Reuben has been away this past week, hanging out with Michelle Obama in Orlando. Sort of. Not really. But kinda. He's attending the AIA National Convention in Orlando, doing architect-y things and got to attend Michelle Obama's first public talk since the inauguration! Am I jealous? YES. He said that Michelle was incredible and so human, which I can totally believe. I can't wait to watch the talk once it's on YouTube! I actually saw her once when my family and I got to go to the Jay Leno show... LOL yes that happened.
As much as I miss Reuben when he is away, it gives me free range of the apartment. I can watch whatever I want and not compete with sports and I can invite all the ladies I want over to dinner. I mentioned in my previous post that I recently accepted a new job. I wanted the opportunity to share a nice meal with the ladies that make my work life enjoyable each day. These are the only decent photos I got of the dinner, IPhone only. But you know what? Sometimes you don't have time to take nice photos of your dinner with your big camera. You gotta sit down, drink your wine, and enjoy your company. I had forgotten how much I love a good dinner party. There are few things that make me happier than cooking food for people I care about. I also remembered how powerful girlfriends can be and how much we can talk! I miss all my girlfriends around the world! Let me cook you food!
I had a few parameters to build my menu on. It had to be gluten free and vegetarian friendly, which is no biggie. Whenever I have dinner parties with guests that have dietary restrictions, an easy way to please everyone is to provide options and allow people to build their own plates. Eating family style is always my preference. I wanted to make the main dish something that everyone could eat - Chickpea and Quinoa Stuffed Eggplants. It is filling, smokey, earthy, and savory. A dish that could stand on it's own! The flavors of the eggplant inspired the rest of the menu and we ended up with a mediterranean feast. I treated the proteins as side dishes, for the ladies to pick and add to their plates as they wished. And had a super bright and refreshing cucumber and tomato salad over hummus. Even though the pitas were not gluten free, everything on the table could have been eaten all together in a snug pita pocket if you wanted to do that. I stuffed everything into a pita for a few bites and I was all 😊 . The dinner ended with one of my new favorite desserts, a lemon almond cake with a dollop of greek yogurt, honey, and pistachios. LORD. It was so good. And gluten free!! I'm a huge fan of low maintenance desserts. I just had to bake the cake and then throw a bunch of tasty stuff on it. Easy peasy.
In between the many bites of food, we gossiped about work, sipped wine, discussed our personal struggles, reminisced about Mary-Kate and Ashley movies, and simply laughed a ton. It was so wonderful, my cheeks still sort of hurt from laughing and smiling so much. So if you're itching to host a dinner party soon, here is an easy and super flavorful menu that will leave everyone with happy bellies. I've listed the whole menu below, some of my recipe sources with notes, and a couple quick and dirty recipes. I prepared some of it on a Tuesday night to make my Wednesday night dinner party much less stressful. You can do it!
Mediterranean Dinner Party Menu
Roasted and Salted Pistachios
Cucumber and Heirloom Tomato Salad over Hummus
Chickpea and Quinoa Stuffed Eggplants
Lemon Almond Cake with Yogurt, Honey, and Pistachios
Cucumber + Heirloom Tomato Salad Over Hummus
Combine 4 cups of chopped cucumbers, 3 cups of chopped mini heirloom tomatoes, and about half a small red onion sliced super thin in a large bowl. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil and add the juice of two lemons. Season with 2 tsp salt, cracked black pepper, and 1 tsp of sumac, adjust seasoning according to taste. Mix up salad and serve over a bed of hummus, about 1.5 cups of hummus will do the trick.
Slice a block of halloumi into 1/4" thick slices. Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a pan over medium high heat. Sear slices of halloumi on each side until golden brown, about 1 minute each side. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and chopped parsley.
Cut 3 chicken breasts in half, creating long thick strips of chicken. In a sealable container, add chicken and drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 2 tsp turmeric, 2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp, cinnamon, 1 tbsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper. Mix until chicken is evenly coated. You can either cook this right away or let it marinate overnight. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet (cast iron preferably) over medium high heat. Add chicken to skillet and sear on one side for 4-5 minutes. Flip and sear for another 3-4 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
Chickpea and Quinoa Stuffed Eggplant
My adjustments : make 3 eggplants, omit the tomatoes, add 1/2 cup of toasted pinenuts, and swap out the couscous with 1 cup of quinoa. Season your filling with cumin, smoked paprika, and salt!
I also made a greek yogurt sauce instead : 3/4 cup of plain greek yogurt, 2 tbsp water, juice of 1 lemon, salt, pepper, and a dash of cayenne. Adjust to taste.
Lemon Almond Cake with Yogurt, Honey, and Pistachios
Source Recipe : http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/almond-cake-366229
I baked the cake in a 9" x 13" pan. Make sure to line it with parchment paper, this cake sticks. Once its cooled, I used a 3" ring mold/biscuit cutter to cut out individual mini cakes. Serve by adding a dollop of plain greek yogurt, a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkling of pistachios.