Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Saturday night with old friends

Tonight was a special evening. Several friends who have been very important over the years, are all going to be in town at the same time, and have agreed to grace our abode. Because it's "what I do," we'll have a fairly fancy dinner. I've cooked many times for all ofthem over the years, but it's been about 5 years since we've seen them, so I'll do a special dinner.

A little over 20 years ago, a group of us met while working at a "major computer component company" in Brisbane, California. Brisbane's a sleepy little hamlet between San Franciso and the Peninsula, overlooking the Bay and Candlestick Park. And this is where our group originally met and became life long friends. It's where our friend Leilani introduced me to my lovely wife. It's where I spent 8 hours a day answering predominantly stupid questions about video boards that are no longer made. Questions that commonly were answered on pages 1 or 2 of the included (hard copy!) product manual. A manual that was likely written by another of our friends. And the board itself contained components that were designed and/or programmed by yet another of our friends ... one who we spent Christmas with this year in Morro Bay. Rare, wonderful, lifelong friends.

After a year in Brisbane, the company moved to Mountain View, which is in the heart of the Silicon Valley. It was here that some lifelong bonds were formed. We had volleyball teams - two of them in fact, due to the fact that so many of us enjoyed the games and AFTER the games at Twin Creeks Park. About 20 of us played on the two teams, and we could always count on about that many "fans" who'd come out to watch and cheer us on. Our teams were so good that we ended up playing each other for the league championship, meaning we took first and second places.

This is also where I got to know my wife, who used to show up for every game and cheer "us" on, then join us for beers in the clubhouse, afterward. It's where we first danced together, and had lots of time to get to know each other.

Dinner started with a bay scallop ceviche, which I served in chilled stainless steel martini glasses.
1 lb of bay scallops

  • 2 "on the vine" organic tomatoes, diced
  • 2 ribs of celery, sliced thin
  • 1/2 a medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, diced
  • 1/2 a bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • teaspoon of Tabasco
  • 1/2 a ripe avocado, sliced thin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Rinse the scallops under cold water, drain.
Combine all the ingredients, stir well, cover in a bowl and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Check the spices / taste, after a couple hours.
Serve in chilled martini glasses, add the avocado at serving, garnish with a couple tortilla chips.

Amuse bouche - Mango sorbet with a sprinkle of lemon zest, lemon twist and mint garnish, served in Chinese soup spoons. I've gotten in to doing this quite often. Little "palate cleansers" between courses, particularly if you're moving from a fish, soup, or salad to a completely different entree. Fun to present, interesting to garnish.

Main course -
- Barbequed beef filets, cut from a full tenderloin section, served with a port wine reduction. Season steaks with salt, pepper, garlic, BBQ 4-5 minutes per side for medium rare. Garnish with a couple criss-crossed chives.

- Risotto - Shallots and garlic sauteed in olive oil, arborio rice, porcini and Italian brown mushrooms, parmesan cheese, white wine or vermouth. Garnish with a crisp round of Reggiano Parmigaiano. (See "Keepers" on lscooks.com)

- Stuffed zucchini. Halve the zucchinis, remove & chop the the centers. In a medium size bowl, combine the chopped zucchini centers, 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, chopped fresh thyme, Italian seasoned bread crumbs, olive oil, salt and pepper. Stuff the zucchinis, place on a cookie sheet on aluminum foil. 350 degrees, 25-30 minutes. Top with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and serve.

Two of our guests brought a variety of wonderful desserts, including lots of decadent chocolate items, which pleased my wife immensely. I've mentioned in early blogs that I'm not a "sweets" eater particularly, but even I had to sample a couple pieces, and they were uniformly awesome.

I do a lot of cooking and entertaining for friends. Pretty much always have. These make for some very memorable occasions, and this night was no exception. Seeing friends after 3, 4, 5 years and it's like you just saw them yesterday, is indeed rare. I hate losing track of people, and make every effort to let people know that they're still in my thoughts, even when life takes them far away. When we lived in Oregon it was sometimes difficult, particularly in the winter, and it added to a feeling of isolation. But if you make the effort, it's well worth your time.

Cherish your friends, let them know they're special to you ... and of course COOK for them!


joanne said...

I absolutely LOVE cooking for friends. It seems so much easier for me to cook up a bunch of delicious eats for a crowd than for just the two of us. Thanks for checking out my blog at applecrumbles.wordpress. You may find that before the end of winter, I'll be posting my experience with your delicious sounding (and looking) minestrone soup.

Larry said...

Thanks Joanne. I love making soups, and as Kathleen wrote in an earlier blog "every soup is a concept, not a recipe." You have the "benefit" of living in a cooler climate so this is the perfect time of year to dive into a fun winter soup. Last year at this time I was living in Bend, OR and I believe it was about 10 degrees out. Today, I'm driving to the beach and it's mid-70's in the Bay Area. Enjoy your minestrone!