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Dear Wednesday companions, on this midsummer morning I am stealing your space to address a certain young woman who is riotously loved and exuberantly ready to make a home with a good man, her bridegroom.

And so I will address her, the July bride, as she sets up home-keeping in an apartment with minimal kitchen and maximal delight.

But before I do, let me invite you into this conversation, to add in weeks to come your own take on "what I wish I had known when I started keeping house for myself." For our Fare Exchange purposes, we hope you will reminisce and advise about the kitchen and the dining table.

___

Dear bride so close to my heart, it's your warmth, your love for people that will flavor the tastes that come from your kitchen. It's who you are more than your recipes, though recipes are also necessary. Your mother has equipped you with all you need to carry with you and then to make it all your own.

You will be busy working at the hospital during your days. He will be busy at his studies. The aroma of good food will permeate your space. And since you are kin to the one who writes, there may be the aroma of a few burned dishes as well — for no kitchen is without a calamity or two. At that point, laughter and al fresco dining on the swing on your front porch would be the best medicine.

On the best days you will sit down together, at the dining table you inherited from your grandmother Mimi, light a candle and consider each other in the candlelight.

Here's a principle: "Treat your family like company and your company like family."

On the more leisurely days, you will set the table for others and add chairs to the table and rejoice that you are part of not just a pair but a community of people.

The best counsel here is to "cook to please your guests, not to edify or amaze them."

On the busiest days, you will become what my friend Susan calls a "gatherer" — picking up one part of your meal on the way home, then adding your own finishing touches of the easier complements. Or maybe you will just gather the whole menu and relax completely with your fellow diners.

Because you are an artist, you will consider the color palette of your meals, and so I will do in the four menus just ahead. In the four sets of instructions that follow, the title identifies not a dish but the entire menu.

 

FOUR FAMILY FAVORITES

Aunt Emily's Greek Chicken in Crock Pot or Dutch Oven

Boneless skinless chicken breasts

Ken's Greek dressing

Jasmine rice

Steamed broccoli (a frozen steam-in-the-bag version is easiest)

Prepared tzatziki sauce

Pitted kalamata olives

Optional: Pita bread, cut into triangles or squares (you may substitute the pita bread for the rice)

Cut the chicken breasts in quarters, and put in crock pot (or Dutch oven) with Ken's Greek dressing to cover or nearly cover. Cook on low for four hours, or on the stovetop watching more carefully, until the chicken is tender.

Prepare rice according to package directions on the stovetop, adding a couple of chunks of butter as it gets done. Fluff with a fork.

Cook broccoli according to package directions in the microwave. Just before serving, open bag and put in serving dish with salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice and a little butter.

Serve from the kitchen, beginning with rice, then chicken with juice over the rice, and garnish with tzatziki sauce, olives and feta cheese. Broccoli goes on the plate next and, if you choose, pita bread for dipping in the sauce.

Aunt Go's Baked Salmon Supper

Rosemary sprigs (optional)

Fresh or frozen salmon fillets, 6 to 8 ounces per person

Fresh lemon slices

Old Bay seasoning

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Multicolored peppers

Red onion

Jasmine rice, prepared as in menu above

Optional: spring mix salad with oil and vinegar

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put rosemary sprigs on foil if using, then lay salmon on top, skin side down. Top salmon with slices of lemon. Sprinkle liberally with Old Bay, salt and pepper, and drizzle olive oil generously over top.

Add to the foil sliced peppers and red onion, and drizzle a little olive oil over them as well.

Cover and bake for 20 minutes while jasmine rice cooks. Uncover and bake at 425 until fish flakes easily with a fork and peppers and onions are done. Serve with rice and, if you want, a salad of spring mix with oil and vinegar or your favorite bottled dressing.

Pasta and Vegetable Supper

Your favorite ravioli (lobster ravioli from Trader Joe's is colorful and delicious)

Pesto (from a jar or a refrigerated carton)

Frozen Italian vegetable medley, cooked according to package directions

Good crusty sourdough bread

Olive oil in a dish with a little sauteed garlic and grated Parmesan cheese

Cook ravioli according to package directions at the same time as the Italian vegetable medley on the stovetop, and 10 minutes before supper, reheat the bread in the oven. Drain ravioli, and toss with a little pesto — you don't need too much. Serve with the vegetables alongside and the bread sliced for dipping in a mixture of good olive oil, a little sauteed garlic, if you want to add that, and fresh-grated or at least grated refrigerated Parmesan cheese.

Baked Potato Supper

1 substantial baked potato or sweet potato per person

Butter

Frozen broccoli, cooked – or fresh broccoli, roasted in the oven with salt and olive oil at 425 degrees until done.

Grated cheese

Sour cream

Real bacon bits (optional)

Wash and dry potatoes, then brush with a little oil and sprinkle over each some coarse salt. Wrap each potato in aluminum foil. Poke holes in potato through the foil. Bake at 400 degrees an hour, more if needed. Cut each potato in half lengthwise, and crush or cut flesh so butter will sink in. Add butter generously. Add toppings of your choosing: broccoli, cheese, sour cream and bacon bits.

 

ABOUT DESSERT

Here are some choices, and it's nice to have them a good bit after supper, around the coffee table.

* A small seedless watermelon, cut in manageable wedges

* A choice of brown cows, mochi, Klondike bars or other individual ice creams, served in your favorite fancy bowl

* Vanilla ice cream topped with your choice of sliced summer peaches, chocolate sauce and toasted almonds, caramel sauce and a few sprinkles of coarse salt, a drizzle of any favorite liqueur

* MoonPies, heated on individual plates for a few seconds in the microwave (this, a nod to your Chattanooga connection)

* A bowl of individual chocolates — dark and milk chocolate options

 

AMEN CORNER

And at the end of this love letter, I will speak of the beginning of the meal. Those Southern terms that often introduce meals,"Let's say grace" and "Let's ask the blessing," hold all kinds of home-making truths. Let's just say, "Grace: how we have received grace upon grace." (That affirmation ought to be good for the digestion.) And let's remember to ask the blessing: Ask for the blessing of the One who gave it all, who gave us each other.

Next week, you readers will be back in charge of all that is given here. I look forward to that.

 

REQUESTS

— More recipes and advice for the bride and groom

 

To Reach Us:

Fare Exchange is a longtime meeting place for people who love to cook and love to eat. We welcome both your recipes and your requests. Be sure to include precise instructions for every recipe you send, and know we cannot test the recipes printed here.

Mailing address: Jane Henegar, 913 Mount Olive Road, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750

Email: chattfare@gmail.com

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