Dinner with Friends! (…there’s bacon in this one!)

…a Rotating Dinner Party….

Sharing a meal with family and friends is one of my favourite things to do!  My husband and I are part of a group of five couples who have been friends since university days (and a few of them are friends from high school).  Through all the changes life brings, the core of this group has remained friends for over 40 years. Many years ago, this group set up regular dinner parties every few months where one couple hosts, and the others bring contributions to the dinner.  The hosting couple provides the main meal and the other couples bring either, appetizers, salad, soup or dessert. Since everyone is focusing only on one dish, each course is usually a gastronomic event, and there is always tons of food…and, of course, laughter.

At the last dinner party, my husband and I signed up to bring salad.  One of my favourite salads to make is Caesar salad with dressing made from scratch.  The recipe I use is one that I received from one of my aunts many, many years ago. It is yummy and always gets tons of compliments from everyone.  And, unlike my two previous posts, this is a time for bacon!  I can eat tons of this salad at one sitting! What I love about it is the freshness of the ingredients and how they combine together. It is simple to make because there is not a lot of chopping and you can make the dressing the day before, or the morning before you need it.  Romaine lettuce, cooked bacon, croutons and dressing are all you need. Sometimes I make my own bread croutons and I love when I have time to do that! If not, I purchase a good quality crouton with no additives and simple ingredients. I don’t flavour the croutons very much because the Caesar dressing has all the flavour you need.  IMG-1915

Another option for croutons is to make chickpea croutons.  This is a great substitution if you have diners that need a gluten-free option.  I first tasted chickpea croutons a few years ago in a Caesar salad at a local restaurant and was surprised at how they crumbled just like a bread crouton.  

I’ve made a few attempts to make my own and they are getting better, but I still need to experiment and refine the recipe. My niece, A, who I’ve written about on this blog, sent me a few ideas to try, so you may see this recipe posted in a future entry once it’s perfected!

Try out this delicious Caesar recipe, you won’t be disappointed!  Everyone at our dinner party enjoyed it very much. As I mentioned, these dinner parties are full of great food and because the dates are set once a year a few months apart, they are a great way to ensure that the group gets connected regularly.  Everyone enjoys the parties very much. Although hosting a dinner party for 10 might seem onerous, this one is definitely manageable because the hosts only need to focus on the main dish, and all the other courses are provided by the other couples.

It’s always fun to see what people make and the food is always delicious.  Our hosts for this dinner were C and G. They are wonderful hosts and enjoy cooking and eating very much. If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you’ll know that I’ve asked some of my friends and family to let me know if they have a favourite cookbook and why they like it. Our host, G, provided this information about his favourite cookbook, Just Add Shoyu  – A Culinary Journey of Japanese Canadian Cooking:  “This hardcover cookbook takes me home to cooking my mother and grandmother made.  Food for the eyes, our body and soul. The true umami taste of food is in every recipe.  There are beautiful colour photos on every recipe.  This book was written by members of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre”. 

Please feel free to leave a reply to share your ideas on stress free group get togethers or your favourite cookbook.  Try out the Caesar recipe!  Happy cooking and be well!

Friday Night Favourites

For many of us Friday night signals the end of the weekly routine and a chance to do things differently than you’ve been doing all week. Maybe you’re going out for dinner, getting takeout and meeting friends for drinks, or ordering pizza for the family and watching movies. It’s all good, as you lessen the work responsibilities and focus a little on time for being with family and friends more intensely for a few days.

My husband and I both had very busy jobs and often worked long hours, so we looked forward to ordering pizza Friday nights and having a glass of wine as we tried to let go of the busy week and think about what we might do on the weekend. This routine worked really well for us for many years. A couple of years ago my work location changed and I was only 10 minutes from home. This shortened my commute considerably, so I was home earlier in the evening and found myself with more energy on Friday nights. This enabled me to return to thinking about planning favourite Friday night meals that my Mom used to make that were simple, delicious, quick, and different from what we were eating during the week. In a future blog post, I’ll feature a bunch of my Mom’s kid friendly Friday night favourites.

One of the things my Mom and Dad loved to eat on Friday nights was Vermicelli all ’aglio e olio often with anchovies. I would never eat it as a kid, but as an adult I have come to enjoy a similar dish – Linguine Vongole (Pasta with Clam sauce).  It’s a quick and easy recipe and tastes and looks fancy, so you can serve it for company too.  This is a great example of what I mean when I say simple at-home dishes can have a gourmet taste and feel.  You can use fresh clams for this too, but the canned baby clams are very good and easy to keep on hand to satisfy your craving for this classic Italian dish.

linguine with clams
Linguine con Vongole in Bianco

The recipe I use is from my favourite cookbook –  Recipes from Pasquale’s Kitchen, published in 1984 by Doubleday Canada.  I have a number of cookbooks that I enjoy very much, but this one got me into cooking in my early 20’s. Pasquale Carpino was a chef we used to watch on Tele Domenica on CFCF-TV in Montreal in the 80’s and 90’s. He was entertaining and seemed to really enjoy cooking, and was one of Canada’s first celebrity chefs.  He sang Italian Opera songs while he cooked, and his food looked delicious! I’m a big believer in the idea that when you cook with love and happiness the meal will always turn out well (or you’ll think of a way to recover it!). Here’s a picture of the book… … Continue reading