A Dinner Party For Three

For years it has been my ultimate dream to bring good friends together over an exquisite meal for good times, conversation, and laughter. This past Thursday, I did just that with two of my good friends, Melissa and Carolotta (who just so happen to be fellow scholars in communication! Which means I found the magical intersection of my three favorite things: friends, food, and communication...aka I could use as much comm vernacular as I wanted all day long). When Melissa first introduced me to Carolotta in October, we hit it off immediately, and somehow the topic of food came up. Melissa and I had been talking about cooking together for a while, but hadn't made any concrete plans yet. We began discussing my diet and looking through Melissa's pantry as I explained which of its contents I could and couldn't eat, the hidden truths I've discovered over the past six months in food labels, and the fascinating nature of food sensitivities. Melissa reminded me of the cooking date we hadn't had, and I responded with the idea of having a dinner party for the three of us. From there, my brain went wild thinking of the entire evening: we would cook a three course meal with autumnal notes and flavors in each dish. In true Leigh fashion, I spent the next few days concocting a menu for our dinner party, which looked a little something like this:

 

Hors D'œuvres:

Cucumber Salmon Sliders with Balsamic Red Pepper Hummus

Entrée:

Ribeye Steak with Acorn Squash Purée

Potato Medley

Dessert:

Peach Sorbet

 

It may not look like much, but when all was said and done, we had quite a meal with enough leftovers for our pre-Halloween party the next day. And had a blast with all of our dinner prep.

The evening started with a little Beyoncé and a lot of dancing. Which is always a good idea. And popcorn. How could I forget the perfect snack for literally every situation? We began the cooking process with the natural first step: the hors d'œuvres. While the rosemary-herbed salmon and the bell peppers were roasting away in the oven, we continued dancing around the house to Queen Bey's songs. We had 20 minutes to kill, so why not spend them with the Queen?

Once the salmon and bell peppers were done, I got to work on the hummus. I had made the recipe once before and discovered the added richness of balsamic vinegar (one of my favorites in the kitchen; then again, I do say that about almost everything), but hadn't written down the recipe, so I went with the general gist of normal roasted red pepper hummus and added some vinegar to taste while Melissa and Carolotta set to cutting the cucumbers for the base.

Cucumber Salmon Sliders with Balsamic Red Pepper Hummus:

  • 1-2 large cucumbers
  • balsamic red pepper hummus
  • rosemary salmon

For the Salmon:

  • 8 oz. cooked salmon
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400 and prepare the salmon filets with the above ingredients
  2. Cook for 20 minutes on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, or until cooked through to medium. Allow to cool before moving on to the construction phase

Balsamic Red Pepper Hummus:

  • 1 16-oz can garbanzo beans
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 Tbsp sunflower seed butter (or use tahini for a more classic hummus taste)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, or to taste
  • 1 clove garlic
  • salt, to taste
  1. Cut the bell pepper in half and place facedown on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and place in the oven with the salmon, roasting until the skin begins to separate from the flesh and begins to blacken a bit
  2. Remove the pepper from the oven and place in a ceramic bowl, placing a lid on top for 10-20 minutes. This allows the pepper's skin to separate for easier peeling
  3. Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, adjusting measurements to your desired taste. Add more vinegar and lemon juice for tangier finish or more sunflower butter for a creamier hummus

Slider Construction:

  • 1-2 large cucumbers
  • balsamic red pepper hummus
  • rosemary salmon
  1. Slice the cucumbers into 1/4 inch slices and place on a large platter
  2. Scoop approximately a 1 tsp dollop of hummus onto each slice of cucumber
  3. Tear apart the salmon flakes and top off each slice
  4. Place in refrigerator

Once the hors d'œuvres were ready to go, we placed them in the fridge to set and cool off while we got to prepping the next portion of the meal: the peach sorbet for dessert. Melissa had bought some peaches from the farmer's market a while back, and not having used them yet, she sliced each in half and stored them in the freezer for future use. When she told me about it, I was completely ecstatic. She and I had made peanut butter banana ice cream (to die for!!!) waaaaaaaaay back in July (seriously, how is it November?), and I had been dying to make other kinds of fruit sorbet, but simply hadn't because life happens and I forgot and lost the intentionality to make anything of the sort. And I am somehow too lazy to put frozen fruit in my blender (but really...I have about 10 frozen bananas in my freezer and need to use them up before I move out, so maybe I'll celebrate this week with some ice cream). But back to business! I'd been looking forward to this for almost two months, so it is needless to say that I was very excited to finally make the sorbet, not to mention to reintegrate peaches into my diet. Plus the recipe and method are both extremely easy...

