As you may have seen from my previous blog, Rick and I spent Labor weekend in Montreal and Quebec City. On our last night, our very generous friends, Imma and Chris, invited us over for dinner. And by dinner, I mean feast. And by feast, I mean crudites, chips and guacamole, Greek cheese bread (I’m sure there is a fancy Greek word for it, but I don’t know it), nuts, salad, spinach and shrimp in a tomato sauce, olives, chicken, steaks on the grill, vegetables, wine..ahem, decanted wine that breathed for an hour before we drank it. Fruit and tiramisu. Two servings of tiramisu for me (I didn’t want to hurt the grandmother’s feelings when she offered me another piece. Okay, I lied. It was insanely delicious and I couldn’t resist the temptation). Cigars. After dinner drinks. Unbutton pants (oh come on, you know you’ve done it). This wonderful couple, the hosts with the mosts, know how to have a “Labor Day BBQ.” Is your mouth watering? Good. I asked Imma how she learned to cook and how she finds the time. She is a wife, mother of two sons, she has a career and the list goes on. Well, first, she’s Italian. So naturally cooking and food is in her blood. Second, she said when you have kids, you want to cook for them and you want to feed them healthy but delicious food. Oh yeah, right, I thought. Of course. Just whip up a 5 course meal no problem. This lady has mad cooking and hospitality skills!
My conversation with her got me thinking about my mom, who also has Italian in her. My mom is a wife, a mother of two [adorable, smart, funny, talented…sarcastic] girls, a clean freak, a queen of organization and a career woman. She worked a full-time job my entire life and still does. And guess what? She had dinner on the table at 5pm every single night of my childhood. She would prep on Sundays, come home during lunch to prep more and when we heard her gray Pontiac drive up at about 5pm, we knew it was time for dinner. She didn’t complain. She enjoyed doing it (or at least had us fooled into thinking she did). And two things stick out for me regarding our family dinners. First, hand washing and drying the dishes every single night with my sister (I grew up sans a dishwasher, obviously). I would do ANYTHING to get out of this. And literally my mom never budged. Occasionally my dad would fold and dry a few dishes, but that was a rarity. Second, when my mom says dinner is at 5pm, dinner is at 5pm. If you are late, you might as well cry your way into the house because one thing my mother could not stand was ill punctuality, ESPECIALLY after she had worked 8 hours and prepared our meals with love in her ‘free’ time. I think I can count on one hand how many times I was late for dinner in 18 years. And believe you me, I can still smell the fear of facing my mom and dad coming in even 5 minutes past 5pm.
Between the “Labor Day BBQ” (I use quotes because it was more like a 5 star dining experience than a typical hamburger hotdog BBQ) in Montreal and taking a hike down dinner memory lane at the Bennington household circa 1990, I was craving the housewife domestication this week. And while times are different today and Rick and I dine out often or have evening obligations, there is a very nostalgic feeling and sense of pride in taking the lessons and gifts I learned from my mom and using them as an adult. And so, I share with my 2011 dinner-at-home experience from yesterday.
12:25pm – Text to Rick “Honey can I make dinner tonight? I can have it ready when u get home. Okay?”
1:54pm – Text from Rick “Sure…I will be home at 8:30pm at the latest.
1:54pm (note the punctuality) -Text to Rick “Okay!! Xoxo.”
5:40pm – Ann leaves the office, takes cab to Jewel to buy groceries. Her plan is to replicate a meal she recently had in Saugatuck as it was delicious, healthy and turnkey. Special thanks to Cathrin Bowtell for her amazing recipes!
6:15pm – Ann gets home and starts prepping
7:05pm – Ann goes to gym (and indulges in US Weekly and Minute to Win It on TV)
7:45pm – Ann begins cooking
8:15pm – Cooking is done, table is set, Ann is hungry
8:17pm – Text to Rick “Are you on ur way home honey?” Rick responds yes immediately.
8:38pm – Text to Rick “Honey where r u…” (purposely omitting rest of text as I have committed to my blog being PG/PG13)
8:39pm – Text from Rick “I’m home”
8:39pm – Text to Rick “No ur not”
8:45pm – Rick arrives, Ann prays to God that she doesn’t ruin this amazing meal by raising voice to Rick [or killing him] for his ill punctuality (hmmm, sound familiar?)
8:47pm – Husband and wife pray, enjoy an amazing meal together, talk about their day, and husband compliments wife on good meal. SUCCESS! See pics and recipes below. And note, there are no specifics on the recipes because in true Italian fashion, I don’t measure a darn thing. I just throw it in, taste it before serving and hope for the best.
Hummus and chips: Hummus (I use the plain hummus, any kind is fine), diced tomatoes and cucumbers, salt and pepper topped with crumbled feta cheese. You can use tortilla chips for dipping.
Watermelon Salad: Mixed greens, chopped mint, cubed watermelon, salt and pepper. Top with crumbled feta cheese, salt and pepper and balsamic vinegar. As Cathrin says, don’t be afraid of salt, pepper and balsamic!
Marinated Pan Fried Chicken: I bought the chicken breast tenderloins from Jewel. Marinate them for about an hour (while I was pumping iron at gym) with EVOO, salt, pepper, ground mustard, a little bit of lemon and balsamic. I cooked in a wok (the wok is my best friend in the kitchen, next to my kitchen scissors) with about a teaspoon of EVOO for about 10-12 minutes.
Sticky White Rice: Rick is Japanese so needless to say, 70% of our meals are served with rice (the other 30% with pasta). And I have to say, the rice cooker is actually another BFF in the kitchen. You put rice and water in the cooker, hit a button and 20 minutes later you have delicious and hot sticky white rice. I would highly recommend one if you don’t have one already. Write me a note for details!