Dinner Time!

Dinner is often on my mind. Well, food in general. But it’s become an obsession now that I’ve endured a 14 day quarantine while in Los Angeles and another 10 days following my return to Amsterdam. It’s time to party!

Don’t worry, though. We’ll be entertaining dinner guests in a COVID conform fashion only. That means, as of today, no more than 6 guests in the house with an appropriate amount of social distancing.

I can do that. In fact, I can do it a lot. Here are the menus and some recipes for my 3 dinner parties this week.

Dinner #1

Our first dinner guests are a Dutch-American couple, just like me and my husband. They’re also political junkies. Beth actually got out of bed at 3am every night to watch the Democratic National Convention. It seems fitting, then, to kick off the national election season with an all-American menu. Corn on the cob, potato salad and a hunk of meat on the grill.

Many rain storms later, barbecue sounds like a terrible idea. But I have a recipe from The New York Times: Ribs, primal and perfected. Who could resist? It’s not even that much work for me since my husband mans the grill. The BBQ sauce blends sweet, sour and spicy. Yum!

BBQ dinner
The morning after. Photo credit: Karen Kao

For dessert, I go to my trusted baking source, The Perfect Loaf. I make a sourdough galette with a peach, blueberry and lavender filling. No pastry is complete without a little homemade vanilla ice cream on the side.

Before you can say Republican National Convention, the food on the table is gone. I mean, all of it. It goes so fast I don’t have a chance to take the obligatory shot of my food. So all I have to show you for dinner party #1 is the morning after.

Happy Birthday

Dinner party #2 is to celebrate my husband’s birthday. His idea of a celebratory menu always involves meat. But I’ve got a son who’s a social vegetarian. In fact, I suspect he likes it when meat is on the menu because he does miss the taste. But his girlfriend is more principled than he is. Fish shall take the starring role in this birthday meal.

Birthday dinner
Crayfish risotto. Photo credit: Paul Verhagen

Luckily, I have another son who’s worked in a Michelin kitchen. A risotto made from crayfish, peas and dill? No problem. He roasts the crayfish shells to extract all their taste. Then he simmers the shells to transform them into a broth. I can’t give you a recipe because he’s making it up. My house smells divine.

All I have to do is fill in the blanks. A main course of salmon seared on the grill with salsa verde (slightly tweaked to include some preserved lemons). A lovely salad of wilted beet greens, seared beets, walnuts and feta from Vegetable Literacy. My dessert comes all the way from Australia: a cardemom panna cotta with rose water syrup and pistachio praline.

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

In a few more days, I’ll be cooking for dinner party #3. The reason this time will be sad. Good friends are leaving Amsterdam for the wilds of London. So this will be a meal of memories.

I’ve chosen Japan as our menu focus. Some of the dishes are staples from our trip around the world: raw silken tofu served with a bit of soy, grated ginger and finely minced scallion; cold spinach dressed in sesame oil; and buta no kakuni – braised pork belly Japanese style.

Japanese dinner
Chawanmushi. Photo credit: Karen Kao

Other dishes will be experiments. For example, I’ve been inundated by our local CSA with radishes and summer turnips. I’ve decided to pickle those the way the Japanese do. But the real challenge will be the chawanmushi, a savory egg custard. We had it in Kanazawa made from snow crab. Can I replicate that unctuousness?

To close out our meal, I can think of no better dessert than matcha ice cream. My matcha comes from Ippodo, the famous tea store in Kyoto. Matcha ice cream is a little sweet, a little bitter and evergreen. A fitting end to this week’s series of dinner parties.