Monday, September 03, 2007

A Week of Dinner Parties!

One night last week, I caved in and made one of my favorite tomato-season indulgences: a "Vicolo" corn meal pizza crust with garlic, olive oil, fresh basil, and piles of juicy ripe tomatoes. Oh, it is so so so good. I could eat it every night. But that wouldn't be healthy now, would it? Sigh. I could just eat it for a whole week, and tell you all that my camera was broken or something like that. But then, that wouldn't be healthy OR honest. I'll just have to enjoy it when I can!! :)

This is an especially beautiful rainbow salad that I made for us last week. I had to include it! The little orange & yellow cherry tomatoes are from our garden. Fun!

Dinner Party #1: Italian Night!
Last week our wonderful friends Fabrizio & Pasquale came over. They are both Italian astronomers who work with my dad and spend some portion of each year over here. Fabrizio and I get together pretty often when he's around, so that I can practice speaking Italian (which I speak reasonably well... but not nearly as well as I once did). We came up with a plan for them to come over and make pasta and then watch an Italian DVD together. It was a great night.

This picture does not do justice to the incredible yumminess of this pasta. It was made with olive oil, a small amount of onion, a LOT of cherry tomatoes from the garden, a can of Muir Glen tomato sauce, and a big pile of fresh basil from the garden. It was not what Fabrizio had initially envisioned - but it was very very good. Something about the cherry tomatoes made the sauce SO creamy. It was amazing. You could have sworn that it was full of cream.

It was so fun being in the kitchen with them - all speaking in Italian and joking about the pasta and its evolution. Would it be good or not??? Since things were evolving away from expectations, this was the big question. Italians are so delightfully specific about their pasta - and in the end it was delicious & we gobbled it all up. Fabrizio needn't have worried!

Here, Pasquale is serving up some steaming piles of pasta! Mmmm. Don't worry, we also had a big salad with dinner.

For dessert, I made this ****incredible**** melon sorbet. You know, there are a lot of vegan blogs out there these days - and it's always fun when you learn about a new one. One of my new favorites is the Urban Housewife. It's not 100% vegan, but she's fun to read and has some great ideas - including this one. I followed her recipe, but made a double batch and we had some incredible sorbet. I used a nice flavorful melon from the farmers market... sorry I don't remember what variety it was. We were all crazy about this yumminess. I can't wait to try it with all sorts of fruits.

Dinner Party #2: Mexi-feast!

Our super fun cousins were in town from North Carolina, and so we had a big family dinner party. So fun. They made a bunch of enchiladas - accomodating everyone's needs (some vegan, some with cheese, none with salt, some without spinach for my grandparents... so sweet). I was too busy eating, and forgot to document all the eats, but I did capture a pretty photo of the fresh Pico de Gallo salsa that I made. oooooh, I love homemade salsa.

Dinner Party #3: Labor Day Barbecue!

We had our patio redone this summer, and yesterday we got some really beautiful patio furniture. We got it at a neat place here in Santa Cruz, called Greenspace. They have all eco-friendly design/interior/home building supplies. The people there are super friendly and very helpful. We got a beautiful table & 4 chairs and a little side table - all made out of sustainably grown and harvested hardwoods. It's really well made and was SO much less expensive than everything else we looked at. Good for the earth AND the pocketbook!

So, we had a fun late afternoon bbq to celebrate. Lately, we are into small parties. As Musty put it, "small enough that everyone can be a part of the same conversation." It's nice because you are actually relaxed, and you get to visit with everyone - instead of running around refilling bowls of baby carrots or whatever. It's also fun to carefully pick small groups of friends that you think will enjoy each other's company.

Bell peppers & eggplants from the farmers market - ready for the grill

Here they are, on the grill!

Today's party was just wonderful- great warm weather, great company and super delicious food. One small oddity - our backyard (actually the whole house) is currently COVERED in little caterpillars. It's a long story, but the warm weather has lead to a serious bumper crop of Oak Moths. Now that they have *COMPLETELY* decimated the two giant oak trees in our neighbors' yard, they are crawling across our patio, and our driveway, and our clothing - in search of more oak trees to eat. They are kind of cute, but we all had to be careful about not sitting on them, and were constantly removing them from each other's clothing. Ha! Like little grooming monkeys.