Peach Sorbet:

  • 12 peaches, halved and frozen
  • raspberries
  1. Thaw the peaches enough to separate each half and blend in a food processor until smooth
  2. Place in freezer until ~1 hour before serving (because the sorbet is so water-based, it will be very hard to get out - trust me, we learned the hard way - so make sure it thaws a tiny bit before serving)
  3. Top with raspberries to serve

After the sorbet was taken care of, we got to work on the most exciting part of the meal: the entrée. Initially, I'd planned on roasting the acorn squash with the potato medley, but decided (very) last minute (aka when the squash was halfway done) to purée it with garlic and fresh rosemary to make a unique, autumnal sauce for the steak. This was perhaps my favorite part of the meal: using fresh rosemary from the bush outside my sunroom at home for a fun, fall-esque take on a dish that can really be eaten any time of the year. It was also my favorite part of the process, because Melissa, Carolotta, and I set off the fire alarm in the making.

First, we began roasting the acorn squash and potato medley and then began cooking the ribeye on the stovetop about halfway through the roasting process. Being rather unskilled at my kitchen timing (I always finish everything at discrepant times), I actually managed to get the purée, steak, and potato medley done at the same time. I think it was a kitchen miracle! While Melissa and I had been struggling to get the sorbet to blend together without burning out the motor on her bougie food processor (which might disappear with me to Colorado...) Carolotta did the great honors of cutting the sweet potato, an equally frustrating process.

Potato Medley:

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 5 small russet potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 400
  2. Chop the sweet potatoes into 1-inch cubes and russet potatoes into long slivers, and dice the onion
  3. Cut two equal-sized rectangles of aluminum foil, placing one atop the other
  4. Place the diced potatoes and onions onto the foil and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and the rosemary
  5. Wrap the outer edges of the foil around the medley until it resembles a metallic calzone and place in the oven for 60-80 minutes, or whenever the potatoes are tender

Acorn Squash Purée:

  • 1 medium acorn squash
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  1. Cut the acorn squash in half and remove the seeds
  2. Place facedown on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and roast for an hour at 400
  3. Chop the garlic 
  4. Melt butter in a skillet over low heat and add the chopped garlic and rosemary; sauté until lightly caramelized and fragrant, about 5 minutes
  5. Scoop the roasted squash into a food processor and add the caramelized garlic, blending until smooth
  6. Cut the base of the empty squash shell so it sits flat on a dish and ladle the purée into the shell - it makes for a festive serving bowl!

Ribeye Steak:

  • 1.5 lbs ribeye steak
  • kosher salt
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 stick butter
  1. Marinade the raw meat with kosher salt for at least an hour; the longer the better
  2. Preheat a cast iron skillet with olive oil until you can see wisps of smoke rising from the skillet
  3. Place the steak on the skillet and sear each side well, making sure to limit the number of times you flip the steak, since the meat will lose a bit of flavor each time it is flipped
  4. Don't set off the fire alarm with the steam from the stovetop (our big mistake...which led to clothes that still smelled like meat a couple days later before doing laundry)
  5. Add 1/4 stick of butter on top of each cut of steak to add some extra flavor in the last few minutes of cooking
  6. Let sit for approximately 10 minutes to let the juices settle before serving your "luscious" steak
  7. Serve with acorn squash purée to complete the autumnal flavorings

Once all the plates were prepared, we set the table with our first two courses and, before harming the aesthetic of the meal, took a couple (more like a dozen) photographs and selfies to document our monumental feat of creating such an exquisite meal.

Over dinner, we discussed a wide variety of subjects, not limited to our Halloween costume ideas for the Comm Graduates Party the following night. Though I am not one of the grads, Melissa and Carolotta invited me as their plus one, and laughed about going as Com Theory puns. In true Leigh fashion, I wanted to go as an onion, because Social Penetration Theory. In the end we decided to go as the men in tights from Robin Hood: Men In Tights because "you've got to be a real man to wear tights" and "we're butch!" Overall, it was a fantastic evening of cooking, laughing, eating, and talking, and well exceeded my expectations for my first dinner party. I can confidently say I am ready to take on a lifetime of dinner parties with good friends.