I Semi-Hosted My First Dinner Party, and it was the Most Stressful but Amazing Experience
Today is the first time in my life that I made a dinner for a group of people. This dinner happened to be for our family of eight (out of towners and an extra guest), and I could not have been more overwhelmed.
I started out with this great idea to cook everything for this dinner from Mina Stone’s cookbook. I thought, I’m challenging myself to do every recipe in this book, so why not knock a few out all at once? As I’ve discussed before, her recipes are fantastic: Few ingredients, not time consuming at all, and super fresh. What could go wrong?
Well… lack of space, for one.
Besides the fact that I was attempting to fulfill seven recipes in the smallest amount of room possible, I was also trying to time it so all items would be done in a timely manner, and also ready when the chicken my mother cooked for dinner would be done.
I promise it all worked out. Not without some stress and a decent amount of wine, but it was a bit of a challenge.
Let’s dive right into these recipes, shall we?
First Recipe of the Day
We started off with Elies Tsakistes, or Olives with Coriander Seeds and Lemon Peel. This was certainly the easiest of the recipes, and also really fun! One exciting moment about this recipe was that I got to buy some items that I’ve never purchased: Olives that were not in a brine (I had no idea that even existed) and whole coriander seeds! It was a fun experience to toast and crush the seeds, and I let the entire dish marinate while I continued to cook everything else.
Easiness level: 5/5
Taste: Very interesting! I have to say that the coriander seeds really made the dish. I was unable to taste the rosemary and lemon, unfortunately, but the family still scarfed the whole thing up!
The Second Segment of Fun and Awesomeness
The second dish that we made was the first of two dips to come: Beet Tzatziki with Walnuts and Mint.
In case you didn’t know, Tzatziki is a traditional greek yogurt sauce usually made with cucumber and dill. In this recipe, beets take the spotlight. Instead of the usual white sauce, it took on a bright pink hue, bright enough that I was actually quite nervous to eat something so colourful that had no artificial colours added!
My mom was an amazing woman (as she always is) and helped me out with this one. She shredded up the beets and mixed it with the yogurt while I worked on another part of the recipe (described in the next section.) It was then that we realized we were using regular plain yogurt instead of Greek yogurt. This made the dip a little runnier than usual, so we threw in an extra beet. Unfortunately, the consistency did not change.
With too much on my mind, and a lot of work to do still, we ignored the problem and continued on!
Easiness Level: 5/5
Taste: Absolutely fantastic. I don’t know what else to say. I wish I had made more because there’s barely any leftovers for us to all share tomorrow! It was great with the vegetables, and I feel would be absolutely great with some falafel and pita.
The Tzatziki also Incorporated Another Recipe
Because this is in the book as a recipe, I must add it here. Nut toasting Technique #1: Dry-Toasting Nuts in the Oven. Luckily, this is the way my mom and I always toast our nuts, so we had no problem with this. The timing was perfect, and the walnuts tasted amazing. I snuck a few even though they were meant for the Tzatziki. No one noticed, so it’s okay!
Easiness Level: 5/5
Taste: Part of the Tzatziki. Tastes bomb. I stole some for myself, which you already know I absolutely enjoyed.
Onto the Third Dish!
I’ve actually made this recipe before, and was incredibly anxious to make it again. Kopanisti, also known as whipped feta, is another delicious and simple dip. If you like feta and you like dip, this is something you have to try. This time around we used a high quality olive oil and added some extra seasoning, compared to the first time when I was nervous after seeing the word “red pepper flakes.” It was even better this time than the first time!
Easiness Level: 5/5
Taste: Not lying when I say I could eat this by the spoonful. This was great as a dip, and I feel it’d be awesome as a pizza topping or a spread on a sandwich!
Starting to Get Tired
It was at this time that I was beginning to get a little tired after standing around for an hour. After realizing that I was only about half way done, the stress began to set in. The main recipe we were making for alongside the chicken kabobs was Grilled Ramps with Crushed Hazelnuts and Lemon.
