Well, my intention to have more dinner parties this year is being met, and most importantly, being met stress-free!
Wait, do I hear you asking, “a stress-free dinner party? Is it possible?”
To which I answer an enthusiastic, Yes, yes, yes!
Since my last post about a fun Moroccan themed dinner party, I’ve hosted two very different, yet equally inspiring evenings. The first was a trip to South Korea! Kripalu’s Director of the Schools of Yoga and Auyerveda and his South Korean-born wife gave a group of us the beautiful gift of a traditional South Korean meal. What a treat; they brought all the ingredients, including some I’d never seen before, like sesame leaves and a long green pepper that we ate by dipping it into a miso paste. The peppers get hotter the closer to the core you get, so of course we had to play the game of seeing who could eat the most of their pepper!
The meal was a beautiful spread of about eight items, each designed to be either wrapped in sesame leaves or placed on top of potato starch noodles.
The best part of the evening was the ease of gathering and connecting with people I’d never really shared a social occasion with before. The adventure of discovering new food took center stage over the “try to make everything perfect for new guests” panic. If anyone noticed a dust ball in the corner, the stimulation of their taste buds and the laughter from a good game of Apples to Apples removed the very thought of it.
Then came Saint Patrick’s Day and the Spring Equinox! The Moroccan party group was eager to reconvene. Given the two special occasion days, we got daring and decided on fusion cuisine. Imagine a Saint Patrick’s Day /spring cleanse fusion, complete with homemade beer battered fried fish and potato salad; fresh beer steamed mussels; a beautifully green and luscious cold green pea and mint soup; a detox salad with greens and avocado dressing; a spring soba noodle salad; and plenty of Guinness. To top off the evening, we offered two desserts. My dear partner Jim tried to top his victorious fig tart by making Guinness chocolate mousse with cream (served in beer glasses, of course, which he obtained the night before from the local beer bar)! And then there was the spinach, avocado, and chocolate smoothie brought to us by Natanya—equally as decadent in a “good for you” kind of way.
The spread was pot luck; everyone brought something. I was only responsible for frying the fish (which, truthfully, I had never done before). When it became obvious that I was not operating at top chef speed, the boys quietly took over the kitchen and made the entire thing come together. Thanks guys!
As the evening came to a close, I realized again how the connecting power of the food itself is really the secret ingredient. Despite my lack of perfect organization and execution, everyone still had the joy of sharing their spirits with each other through the flavors of home-cooked food.
As I ponder what to celebrate with food next, I would like to offer you a very special recipe. Let’s call it “the perfect dinner party”.
The Perfect Dinner Party
Serves as many as you’d like.
People. A nice mix of close friends and new acquaintances. Start with folks you know who already enjoy food.
Themed food. A mix of prepared dishes that guests bring and one or more to prepare together. Pick a theme based on the season, a special occasion, or region of the world.
A “come as you are” location. As with our attire, there are times when we enjoy dressing up and times to just relax. Dress up the house only if it is enjoyable for you; otherwise keep it relaxed and normal.
Your yogic attitude. Surrender and allow the flow of the evening and the results to be carried by the energy of the food. Enjoy the connections of people and food and allow the meal to be the host/hostess!!
I am convinced that we, as a species, have yet to comprehended the magnitude of the gifts of the food we eat. Beyond things like macro and micro nutrients, and beyond food’s ability to keep our bodies running, lies a secret message food longs to deliver. The message is simple: We are all connected, so just love for the shear joy of loving.
I’d love to hear of your intentions to create gatherings to celebrate the joy of food!
Cold Pea and Mint Soup
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 to 6 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
4 cups shelled fresh peas or frozen peas
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
6 cups vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup half-and-half
Plain Greek yogurt, for garnish
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves, for garnish
1 scallion, white and green parts, thinly sliced, for garnish
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the scallions and cook, stirring, until softened, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the peas and mint leaves and cook, stirring, until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the soup cool to room temperature.
Transfer the soup in batches to a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Strain through a sieve into a pot, pushing hard with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Alternatively, purée the soup using a food mill. Discard the solids.
Stir in the half-and-half, adjust the seasonings to taste, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours until chilled.
Stir well before ladling into chilled bowls. Garnish each serving with a dollop of yogurt, minced mint leaves, and sliced scallions.