Friday, July 26, 2013

summer supper {party}


Sadly, two of our oldest friends from Charlotte are moving to Durham.  Every time a friend moves, I make a depressing internal calculation of the hours we'll be watching Netflix instead of hanging out  with said friend. Sigh. At least we're only on season 1 of the West Wing. (There are, like, 9 million seasons!)

We planned a going-away party for them, but since they were also our house guests for the weekend, I wanted a no-muss/fuss party that wouldn't keep us chained to the kitchen all day. The menu we ended up choosing was delicious and came together in a snap.  The house cleaning, on the other hand, was not so snappy.

For decorations, the weekend before the party, I bought a can of chalkboard spraypaint an a bunch of 25 cent wood cutouts from Michael's.  This ended up costing me less than 10 bucks and made adorable labels and menus! Here's what we served: 


The kebabs were so easy.  I think the trick to kebabs is to avoid making beautiful, picture perfect skewers of alternating meat and veggies- just don't do it. You'll end up with medium rare chicken and shrimp that you can bounce off of the ceiling. All of the kebab elements have different cook times, so treat them as such! We bought a big metal basket to throw the veggie chunks in and it works great. We put the shrimp on skewers and grilled them for just a few minutes. And the steak we just cooked regularly, and cubed it up after the fact (cheating!)

For appetizers, we decided to keep it simple and do a cheese plate as well as little shooters of chilled soup.  As you may have realized, I eat more cheese plates than any sane person should and thus registered for an absurd amount of cheese service items for my wedding. Here they all are, in their grand debut: 



Since I had 3 pounds of yellow tomatoes, I decided to make yellow gazpacho for the shooters. Note - it's impossible to find plastic shot glasses so I had to use four ounce plastic cups and they were GIGANTIC. If these were actual shots, you'd be on the floor!  The yellow tomatoes gave the soup a beautiful color… it's hard to believe there is no dairy in this recipe! If you want to try this one at home, this recipe is similar to what I did. I garnished the soup with some sliced red pepper and charred corn kernels. 


My favorite dish of the evening was the panzanella salad.   This is a tuscan salad whose main ingredients are day-old bread and tomatoes. The bread soaks up a delicious vinegary dressing, so it's basically like eating  salad with no lettuce and 8 million croutons (also known as THE BEST SALAD EVER!)

This is my summer obsession, and I use a really simple Ina Garten recipe as my guide. (Confession: I watch her cooking show almost every day at four when I take a snack break. This is why working from home is the best/worst. Also,I want her kitchen).  It's easy to make - you throw all of your ingredients in a bowl: 


Then you add your dressing, toss, cover, and let it sit on the counter for a few hours. It's important not to put the salad in the fridge because that makes the tomatoes have a disgusting texture. Trust me, you can leave it out on the counter for a few hours and be totally fine. 

Here's what the salad looks like after sitting and soaking up the delicious goodness: 


It's always a hit.  I forgot that we had a gluten-free dude at the party, so at the last minute, I made him a little caprese salad. I think everyone was jealous, because let's face it, people go bananas for a caprese salad. 


I grew that basil with my own two hands. And the sun, I guess. And water. Ok, so I had very little to do with it, actually. 


Dessert was simple - a few days before the party, I made strawberry ice cream and cantaloupe-blackberry fro-yo and we put them in store bought ice cream cones (with sprinkles, obvi).  You could, of course, buy store bought to make this a little easier on yourself. Only one man asked for sprinkles. Real men eat sprinkles, yo. 

I was busy getting my scoop on so I didn't actually get a picture of an ice cream cone, but they were adorable! I'd highly recommend buying a professional ice cream scoop for your house. Here's the ice cream scoop I have, but any one that has a blue handle (size 16) should do the trick for perfect ice cream cones.  This scoop is also the perfect size for portioning cupcake batter. 


Finally, here's a picture of the bar and the cute little marshmallow favors. Oh, yes, I made marshmallows and it was a hoot. I'm going to save that for another post, though, because it was a sticky-assed mess. 

My advice for dinner parties is to streamline the bar. I'm a big fan of having one "signature cocktail" (we did Cava and Chambord cocktails!) and then putting out a couple bottles of wine (red and white). People aren't overwhelmed with choices this way, and I don't spend half of sunday scraping muddled mint and maraschino cherry juice off of my counter from the previous night's mixology exploits. 

I think we sent off our friends in style, and the best part was that since the set-up was pretty easy, we were able to enjoy the party with our friends instead of spending it slaving away in the kitchen. 

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