So, when it was time to host a dinner party the end of June (that we'd had on the books for well over a month), I had to go to my well-organized files for ideas and inspiration. Here is where I am so glad that over the years I have spent the time on tearing and filing. About 6 years ago when the issues of Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Real Simple and Southern Living were piling up in every corner of my pantry, closet, and kitchen, I knew I had to come up with a plan. Sure, today just about everything is online. But I'm both a visual and tactical person. I still love a magazine in my hand, on the plane with me, and then referring to it beyond a typical monthly life.
So, rather than move pounds and pounds of magazines from Dallas to Houston, I worked hard to cull through all in my possession, tearing out the recipes and ideas I knew I would actually attempt some day and leaving the rest. (Rather than filling a landfill, they were either recycled through my former great city of Plano's recycling program or donated to a local school for art projects). Next, I gathered an extra file box and a bunch of file folders and my Dymo LetraTag handheld labeler and went to town creating categories and filing away my glossies for future reference. Most files were just like the kind you would find in a traditional recipe box. But, since I happen to be a cheesecake fanatic/connoisseur, that was a separate file. Whenever the mags pile up, I take to tearing and filing yet again.
Fast forward June and party planning. I am happy to report God has gifted me with the distinctive talent of reading a recipe and being able to tell you if it is a winner or loser, all subject to my (& our family's) tastes and preferences. This knack has certainly served me well over the years, as typically any dinner party in my house consistently includes about 75% new recipes. Now, if you are not experienced in the kitchen, then plug your ears and pretend you never heard that. However, if you know your away around more than the basics, it actually isn't all that scary to try out new recipes on your guests--especially if you are halfway decent at pairing types and flavors. For instance, Home Economics 101 taught me you eat with your eyes first, so don't make the plate boring and colorless. Let's face it, chicken breasts with white cauliflower and mashed potatoes might all taste well together, but certainly don't look appealing (unless your theme is black and white and they are served on black plates--but that's another post).
Back to the party...friends were coming, I was knee-deep in writing and needed a "pull out the stops' menu for summer dining. I thought of gazpacho right away, but usually it is based on tomatoes, which I despise in raw/cold form! To the rescue were my files for Appetizers, Soups, Main Dishes-Pork, and Desserts. Here's how the menu shaped up, every item of which came from my mag files and was a recipe I'd never tried before! And, as promised, I've included Bon Appetit's amazing summer Watermelon Gazpacho recipe, tweaked just a bit (another knack), which kicked off the main meal smashingly!
- Fig & Pomegranate Tapenade on Baguettes (Bon Appetit Oct 2003)
- Creamy White Bean Dip with Pita Bread triangles & crudités
- Watermelon Cucumber Gazpacho (Bon Appetit August 2005)
- Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Strawberries (Southern Living April 2013)
- Orzo Pasta Pilaf w/capers and parsley (Family Circle May 2010)
- Grilled Asparagus (ok, no recipe but just threw on the grill in a basket with some herbs)
- Southern Living's Blackberry Peach Cobbler Bars (to die for--you need to make these!) with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla (the absolute best ice cream in the world). The gorgeous berries pictured above were my inspiration to make this treat, along with my lifelong love of peaches!
1 3-lb seedless watermelon, diced (about 5 cups), divided
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced (about 1 cup) - Note: I used English cucumber, seedless!
1 medium-size red bell pepper, seeded, diced (about 1 cup) - Note: I used an orange bell pepper
1 medium-size yellow bell pepper, seeded, diced (about 1 cup)
1 small jalapeno chile, seeded minced
3 pale green inner celery stalks, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 small red onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
3 T fresh lime juice
2 T red wine vinegar
1/4 t salt