Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Saturday Dinner

I had friends over for dinner on Saturday. It's the first time I've invited people over in a bit over a month, and in that month I've had several good meals with friends: we made gyoza once, and we had a chicken dinner with all the trimmings another time. So I felt it was my turn.

We started with bread and tomatoes, steamed asparagus, and salad. Winnie handled the asparagus, which she peeled before steaming. I had never thought of peeling asparagus before, which is perhaps unsurprising given that half the time I'm too lazy to peel the stickers off apples and pears before I eat them. But there must be something to the peeling, because Winnie's asparagus was much more tender than mine usually is. The salad was Tracy's contribution, and it was also delicious: besides the greens and onions, there were steamed eggplant slices (Japanese eggplant, I think) and sweet toasted walnuts. Mike and Tracy brought a vinagrette dressing with them, but I don't remember using it. A little salt for the eggplant was all I needed.

Next came a white bean soup. I don't think I'd made white bean soup since last winter, but it's a recipe I really like. I use recipe in the loosest sense, of course: the soup consisted of some ham, onion, bell peppers, celery, white beans, carrots, and seasonings, but I did not carefully measure the proportions. I remember that there were two cans of beans and two bay leaves, and that it was salty, but no more than that. You can't make the same soup twice, anyhow, any more than you can step in the same river twice; even if you follow a recipe, the character of the batch of ingredients will change the flavor. McDonald's has found a partial solution to this problem: bleach all the natural flavor from the food and then add it back in the form of flavoring additives (see Fast Food Nation). For my part, I like the variety.

The main course was polenta and chicken. I baked the chicken ahead of time, then spread it over rounds of polenta cut from a roll. I made a spicy tomato sauce to spread over top of that -- just an ordinary sort of sauce (tomatoes, onions, peppers) with a little jalapeno kick -- and then added a layer of fresh sweet basil. I topped the whole thing with cheese and baked it in the oven for half an hour at 350. Oh, it was good! It was filling, too, and I still have enough polenta left over for a few lunches.

We waited a while for dessert, which was fruit salad. It was an ordinary sort of fruit salad, with apples, oranges, bananas, and nectarines. But Winnie added some lime juice to the apples to keep them from browning, and then I drizzled everything with a mixture of cranberry juice and orange juice, and so the salad had a little extra sweet-sour taste. Even if we hadn't done that, though, what's not to like about fruit salad?

Ah, food. Ah, friends. Ah, leftovers!

  • Currently drinking: Gen mai cha