I made the yummy Chicago Diner Veggie Burgers, from a Vegetarian Times article earlier in the summer. I made the stuff last night, so that they would have time to mix the flavors, and to get a bit more sticky for patty-making. The recipe says to make 8 patties, but that is just absurd. I made 14, and they were a good size. First you bake them, and then grill them on tinfoil. I'm not sure why, but I'm not complaining either - they turned out Great! Everyone loved them!

My mom brought along this delicious Baby Potato & Green Bean Salad. It's so delicious. It's from that great cookbook called "Vegan Mediterranean." Not sure exactly what it's called in there.

Of course there was corn on the cob from the Farmer's Market. 5 for $2.00! Organic & delish.

Here are the burger fixin's that I prepared. All from the farmers market - except for the beautiful and scrumptious golden tomato, which was from our very own front yard. Yeah!
Also, you can't really see it, but my friend Sandy gave me this gorgeous Polish serving dish last weekend and I love it. Thanks Sandy! xo

My aunt Laura brought along a colorful and delicious quinoa salad - full of veggies & flavors.

Here's Musty - grinnin' like a fool! You can see our pretty table and a couple of our new chairs (along with one of our old folding chairs). It was quite a spread!

I am a Half-Bun Person. I only use half of the bun, and then I use the burger as the top bun. Otherwise I get full so quickly. Why would I want to fill up on buns, when I could fill up on corn, potato salad, summer squash with cumin salad, and grilled veggies?? Oh yeah - it was a great dinner!
For dessert? Of course I had to make another batch of Urban Housewife's summery melon sorbet! This time it was EVEN BETTER. I used some sort of special melon - on the outside it looked like a cantaloupe, but inside was a beautiful light green & the flavor was like a very sweet honeydew. It was a great, refreshing treat.

They don't necessarily go great together- but I've also got a tree full of ripe apples, and there was 1 batch of pie crust in the freezer left over from when I made my blackberry pie a couple of weeks ago. I didn't have enough for a covered pie - so I decided on a galette. I picked about 8-10 apples, washed them, peeled them, and then cut out all the wormy bits - which is no small task. We've got great apples, but the bugs like them too. The galette turned out absolutely amazing!

This recipe is basically from the Joy of Cooking

1 batch of pie crust
8-10 apples, peeled, sliced 1/4 - 1/2 inch wedges
2 T Earth Balance margarine
3/4 cup sugar (I used Rapadura -yum!)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Roll out the crust into a big circle. It does not have to be perfect. Carefully transfer it to a large cooking tray lined with parchment paper. Set aside.

Heat the Earth Balance in a large skillet, until it's sizzling. Add the apples & stir it all up. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes until soft. Add the cinnamon, lemon juice, and sugar, stir around and cook until the sugar is dissolved.

Carefully spoon it into the center of the rolled out crust, leaving about 3 inches around the edge. Fold the edges in and let them overlap. If you have more juices in the skillet, spoon some over the apples.

Cook until the crust is golden. Sorry, I didn't look how long I cooked it for - I just kept checking. Maybe 20-30 minutes?

Lastly! I have posted pictures in the past of our cat Yummers gobbling up his veggies - well today I took a cute little movie of him enjoying Laurie's leftover corn cob. Corn is one of his all star most favorite foods... Look at him go!


  1. Anonymous6:00 AM

    What a great post! rainbow salad and the other are totally beautiful!

    thanks for the link!

  2. I love that rainbow salad - so pretty and fun! :)

  3. That pizza looks so delicious, and I love your rainbow salads!
    Your dinner parties all looked like good food and good company.
    I recently discovered the urban housewife blog as well and have all her yummy sorbets bookmarked. Can't wait to get around to trying them. Your melon sorbet looks superb.

  4. everything looks delicious and very summery! i love those cornmeal crusts too--haven't had one in forever, maybe i'll need to revisit them. i can't wait to try the melon sorbet too, that looks perfect.

