Late January seems like a good time to check in with those New Year’s resolutions – it’s only been three weeks, but it’s amazing how quickly we creep back into the old routines. I wanted to start something new this year, or rather, to restart something that has gone by the wayside for the past 5 years: dinner parties. With all the amazing food inspiration I come across, for some reason I haven’t shared it with friends the way we used to.
We all tend to find excuses and hold off on being a host: once the renovation / house cleaning / new garden / cooking skills have been achieved, THEN we will have the perfect scenario for a get together. Clearly if we wait until that point, all our opportunities for connection would have passed us by. The early dinner parties that Rick and I hosted (all of them fun, in my memories!) were in places that were far from perfect. In our modest first apartment we hosted many dinners created on the tiny 24″ stove and served at our card table, drinking and talking until 3am. I guess everyone was a little more lax back then, as we all had house design goals either in progress or still in the dream phase.
I’d like to get back to that relaxed party phase… what’s the point in waiting? I’m setting a New Year’s goal for myself to host lots more dinner parties, or other casual food affairs, and just have more fun in general. Here’s a recipe to inspire a foodie get together that could be served family style or a little more formal, depending on your mood.
Mixed Greens with marinated carrots, avocado & lime vinaigrette
serves 6 as a first course
3 large handfuls mixed greens – red oak and bibb lettuce
4 carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 handful fresh parsley
juice from 1 lime
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 shallot, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp walnut oil
1 avocado, sliced
crumbled queso fresco cheese
handful roasted salted pepitas (or tamari pepitas)
1. In a mortar, crush the garlic, peppercorns and cumin seeds with salt to make a paste. Add the parsley, and crush until well blended. Whisk in the lime juice, vinegar and shallot, and slowly drizzle in the oils. Taste for seasoning – it shouldn’t be too acidic or pungent from the olive oil.
2. Toss the carrots in 1/2 of the vinaigrette and let stand for 1 hour, or overnight.
3. In a large bowl, arrange the bibb lettuce, carrots, avocado, queso fresco. Dress with the remaining vinaigrette and toss in the pepitas.
This salad would be a great first course to a spread of fajitas, Grilled Chicken or Broiled Fish Tacos, or anything with ancho peppers. It was light and refreshing with a kick of garlic. For dessert this time of year I would go light on sugar, since everyone’s been overloaded by the holidays! Maybe this Black Sticky Gingerbread or this Salt-Kissed Buttermilk Cake from 101 Cookbooks, and a fresh pot of coffee.
Enjoy… with friends!