It was the early mid-spring when I officially planned out all of this cooking. When I saw the word “ramps” I got nervous. Ramps are a wild leek that are only available in early spring. Unfortunately, I happened to miss this item in all of the stores around me.
By a week.
Had I just gone one week earlier, I would have been able to grab ramps and actually use those for the recipe. Because I was late, I swapped out ramps with regular leeks. There’s no problem with that because, honestly, leeks are my favourite.
This is one of those recipes where my mom was playing super mom. She helped me figure out how it was we were going to properly grill these jumbo onion-like vegetables (well, they’re part of the allium family that consists of onions, shallots, garlic, etc… so they can be considered onion-like… right?) She also taught me how to properly clean them as well! Turns out leeks are dirty little suckers, so you have to make sure to clean all of those nooks and crannies! After we were done cleaning them she took them right out to the grill and watched over them with her chicken, while I continued to suffer over the cutting board in the kitchen.
I promise I wasn’t really suffering. I was just getting sick and tired of standing there. Things were taking much longer than I thought they would.
Easiness Level: 5/5
Taste: This. Was. The. Bomb. It was a little complicated to eat due to it’s size, but we made it work. I think I ate the most out of everyone. I also chose to dig in with my hands, because it was a little tough. Plus I was with my family. I didn’t think they’d care if I got a little down and dirty with my food.
Oh, that just sounded awkward as I reread it to myself. But I’m a bit too tired to take it out.
This is where the time in the kitchen became the most time consuming. I flipped right back to the beginning of the book and made Vegetables with Lemon Juice and Salt. Super easy: Cut the vegetables, add some lemon and salt, and top with some garnishes if you please. Sounds simple enough, right?
Well… it definitely was simple, but it was time consuming. I purchased radishes and cucumber for this dish. The cucumber was easy, but quartering two whole bunches of radishes did definitely take a little more time than I expected it to.
Taste: I’m shocked I’ve never heard of other people making these as snacks! This was absolutely one of the easiest, most delicious things I’ve ever eating. A great recipe to keep in my back pocket for when I get hungry but don’t want to munch on anything unhealthy.
Pop it in and Forget About It.
I was finally done with all of the dinner dishes. They all sat out around me, and I was able to take a step back and breathe a little. Then, right back into the mess I went.
Time to make dessert.
I made Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble which needed quite a decent amount of time in the oven. I thought that I would make it all, pop it in, and let it cook while we all ate dinner. Sounds like a super convenient, clever plan right?
I thought that too, before I realized that I had three pounds of strawberries to hull and cut and only ten minutes until dinner time.
Somehow I made it through all of the strawberries, had already cut my rhubarb, and made the filling. I let the filling then sit and let the flavors all ooze together while making the crumble. Though it was not the most successful crumble I’ve ever made (I omitted the pecans because I was in a hurry, and also realized there were still quite a few chunks of butter), I have to say that the end result did still turn out well.
I think the whole family thought so as well, because it’s almost all gone.
Taste: Absolutely fantastic. I think the majority of us went in for seconds. We were going to top it with ice cream, but were so anxious to eat it that we all just went outside without the ice cream and instead topped it with some simple whipped cream. It was absolutely phenomenal.
So there we have it. Seven recipes down in one day. It was quite an evening. This evening I even branched out of my comfort zone a little. When I serve meals, I like everything to be white and/or matching: Plates, forks, knives, glasses, pitchers, serving plates… everything has to match.
Today, I changed it up. I purposely wanted everything to mis match because I felt it went so well with the colours and the look of everything once it was all out on the table.
I’m not upset that I chose to do that. Not in any way.
And now at 11:45 at night, I can finally stop with this meal. Mina Stone, thank you for sharing with me so I could create one of the best family dinners I’ve ever had. Let’s hope that your cookbook brings others joy and fun the way yours did for me.