Charles Siskin: Dinner With Friends

  • Tuesday, March 7, 2023
  • Charles Siskin

The hardest part of planning dinner for friends is being sure we don’t run head long into mucho allergies. Currently the “allergy du jour” is gluten intolerance. I am always amazed when I hear from friends they have been diagnosed with this unfortunate but lifelong disease.

Consequently that means no flour and a gazillion other things. However there are so many substitutes and products now available, as well as little asterisks or stars by items on the menu at restaurants that lets you know this dish is “gluten less”. That is what we call “no worries” cooking/planning.

Regarding our invited dinner guests, I should point out that the last time we had dinner at their home the food was swoonable, i.e. to die for. No, not the one from the 1900’s where a fainting couch was provided. Nope, this was going to be, as they say, a hard act to follow.

But we did after several consultations with the chef that, of course, would be me! We wanted to have seafood, so we chose grilled fresh salmon garnished with shrimp scampi.

But wait, there’s more like they say on those early morning ads on television. We also had sliced tenderloin with a cranberry-honey mustard sauce. So there, you had two entrees that while opposite were compatible which is not always the case in certain relationships.

My wife was in charge of all table décor. I, of course, handled the food. I am always impressed by my wife’s very thoughtful way she wants her table to look.

Well, not exactly as she has this blow up turkey balloon that mysteriously appears each Thanksgiving. It amazes me how this giant bird can hide out all year and then pop up like the bird the president always pardons every Thanksgiving. Frankly I wish he’d let this sucker get wacked. Nevertheless I am reminded that my domain is the kitchen.

Prior to knowing we would be having guests, I did pick up a package of green split peas. Nothing is better on a chilled winter night than a hearty cream of split pea soup. However this particular February night the temp was 65 degrees. We do live in Florida, you know!

So what started out as a simple weeknight supper turned into a 5-course feast beginning with some hors d’oeuvres first before we sat down to eat. Next, once seated, my wife ladled out bowls of creamy split pea soup from our hand painted tureen we brought from Portugal 40 + years ago. Please be aware that I had never to my recollection known the tureen to have been used. Let’s pause and have a shout out for a tureen that had been gathering dust forever.

Next came the entrées. There was the salmon and shrimp and also sliced tenderloin, along with English cucumbers and carrots marinated in honey, brown sugar and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Also I should add that the guests brought several loaves of fresh baked bread so good it made you cancel you calorie count for the occasion.

Finally, my wife’s soon to be famous Flan with fresh berries and whipped cream. All the while we polished off several bottles of white and red wine which the guests so graciously brought to wash down this simple little meal.

Funny how food and wine brings on non-stop conversation. In this case it was the two of us catching up on friends and family back in Chattanooga or as my wife’s T-shirt says, back in “Nooga”.

As our guest departed we promised the next time we meet up will be in Nooga.

* * *

Marinated Carrots
1 package (16 oz) Baby Carrots split
½ cup packed brown sugar (less if you don’t want too sweet)
2 tablespoons honey
¼ cup fresh lemon juice or substitute red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon cinnamon or several cinnamon sticks

Place carrots in pot of bowling water and cook until carrots are soften but still firm enough to split in halves or quarters
Drain carrots and split
Place brown sugar, honey and lemon juice in sauce pan and bring to a boil then reduce to simmer
Add carrots and continue to cook tossing carrots in until well coated.
Turn off heat and let carrots cool in marinade

Use carrots as a side dish warm or cold in a salad or sometimes I add to cole slaw or pasta salad.

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