Breaking in the dining room

So far we’ve only eaten in the dining room a few times: With Ben’s mom and brother, a couple dinners for just the two of us… But the house is at least semi-unpacked now, and last night we had our friend Kabir and his girlfriend Nicole over for a casual dinner while Nicole is in town for a visit.

First of all, take a look at my workspace, the only “counter” in the kitchen.


I should have put my hand in there for scale; it’s a little butcher block from Ikea. Better than nothing, but not a ton of prep space! Luckily since it’s summer I kept everything very simple and didn’t need too much room to work. I continue to be very underwhelmed with the “Whole Foods” (formerly a Bread & Circus, and definitely not 100% up to the standards of the bigger WF I’ve shopped at) near our apartment. The produce is a very mixed bag–yesterday there were no salad greens that looked usable, and this in July! There were some good-looking peas, though, and I picked up a carton of what looked like lovely heirloom cherry tomatoes, all different colors. That got me excited about another tomato salad, this time very colorful and lush-looking.


I got the tomatoes home and all the non-traditional varieties were hard as rocks, and bitter. They looked amazing, though:



I got them into a dressing of oil and sherry vinegar, with plenty of salt and pepper, as soon as I could, hoping they’d soften up a bit with help. (They did, but only a bit.)

Next I cut up another ball of local mozzarella and marinated that in olive oil, salt, pepper, and basil. When it was time to serve the first course, I dished out a pile of each, which looks nice enough in photos but wasn’t great in person. Next time I wouldn’t do this unless I could get my hands on bocconcini, which would have mixed in better with the tomatoes. I think serving it on some greens would have helped hold everything in place, too.


For a main course I made my standby oven fries again, this time in the extremely high-heat environment of the new-old oven. (Its dial goes up to 600 DEGREES!). They cooked fast and souffled a bit; Julia Child would be proud. The key to getting them not to stick seems to be placing the fries skin-down on the tray the whole time. I did them at 425 or so (though I can’t find my oven thermometer so who knows…) and they browned and crisped nicely. I also made my mom’s peas with shallots, which was really easy and delicious. I posted her method a few posts down, but basically I minced a shallot, cooked it in olive oil very slowly so it was nice and sweet, and then stirred in barely-cooked fresh peas and added salt and pepper. (I like beans and peas just a couple shades off of raw, so they’re really crispy.) I served those at room temperature, and I could probably eat a whole bowl of them by myself. Happily I’d bought a huge bag of them so we have leftovers for tonight!


Sirloin was on sale at WF and I let it rest for a while with garlic and pepper, then took off the garlic and salted it before Ben grilled it. Very tasty, though next time I think I’ll marinate it?


For dessert I grilled a peach and a nectarine. Super easy, though they stuck a bit–I just cut them in half, placed them cut-side down on a medium-high grill, cooked for a while, flipped, cooked a while longer, and served them with ice cream. Incredibly juicy and so simple.



P.S. Notice how much better the lighting is in the new kitchen?? There is double-bulb fixture overhead (with no shade, yikes), another bare bulb over the sink, and Ben brought in an old desk lamp to put on top of the fridge for warmer lighting. It looks awful in person but at least I can get it plenty bright for photos!

P.P.S. Sweet Germi over at the Domino Blogs posted a couple photos of the monstrous and hilarious ivy that lives outside our building. If you have any gardening questions you should hit her with them–she’s so helpful and responsive, and her blog is always fun.

4 thoughts on “Breaking in the dining room”

  1. ….and it was a DELICIOUS dinner at that!! While Kate may be disappointed by the hardness of her tomatoes…I myself thought they were beautiful and just right! Why have soft tomatoes when you gotta try and get them off a plate covered in olive oil and having to use a fork! I think you did a fabulous job Kate!

  2. Thank you, Ashley! My big goal for last week was to check out the farmer’s market near us in Central Square, but of course I managed to miss it. I’m looking forward to the late summer bounty (good tomatoes, at last (PLEASE DEAR GOD)) when we get back from NYC!

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