Amy, Dwayne, Libby and I did a long, slow dinner last night.
It's been my experience the past few years that doing dinner has meant arriving, sitting down for a drink and warm-up conversation, sitting down to eat, clearing the table, and regrouping for a cookie and a sitcom before wrapping up. Total time? Maybe two hours, probably less. It's a rather minor investment in time.
My guests arrived around 6:00 last night, and we sat down to appetizers. There was a bit of a warming-up period, as Libby had not yet met Amy and Dwayne. After maybe an hour and a half, we sat down to dinner. After clearing and doing a partial clean-up, we moved on to dessert, and everyone moved on a little before midnight.
That's how dinner's meant to be done.
I'm presenting you these recipes as ingredients lists and preparation instructions. I do my measurements by taste, and I do my cooking by feel, so you'll have to have some confidence in the kitchen to follow these.
There were two eggplant appetizers, medallions and babaganouj.
Fresh mozzarella cheese
You need to give yourself some pre-prep time for this. Slice the eggplant, and place it on a paper towel. Lightly salt it, and cover it with another paper towel. Let it sit for about 45 minutes. This draws out some of the liquid.
Bake the eggplant for about half an hour, then let it cool to room temperature.
On a serving tray, lay out slices of eggplant. Cover with balsamic vinegar. Top each slice of eggplant with a slice of tomato, a slice of mozzarella, and a leaf of basil.
Roasted red peppers
Purée everything in a blender. Serve cold with crackers or bread (we used Triscuits).
Served with two beers: Hennepin and Three Philosophers.
Dinner included a salad, topped salmon, asparagus and rice. It was paired with a 2007 Lindemann's Bin 65 Chardonnay. We decided universally the wine was mediocre, and we're not recommending it.
Mixed spring greens
Dressing: Balsamic vinegar, honey, oregano, basil
Sauté Atlantic salmon filets in apricot nectar, Guinness, brown sugar and cinnamon. Top with topping (below).
Sauté chopped Cortland apples, walnuts, onions and raisins in butter and cinnamon.
Steam asparagus stalks in water seasoned with oregano and cloves.
Season brown rice with masala spices (usually a combination of cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and others).
Libby did dessert, Armagnac-prune-chocolate cakes topped with Armagnac whipped cream and Armagnac-soaked prunes. You'll have to watch
Dessert was served with American Honey, a bourbon-based, honey-flavored aperitif.