A Small Summer Dinner Party

Oh the joys of summer. This morning I went strawberry picking, (more on that tomorrow) and that got me hankering for fresh produce. So I gathered a couple friends and put together a nice, simple meal to highlight the flavors of the season.
We began with a simple dinner salad.
Dinner Salad Dinner Salad

The salad was a combination of mixed baby lettuces, shredded parmesan cheese, toasted slivered almonds, and my simple Balsamic Vinaigrette.

The Recipe:

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp brown mustard
  • salt and pepper

Whisk all the ingredients together. Serve immediately.

The main course was baked chicken (both real and fake) with roasted early summer vegetables and polenta wedges, garnished with a little crumbled goat cheese.

IMG_0444
Chicken with Polenta Strips and Roasted Vegetables
IMG_0445
The same polenta and vegetables, but with Quorn fake-chicken

There were two vegetarians in the group and two meat eaters, so I made two of the plates with real chicken and two with Quorn fake chicken. “Naked Chik’n Cutlets” are what I think they are called. Both the fake chicken and the real chicken were brushed lightly with a mix of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper while they were cooking. I, personally, really like the Quorn fake chicken, and I thought the light marinade was nice.

The roasted vegetables were really the star, so it is unfortunate that they are not as visible in the picture. I cooked a mixture of carrots, asparagus, red bell pepper, and vidalia onion in the same marinade as the chicken. The flavors blended very well and the vegetables were very tender and colorful. They just shouted: summer!

I have had a hankering recently for polenta, so I decided to make little polenta wedges. These took way longer than I thought they would, so they are not as brown and crispy as I would like them to be, but no one complained. To make the polenta wedges, I just cooked the polenta according to the package instructions, cooled it in the refrigerator, shaped it into a log with a dish towel (thanks Clotilde!), chilled it some more, cut it, and baked it in the oven after spraying it with olive oil with the nifty little olive oil pump my mom gave me for Christmas last year.

The Recipe:

  • 4 carrots
  • 1 large bunch thin asparagus
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 vidalia onion
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon zest
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel the carrots and chop on a diagonal. Cut off the bottom third of the asparagus stalks and discard. Cut the remaining pieces in half. Dice the red pepper. Halve and slice the onion. (This is how I cut the vegetables because I thought it would look fun. You can cut them however you like.)
  3. Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper together in a small dish.
  4. Line a roasting pan or 9 x 13 baking dish with aluminum foil. Toss the vegetables with the marinade.
  5. Cook in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until done.

We also had dessert, but I’ll write about that later…

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