Saturday, August 11, 2012

Dinner with friends

When two of my favorite people in the world called to let me know that they were in town and available for dinner, I was beyond excited. While I was coming off a super-hectic week without much time to get to the store.... I still wanted to host them at our house instead of being rushed in a restaurant on a Friday night. SO.... I put together a quick, healthy meal from a quick trip to the Turnip Truck, and took some shortcuts for appetizers with things I had on hand.


By the pool snacks:

Chilled Shrimp with cocktail sauce

Hummus with veggies and chips


Avocado Toast

Salad of baby lettuces, herbs and romaine, red onion, cucumber and feta

Pasta with slow roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic

Since I knew that wine was going to be an important part of the evening, I made sure to have chilled white on hand and a couple fantastic bottles of red (never opened since they brought their own). We ended up enjoying Pinot Grigio/ Pelligrino spritzers to start, and then moved on to enjoy basil-infused vodka cocktails prior to 'proper' glasses of red wine with dinner. The guys indulged in a special edition of Jack Daniels for a post dinner cocktail, which definitely made the conversation more interesting.

Dinner was served family style-- no flowers or table setting elegance. Just comfortable seating with easy access to the food.


One loaf of Provence 7 grain bread, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces. (you will only use half the loaf for this, the rest will be used for salad croutons)
2 ripe avocados, diced
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic
Olive oil
Sea salt

The toast in a grill pan prior to going into the oven.
The finished product-- messy but incredibly delicious! 

Place the toast on a grill pan on the top rack of the oven while you are preheating for the tomatoes (below). Leave in for about 10 minutes, or until bread is crisp and slightly browned. Once removed, rub each slice with a clove of garlic (I rub each one twice as the bread soaks it up). Place avocado on bread, sprinkle salt/red pepper and lightly spray (yes, I put my best olive oil in a spray bottle for the best distribution) with the oil. Let sit until guests arrive and put back into oven at 200 degrees for about 10 minutes to combine flavors and soften. 


3 cups baby lettuces
1 bunch roughly torn Romaine lettuce
1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced

1 small red onion thinly sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
fresh croutons
lime/basalmic dressing*

For dressing: (this is one of my favorites, taken (almost) straight from Gwyneth's book)

2 TSBP balsamic vinegar
2 TBSP light agave nectar
3 tsp fresh lime juice
1/4 cup + 2 TBSP good olive oil
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp course sea salt

Whisk all ingredients together and keep at room temperature until ready to toss with salad mixture at the table.

For croutons-- use remainder of 7 grain bread, cube into 1/4 inch pieces and place in a cast iron skillet, spray with olive oil, sprinkle a light covering of garlic salt and lightly toss. Put into the oven as the toast pieces are cooking, and they will come out perfectly crisp. Once cooled, put into the lettuce blend. 

Cubed bread tossed with oil and spice prior to going into the oven.

The most amazing salad. I made enough for 8 and barely had enough to feed 4
-everyone loved it. The croutons were a huge hit.

Much going on at the stove at once. Patience and multi-tasking definitely required.
But,  this whole dinner took me a total of 45 minutes-- including the chopping of garlic and avocados! 


2 pints fresh, ripe cherry tomatoes
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
12 oz dry thin spaghetti
1/3 cup olive oil
1 bunch fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1tsp freshly ground black pepper
1.5 TBSP course sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Bring a large pot of water with 1 TBSP salt to boil and add spaghetti. While it cooks, place tomatoes, sliced garlic and 2 TBSP of the olive oil into a bowl and toss well, transfer to a baking pan and place in oven for approximately 20 minutes (until fruits are bursting). Remove cooked pasta at about 10 minutes, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Strain in a colander. Put the reserved liquid with the remaining olive oil into a small sauce pan.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and combine with strained pasta in original pasta cooking pan (it should still be warm). Take tomato and garlic mixture out of the oven, add to pasta and toss well with remaining salt and ground pepper. Top with basil leaves and cheese. Serve slightly warm.

What is your favorite go-to meal for easy entertaining? I would love to hear? Place your comment here - the best suggestion will be rewarded with a collection of fab cookbooks from THE SOUTHERN SOPHISTICATE!


  1. Since my husband and I bought our first house last year, I've been bitten by the entertaining bug! My favorite go-to meal always includes Sister Schubert's rolls that are kept in my freezer (I brush a little butter, sea salt, and rosemary on right after they come from the oven so it looks like I did them myself, ha!). Appetizers are easy because I put a block of cream cheese on a pretty plate and pour a jar of candied jalapeños from Third Coast ( on top. I love them and keep a couple of jars on hand for this exact reason! Just serve with crackers, which I also try and keep on hand. Main meal is usually a recipe I know by heart and simple to make: Salmon w/fresh dill, herbs de provence, and covered w/whole grain mustard. Bake for 20 mins, then done! A quick salad w/any and all veggies I have on hand and a green - usually roasted - veggie as a healthy, tasty side. Served with great wine and lively conversation :) Love your blog!

  2. Lindsay- thanks so much for the tip. I have girlfriends coming for the evening on Thursday and am going to totally make your cream cheese creation for them. They will love it!!

  3. This looks awesome! You embody multi-tasking success and I KNOW they loved your new beautiful home!! I am definitely making the Avocado Toast! Drew will LOVE it!!