Good Food

Friday, August 27, 2010

Three rules (and recipe links) for hosting an August dinner party

Late August harvest (tomatoes! corn! peaches!) provides the perfect excuse for a farmstand-inspired dinner party. For hosting and recipe inspiration, we turned to our Slow Food guru Jerusha Klemperer who hosts with the whimsy of Amy Sedaris and cooks with the same experimental joy as Mark Bittman. Jerusha created this delicious play-by-play for Well+Good readers.

A perfectly prepared Lamb Persillade

1. Use something fabulous you already have lying around. Examples include:

  • That bag of fancy pasta you saw once and just couldn’t resist and then left it in your cupboard for 5 months
  • Some dried porcini your friend brought back from Italy and you’ve only used half the package
  • A jar of homemade tomato sauce from last summer
  • A leg of lamb from the farmers market that has been taking up valuable freezer space

I possess all of these things. For this evening, I went with the lamb. And then I dug up a Mark Bittman recipe (because of my next rule).

2. Try something entirely new

Awed silence fell over the table during the corn chowder course

I have a tendency to make the same old thing over and over.  For example, during asparagus season I toss the spears with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast them.  Over and over and over.  Mostly because this is a preparation I adore and it requires no recipe and no forethought.  I decided to make new preparations of everything for my dinner party so that I would have a learning experience as well.  Some people advise test-driving recipes before serving to guests.  Some people also recommend doing test runs to the airport five days before your flight so you know how long it will take.  Some people are crazy.  Experiments are fun and if the food doesn’t turn out you can always order pizza.

So instead of just boiling ears of corn or making a corn salad, I went to a favorite site of mine, Food52 and found a rich, spicy corn chowder recipe.

It has bacon and cream in it—though I used less jalapeno and less cream than the recipe called for.  I know this is a wellness site, but even health nuts need full fat sometimes.

3. Eat seasonally. Especially if it’s August.

Jerusha served the lemon zesty zucchini pancakes with a yogurt sauce

I tell you to eat seasonally all the time, but at dinner parties it is especially important because you want everyone to be impressed.  And season’s peak food is so damn good you don’t have to do very much to look like a Dan Barber rockstar.

I decided that the meal would feature corn, peaches, tomatoes and zucchini.

So the final line-up was:

  • Zucchini pancakes: Lemony and light. Also from Food52 (I typed in “zucchini”). I skipped the the part about drying the zucchini with paper towels to get the moisture out. I should have listened to them.
  • Corn chowder: Outstanding. Worth the burn I got on my fingers chopping poblanos and jalapenos. A wonderful special occasion food.
  • Heirloom tomatoes: In August I see no reason to do anything other than slice ‘em, drizzle with killer olive oil and sprinkle with salt (Maldon is great for this). Thanks to one of my guests for saying “I have a lot of tomatoes, should I bring them?”
  • Lamb Persillade: Excellent, simple. Required a food processor for the parsley paste.
  • Peaches: I thought I would make a more elaborate something out of the peaches but I ran out of time.  N.b. peaches take a few days to ripen, and since I shopped the morning of the party, I asked the farmer if they had any extra ripe ones.  She directed me towards the “seconds” bin which was uber cheap and full of amazing peaches that just needed a few soft spots cut away. I sliced them into half moons.
  • Mint chocolate chip frozen yogurt: Well + Good editor Alexia made this using Total Greek yogurt. It was amazing. Another example of a generous offer from a guest. Take people up on their offers!

We drank lots of Prosecco, we bantered, we chuckled, we listened to tunes. If there had been leftovers I would have sent them home with my guests, but, alas, we ate almost every single bite!

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