It's entertaining season again...yes, I know the holidays are past, when most folks do their partying, but that is a non-stop time of work for me. The cold, desolate winter months are when I most enjoy having friends over for dinner and we do it on an almost weekly basis. When I plan these dinner parties I normally start with a clean slate: looking thru cookbooks and my pile of clipped recipes for ideas, making a grocery list and then shopping, cleaning, setting a pretty table, and cooking. It's my favorite winter sport.
On a recent Sunday evening we hosted our good friends Debby and Paul, both musicians, and I decided to do things a little differently. Having just come thru a rather pricey Christmas and with a wedding coming up in August I wanted to see how little money I could spend and still serve up a marvelous meal. So I took stock of the freezer and cupboard and went to the store for only 4 items, which amounted to a mere $15. Here's the menu, and how I did it:
Appetizers: A small chunk of Jarlsburg, found in the fridge, with crackers from who knows when (but still fresh), some leftover kalamata olives, and smoked mussels that I purchased to serve at Christmas but never did.
Main dish: Pasta sauce from the freezer, with ground beef, served over colorful bowtie pasta.
Salad: Generously contributed by Debbie.
A loaf of whole grain artisan bread.
Dessert: Pecan pie, made with nuts from Texas given to us by my Aunt Dot. (for recipe see No. 10, Rx for the Winter Blahs)
Wine: An Australian Malbec, in stock, so to speak.
This was a stick-to-your ribs winter supper and I'm happy to report that I have enough sauce in the freezer for 2 more company dinners. A note about the pasta sauce: in August, when our tomatoes are at their peak, we gather them for several days, filling the fridge with baskets and baskets of them. I then make a sauce, loosely following the Italian Tomato Sauce recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook and using as much produce from the garden and farmers market as possible. This includes lots of onions, garlic, herbs and zucchini.
Ragu? Paul Newman? Barilla? Sorry...you don't stand a chance.