A Dinner Party

My kitchen is noisy and bustling during a dinner party. I’m usually running my ice cream machine, which is obnoxiously loud, and since I’m kind of a control freak I don’t relegate many tasks to my guests save for maybe washing dishes or stirring a pot. Hence, I end up standing over the stove alone reducing a sauce while trying to simultaneously throw together a salad and keep the mess to a minimum while my guests sit in the living room laughing and sharing stories that I can barely hear. But as I toss a final pinch of salt into this, a squeeze of lemon to that, and pull down a stack of plates from the cabinet, something changes. My guests line up for plates and cutlery and for those first few bites, there is silence. I love that silence. It’s my favorite moment of the night, because I know that whatever I was missing out on, whatever hilarious story I didn’t get to hear because the timer was going off and I was distracted, only happened because I invited everyone over to share this meal. And this meal is good. After everyone has tasted all the aspects of their dish, a few compliments or questions ensue. “What spices are in this, they’re amazing!” “How do you get chicken this tender?” Or, my favorite, an unintelligible declaration of deliciousness, “Mmmthithithawthommme.”

I love throwing dinner parties, food is meant to be shared. It’s a necessary part of our lives both nutritionally and socially. So I’ve decided to start a monthly column on the small get-togethers I have. I’ll post the menu I’ve created, which will probably be themed in some way, and share a recipe or two along with some photographic highlights from the evening. I hope these posts inspire my readers to cook up a big meal for their friends and family, and to recognize how wonderful it is to sit down to dinner with people you love.

For the first edition of this series, I’ve gone with a vaguely Moroccan theme. The menu ended up being slightly different that what is shown here due to buffalo milk shortages and a last-minute cancellation from the guest in charge of watermelon delivery, but otherwise it was spot on. We were celebrating quite a few occasions this evening; the ice cream was a belated welcome home present to a friend returning from Croatia, some lovely folks were visiting from Portland, and one of my favorite people suddenly moved back to the city after traveling all over Canada and the Bahamas for the past two years. All-in-all, it was a joyous night and everyone left well-fed and content.

Moroccan Pasta Salad
serves 10

1 lb orecchiette pasta
2 preserved lemons, flesh removed and minced
2 c pitted olives, I used Castelvetrano
1/2 c capers
2 shallots, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 c good quality olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric

Cook pasta according to package, drain, and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, infuse the olive oil with the garlic by heating on medium until garlic is a light golden color. When pasta is cooled, combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss well. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover and let marinate for at least a half hour or up to eight.