Friday, September 11, 2009

I'm back - and a birthday dinner!

Sorry for the absence. It's been a crazy, transitional last few weeks! The bf was accepted to law school this past spring, and just started orientation and classes mid-August. He actually moved out of Boston to attend school, so the last few weeks have been a bit of an adjustment in our relationship (don't worry -- things are great!) and my cooking habits.

I feel like I'm settling back into a routine. It's good...
I actually leave Saturday morning for Las Vegas - for business, but there will be great eats - and I have some posts in the works for when I return!!

One of the positives to my bf's transition to school is that he is living at home with his mom. The kitchen in her house is absolutely stocked. His mother is one hell of a cook. She has every spice imaginable. There are also several cast iron skillets, a HUGE Le Crueset enamel dutch oven....and pantry staples galore. I told Rafe that we could probably get away with never shopping on the weekends and just create meals entirely from the cupboards. In any event, I can rest assured that they are prepared for a natural disaster....

His mom has also declared that I have free reign in her kitchen, and if I am interested in cooking on the weekends to just shoot her an email with a grocery list and she'll pick up whatever I long as she can join us for dinner. Fine by me! I seriously cannot wait for super-cold weather so I can use the dutch oven and make some braised meat....short ribs? Osso Bucco? I'm pumped.

Our first foray into the kitchen however would not be enlisting the help of the bf's mother. It was instead intended to be a gift. It was the bf's mom's birthday and we decided to cook dinner for her, since she has always cooks for us. (Or takes us to great restaurants - she has a knack for finding great places to dine).

Whenever we go out to dinner she almost always orders a fish dish - so we decided to make that our protein. I found a really good recipe for salmon from 'serious eats' dinner tonight selection here. It sounded simple and quick, yet delicious. Then we got to thinking about a starch and veggie...and decided an orzo salad would be good. Our inspiration came from 101 cookbooks, but I'll post the recipe below because we ended up changing it entirely...

The birthday girl wanted to hit up a flick after dinner - so in order to keep a tight schedule we split up the tasks in the kitchen. Rafe worked on the orzo salad, while I worked on the salmon. We collaborated and tasted each other's work along the way, and had a few pre-dinner cocktails of course!

I started by working on the vinaigrette for the fish. I reduced the orange juice in a small saucepan, then mixed the remaining ingredients together. I only used about 2/3's of the oil that the recipe called for....I stopped because the dressing looked like it was getting rather oily already, and we both stopped to taste it and thought it was we left the rest of the oil out.

Then I chopped some parsley - some for the fish, some for the orzo salad.

Doesn't the Salmon look pretty all dressed for the oven? Just salt, pepper and fresh parsley. It was pouring rain so instead of grilling the salmon - we broiled it. nobody felt like braving the elements...and the broiler was much quicker than preparing the weber.

The orzo salad below is very simple, and the dressing absolutely makes it. The measurements are approximations.

Orzo Salad
1 cup orzo
1/2 cup cherry/grape tomatoes
1/4 cup kalamata olives
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup steamed broccoli
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
splash of red wine vinegar
(go easy on the salt - or salt to taste the feta and olives provide a lot of briny flavor)

Just cook up the orzo in boiling water according to package directions. Add the broccoli to steam in the last few minutes of cooking and drain everything together. Put the orzo and broccoli in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients.
Mix the dressing and pour over the salad and toss!!

Here is a picture of the finished plate. We added some steamed asparagus to our plates as well. Dinner was delicious, and we followed up our meal with a 'make your own sundae' bar. A couple flavors of premium ice cream, caramel, hot fudge, and nuts for topping!

Dinner was an absolute success! The birthday girl and her boyfriend loved having dinner made for them and told us they felt like teenagers after having dinner made for them and then leaving for a date while the bf and I stayed home. We also decided that this was our first official dinner party that we had catered together. I think we set the bar high!


  1. I can't wait to make short ribs and osso buco too!!

    That was such a thoughtful idea. I love your menu as well.

    I recently made dinner for my boyfriend's mother (she just had hip replacement surgery), and she had mentioned she hadn't had coq au vin in a while, so I made that. It was fun to make and nice knowing I was doing something for someone else!

  2. The salmon looks great. I love salmon.