Love People. Cook Them Tasty Food.
There’s a magnet hanging on my fridge that reads, “Love people. Cook them tasty food.” Cooking is one of my favorite ways to show love. Sometimes it’s the only thing I can think of to do to help. Be it in the form of a meal for new parents, a birthday dinner with homemade chili, or a girls night with homemade pizza.
It’s by far my favorite thing to do when gathering with loved ones. Cook together. Eat together. Break bread.
My husband, Tim, and I live far from both of our families. But, the community that we have come to be a part of has become a wonderful stand-in. We gather together to celebrate the moments that life brings us. The good, the bad, the in-between. We gather together around food.
A dinner party on our lawn is a regular occurrence. Our house is tiny and without a proper dining space (we usually just eat on the couch). As it often happens, we might gather first in the kitchen. Then once the food is ready, we make our way outdoors. Tim will have lights strung and music playing. He does hand lettering, so there may be place cards painstakingly drawn. There are drinks on the vintage table that we found online. The dining table, usually borrowed from one of the guests, or stolen from under our computer, might be covered with a tablecloth that once belonged to my Oma. It’s topped with mismatched china that I’ve collected over the years, silverware that belonged to Tim’s grandma, and centerpieces that are really just plants from our yard.
We gather our community together. There’s usually too much talking and laughing going on for me to tell them what’s for dinner. An introvert, I feel uncomfortable trying to get everyone to focus on me. Eventually, they’ll pause long enough for me to tell them what we’re having and who made it, if I wasn’t the only cook. My favorite is when people bring something that’s special to them – Tiramisu made by a friend’s mom who was in town from Italy, Corn Pudding that another grew up eating, a cake from someone’s favorite cookbook… We share our lives through food.
We may have already nibbled on this Artichoke Heart Dip‘s creamy, salty, deliciousness as drinks were poured, hugs shared, and something finished up at the last minute. The prefect bite to tide everyone over until the main course. Artichoke leaves are the ideal dunking tools, as are crackers, corn chips, and raw veggies (carrots, celery, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower…).
It’s vegetarian, but could be topped with crispy, crumbled bacon. It could also be made vegan by using silken tofu instead of the ricotta and Greek yogurt. Think of it like a Hummus alternative. There are chickpeas, olive oil, and garlic, but no tahini. Instead there’s that creamy cheese and yogurt. It can be made the day before your dinner party, so the day-of all it will need is a stir.
Once everyone’s seated, out comes the main course. Family style is my favorite – passing food around the table brings back memories of dinners growing up. Chard Wraps with Quinoa and Walnuts are a healthy, nutritious addition to any menu. They’re packed with protein because they’ve got both quinoa and nuts. They’re vegan, but they don’t have to be – you could add a dollop of butter and even add in some of your favorite ground meat (I think beef would be fabulous). They’re not too complicated – the filling is cooked up, then rolled up in the chard leaves. Quick, easy, ready for your loved ones to enjoy.
To compliment the wraps, I might serve Roasted Carrots with Honey and Almonds. They’re topped with a plomp of ricotta and a squeeze of lemon for an earthy, bright, creamy dish that feels like it could tell a story. It’s simple and rustic. A dish for the ages.
Carrots are sliced and roasted. Partway through their roasting time they’re tossed with honey, garlic, and almonds. Sweet, sticky, and garlicky. Serve them with a wedge of lemon so each guest can add the finishing touch to their own dish.
Alongside the carrots and the wraps one might find a Simple Green Salad and some French Baguettes with salted butter. Either because I just can’t resist a good baguette, or because I like to take the phrase “breaking bread” literally.
An Apricot and Black Pepper Galette is a beautifully rustic dessert. It’s perfect on its own, but if you’re so inclined, a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream would just be divine.
The galette can be made regardless of the time of year. Apricots can be replaced with berries or other stone fruit, or in the cooler months, persimmons, apples, or pears would be just right. A sweet, flaky, perfect ending to a meal.
At our dinner parties on the lawn, I typically spend a bit of time running back and forth from the kitchen to the table. But, I really don’t mind. The food is my expression of love for our community. And it gives me a chance to pause at the kitchen window and look out at our loved ones as they enjoy being together. It usually brings tears of gratitude to my eyes as I hear the sweet laughter, think of the moments being shared, and the memories being made. Like the songwriter Sara Groves says, “I’ll take every moment, and every minute that you’ll give me.”
Your dinner party will be one of a kind. Because it’s hosted by you, with recipes tweaked to suit your tastes and ideas. Your community is like none other. Your home, your table, your centerpiece unique. As you sit back, savoring that last bite of galette, let your eyes scan the faces around the table. Drink it in. The beauty of the moment, the taste of the food, the sweetness of the company.
Loving these people. Cooking them tasty food. That’s what we celebrate, even when there’s nothing special on the calendar.