Saturday, May 12

Saturday dinner for friends

Wendy, Mike and their two daughters were over for dinner tonight. Half of their family is vegetarian, so dinner was a series of vegetarian salads. The original plan was to spread out blankets in the backyard and have a picnic, but it had rained in the afternoon and the ground was wet. Besides, the mosquitoes were out in full force.

Here's the menu and my reflections.

Daikon salad with ruby grapefruit and orange segments with a hint of maple. Yeah, the maple was more like a 'sniff' then a hint. The citrus juice overpowered the small amount of syrup I added. I also didn't want to overmix this because it had taken me a while to segment the citrus and I didn't want to break it up. Maybe the maple wasn't mixed in enough.

Orzo and broccoli salad with goat's milk feta. I put out a couple of homemade dressings - sundried tomato, oil and vinegar - and each person could help themselves. As one of the kids pointed out, I probably should have dressed the salad ahead of time as the flavour of the orzo would have benefited. The motivation for me was that the salad will keep longer if undressed.

Napa slaw with 8 vegetables and chipotle sauce. Yummy. I don't usually make slaw but for some reason was inspired tonight. The chipotle dressing was spicy - we would have liked spicier but I erred on the conservative side for guests. It turns out that for these friends, the spicier the better :)

Grilled asparagus polenta with parmesan. Good salty flavour without being grainy which is a problem with some polentas. The asparagus didn't have a strong enough presence for me in this dish. Next time I'll try a different vegetable.

Wendy and Mike brought over dessert: strawberry shortcakes with cream. Mmmmm...these were delicious. The shortcakes had the perfect texture, with the right balance of softness and crispness. Wendy informed me the strawberries were marinated in lemon juice, and the cream was a sort-of custard made with eggs and more lemon. Note to self: strawberry and lemon is an unexpected yet delicious pairing.


  1. The meal was fantastic. I have a few ideas regarding your concerns...

    1. Maple? Really? Hmmm... This salad was the biggest surprise of the meal for me. It was so fresh and light. If there were more, I would have had a big bowl as a dessert.

    2. I think the Orzo was my favorite. Had two helpings -- one with the sundried tomato dressing and one with just a little olive oil. Both were great. I found the broccoli and feta to be more than enough flavour to manage without dressing

    3. The slaw was wonderful and light (No mayo-drenched guilt). I had it with balsamic vinegar and oil.

    4. I used the chipolte sauce on the polenta which added the needed zing. Two helpings. I only stopped because of dessert.

    You worried about the asparagus standing out? If you wanted another idea, I would try grilling the asparagus first with garlic, balsamic vinegar (or lemon) and a little pepper.

    5. Strawberry shortcake. Mmmmmm.

  2. Thanks for the comment :)

    Regarding the polenta, the original plan was to serve it with a reduced tomato sauce, but I ran out of time, so I dressed it up with the asparagus. You're right about it needing some zing.

    I did grill the asparagus ahead but just with olive oil and salt - the stronger flavours you suggest would have been a better choice.

    Having said all that, I think the polenta was my favourite dinner dish. When Ian wakes up, I'll ask him what his fave was.