  5. oh my, that pizza looks divine!! is there vegan "cheese" under the tomatoes? I can't tell... if so, which brand do you use?

    your rainbow salad is absolutely stunning!! how fun, that you got to incorporate fresh tomatoes from your garden!

    the pasta, sorbet, Chicago Diner "burgers," farmer's market vegetables, quinoa salad, and galette (thanks for sharing the recipe!) look incredible as well.

    you never cease to amaze me with your posts, always filled with an abundance of mouth-watering dishes!! :0)

  6. whoa! i am mad impressed with everything in this post. you got skills!

  7. Yummers is hilarious!
    Loving all the food, as usual. You always make me wish I had an ice cream maker for all the cool frozen treats you make! I'm loving that first photo of the pizza.

  8. LOL, what a cute cat! I love your sorbets and salads! They look supreme!

  9. I have never seen a cat eat corn on the cob - that was great!

    I can't believe what a wonderful garden you have. I would give anything if just one product would grow in my yard! And your new furniture sounds so nice.

    I love all your grilled goodies and tell your mom potatoes and green beans are right up there with broccoli! Your Italian party sounds like it was a lot of fun and the pasta looks wonderful.

    I do have a baking recommendation for when your gluten free friend comes to visit. Buy some brown rice flour from the bulk bin and splurge on Bob's Red Mill (that's my personal favorite) gluten free baking mix. Make any of your favorite muffins or snack cakes substituting 2 parts rice flour and one part mix for the wheat flour. The gf flours tend to be a little grainy, although delicious!, so bananas or any pureed fruit really works nicely.

    I enjoyed this post so much, Amey! Oh, almost forgot to tell you - Austin had "Free Day of Yoga" on Monday. Free classes all over town all day long, so Chase and I went to our first one together. Fun!

  10. I am *SO* excited you made sorbet & even more excited you loved it! Thanks for the shout out! Let's hope that someday my blog will be 100% vegan (so close!).

    There's SO many gorgeous foods in this post! I love the rainbow salad, corn on the cob, quinoa salad, & the galette! yum yum! I would love a tree full of apples!

    Now I'm really looking forward to a Bay Area blogger potluck. I love the small party atmosphere as well!

  11. You need anotehr dinner guest to help you manage all that food, don't you?

    Yumemrs is so cute. My older cat used to love corn, too, but Bossa Nova shows no interest.

  12. Anonymous4:05 PM

    wow. it's still 4pm and i'm hungry for dinner after checking out your post! what a beautiful collection of vegan delights!

  13. So much great food, and fun company that I don't know where to begin. How cool that you speak Italian and were able to use it with friends at a little dinner party. And your labor day feast is making me hungry! I like the idea of a small gathering- so much more personal and homey.

    Boy and I super jealous of your luscious garden tomatoes!


  14. Back again to answer your spelt question. Spelt is NOT gluten free, just a wheat alternative.

  15. All your food looks so fresh and colourful. I'm sure it tasted great too!

    I love the rainbow salad- what a cool idea. Too bad there aren't any blue veggies... :)

  16. All your food looks so good! I added you to my blogroll :)

  17. So many wonderful colorful dishes!

  18. a kitty-cat eating corn! That is the cutest thing ever! Yummers name was well chosen. Wow, Amey, if you ever need another guest to fill an eco-friendly chair at a dinner party... I'm yer girl! Each of your dinner parties looked fabulous.

  19. Amey! I'm so excited! I just joined The Boise Vegan Potluck Meetup Group!!!!! My first vegan potluck is next month. Thanks so much for sharing this great resource. You rock, girlfriend!!! :)

  20. Anonymous8:42 PM

    We always give one half of a corn cob to our dog, Noble, and we save little bits on our own cobs for our cat Bailey. It's so cute watching them nibble the kernals off. You'd think that such a big dog like Noble would try to eat the whole thing but it's very rare that he bites off more than the kernals and I think that's accidental.

    As always, beautiful and inspirational meals.

  21. Ooh, I want a rainbow salad too! I love fun food. Everything else looks delicious too (as always) especially the sorbet. I've never had a melon one, so I'll definitely give that a go.
    Also, your cat has the best name ever.

  22. What great fresh meals. I love your rainbow salads - I am far too lazy and impatient to do that myself though!

    Like you, I am becoming a 'half-a-bun' person too.

    And your galette is so rustic and beautiful.


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