone asks for a recipe for anything, because I absolutely never follow one, nor do I measure anything. I'd rather just have you over when I cook. Really. Come on. I can tell you how big the heap was with a hand motion or how tart something should taste with a weird expression on my face, probably. I don't think I'll be writing a cookbook anytime soon, unless someone can follow me around and figure out what I'm doing. That would actually be nice to have anyway. What am I doing?
Dinner was great suppergirls. The conversation even better. Come back soon. And thanks Janna for the lemon icebox pie. I think theres still a sliver of that summer in the fridge.