One of my favorite things to do is host a dinner party at my house. Last week, I had 4 of my very favorite girlfriends over so I could cook up some tasty grub and spend some time drinking wine and chatting. I like having people over because it gives me an opportunity to cook dishes that are larger that I normally wouldn’t cook just for myself. On this occasion, I decided to cook what I like to call “Garden Veggie Pasta with Lemon”.
A few things to note when hosting a dinner gathering.
1) Don’t invite too many people. If you are doing the cooking, it can get overwhelming quickly to cook for more than about five people or so.
2) Also have some kind of appetizer for your guests when they arrive so that they can enjoy something while you are cooking.
3) Don’t hesitate to have guests bring items that you need to cook with.
4) If you are providing the cooking, then ask everyone else to bring the wine!
5) Matching dishes are key.
6) Too many cooks in the kitchen is never a good thing. Prepare in advance, allow your guests to relax, and make sure you don’t have so much prep work that you can’t enjoy the company yourself.
For some noshing before dinner, we had some organic cheeses; sharp cheddar and a hard goat cheese. We also had some awesome artichoke dip from Whole Foods, plump green grapes, and my favorite cracker ever–Nut Thins with Sea Salt.
While everyone was munching, I got started on dinner. One of my friends brought some amazing veggies from her garden; zucchini, squash, eggplant, and tomatoes! All of that got chopped up and thrown into a sauce pan with some olive oil. As the veggies were starting to cook, I added some fresh organic spinach, marinated artichokes, and some pine-nuts. This is the base of the pasta sauce. After the veggies start becoming soft, you will want to add a hefty portion of lemon juice. Don’t use concentrate; use real lemons! For this dish, I used 1 1/2 lemons, and also some Lemon Peel Seasoning. Then you can season to taste. Sea salt, garlic, cracked black pepper, dill, and onion salt are some good options–but really, there is so much flavor in the fresh veggies and lemon, that you don’t need too much seasoning.
This sauce is great on its own, but I also wanted this dish to have some chicken. I had some organic free-range chicken marinating for about an hour and then cooked that separately on my awesome indoor/outdoor George Foreman grill! I decided to marinate my chicken with key limes, as I knew that would be a great citrus accent to the lemon veggie sauce. Let the chicken marinate with the juice of 3 or 4 key limes, olive oil, garlic salt, sea salt, and cracked black pepper in the fridge for an hour or so. If you don’t have that much time, even a half hour will be ok.
When you put the chicken on the grill, also include the key lime rinds. They will add a lot of flavor when you cover the chicken while it cooks.
As everything is cooking, you will of course, want to boil your pasta. Please don’t ruin such an awesome flavorful dish with boring white pasta!! Ha! Use some awesome, wonderful, healthy whole wheat pasta. For this occasion, I used some lovely wheat spirals.
Once everything is all ready, it is time to build the presentation. Hopefully, you have a big beautiful pasta bowl! Add the pasta, then the veggie sauce, then the chicken. Top with some grated Assigaio or Parmesan cheese, and then squeeze half a lemon on top. The lemon is great for the presentation also. And, whhaaalaaa!
Nosh Maven’s Garden Veggie Pasta with Lemon!
We all dug in and ate up and it was a great night! Thanks to my lady friends who helped make the night even better! Good food is great and all, but sharing it with people you love makes everything taste even more delicious.