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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Healthy(ish) dinner with friends!

A while back a few of us decided to start an impromptu Friday Night Dinner Club... simply because on Fridays we were exhausted from the work week but still needed to eat - why not do it together over wine!  Some of us had kids so if we just all stayed in at one house and cooked dinner and drank wine and caught up, it would be a really fun night. Due to my career change, I end up doing a lot of the cooking (happily, I might add) while the others bring wine or help chop vegetables or clean up. On these nights our group ranged in size from 2-8 people.  Of course after a number of weeks, a few of us would end up busy or on vacation or have some other good excuse and we ended up putting the FNDC on hiatus for a short time.

Last night we started up again, a small group of three, we made such a delicious meal found on the NY Times food column a couple of weeks back.  Our dinner was based on the recipe for Spicy Quinoa, Cucumber and Tomato Salad.  I made some changes to the original recipe based on items we had on hand and limited the spice because this would be a leftover lunch for my friend's toddler the next day. The recipe I made follows.

If you are wondering "what the heck is farro?" this blog does a good job of discussing and also provides another great recipe to try. 

Farro Salad with Cucumber and Tomato

1 cup farro, rinsed
3 cups water
Salt to taste
2 cups diced cucumber
1/2 small red onion, finely minced (optional)
2 cups finely diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 avocado, sliced, for garnish

1. Boil 3 cups of salted water then add rinsed farro.  Bring back to a boil then lower flame to simmer, partially covered for 20-25 minutes (depending on consistency - we liked our slightly chewy, not mushy).  Drain and set aside covered.

2. Meanwhile, place the finely diced cucumber in a colander, and sprinkle with salt. Toss and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Rinse the cucumber with cold water, and drain on paper towels. If using the onion, place in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit for five minutes, then drain, rinse with cold water and drain on paper towels.

3. Combine the tomatoes, vinegar, lime juice, spices and olive oil in a bowl. Add the cucumber and onion, season to taste with salt, and add the farro. Toss together, and taste and adjust seasonings. Serve garnished with sliced avocado. The dish can be swerved warm, cold or room temperature.
Although this dish turned out to be delicious, I would definitely add fresh herbs and maybe some feta cheese next time.  The original recipe had it right by using cilantro and jalapeno for a little kick.  My version of the recipe ended up becoming greek in flavor with the addition of dried oregano.  Even with the changes we gobbled this up!  I thought the colors were beautiful and also that this dish would be great to bring to a picnic since you can eat it at any temperature.

For dessert I served yummy Puff Pastry cups filled with fresh fruit and a fresh whipped cream with mascarpone and a little sugar.  This is another dish that could be brought on a picnic or made ahead.  Make the puff pastry ahead of time and wrap in tin foil, then keep the berries and whipped cream mixture cold until serving. Every dish was empty when we were done and we were all content and happy.  The wine may have helped that, too.

Thanks to M for hosting and C for bringing the lovely wine.  All in all a good night.  Now what will we make next time?

Do you ever meet up with friends specifically to cook dinner together?  It's a fun way to catch up for those of us who have busy lives.  Each person can bring a different dish or different ingredients.  For those who aren't self proclaimed chefs, you can bring a gourmet store bought dessert or wine.  If you have any Supper Club dinner recipes to share, please do so here!

Chow for Now!  :)

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