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Easy, Cool Dinner PartySeptember 8, 2013

Last night, we hosted THE EASIEST HOT NIGHT DINNER PARTY EVER. I wanted to share the recipes with you in case you wanted to host a party that would look like it came out of Sunset magazine, even if you're still recovering from surgery and maybe should have gone a little easier on yourself. (Do they even sell Sunset anyplace but California? Is this a West Coast reference only? If so, it's a cutural reference for grown-up, interesting nights out on patios that don't look real, nights no one really has. Except for last night.) 

First of all, I'd been planning on making red thai curry but by ten A. M. it was almost ninety degrees out. Lala mentioned maybe I should make something like gazpacho. Or possibly just ice cubes. Lots of ice cubes. The party got more complex as I had to figure out how to keep everyone out of the house, which holds on to heat like pills on cheap cashmere. We have a nice porch, but there's no big table out there, so guests would be balancing food on their knees.

But that made me think. See, I took the plunge a few weeks ago  and bought a Vitamix (right about the time I got the gallbladder problems -- IS THERE A CONNECTION?). Yep. I bought one. I really did. I wrapped all my change that I'd saved for years (this is true) and by the time a good friend got me an amazing deal, it was pretty much paid for. (Best part about a Vitamix? It cleans itself. And how.) 

So yesterday, I thought, cold soup! In the Vitamix! A little bit of Googling took me to this cucumber-dill soup recipe which turned out to be freaking amazing. I served it in lowball glasses, which made lap-balancing a non-issue. 

Copyright Williams-Sonoma

That soup? Completely made ahead and refrigerated. Perfect and chilled. Also, I didn't wear pants in the kitchen while I made it because I didn't have to. People - stay cool, at any cost! Heat is dangerous! Take off your pants! T-shirt and underwear is plenty hygienic for a kitchen! (It is, right? I mean, I'd just be wearing a skirt anyway, which is basically the same thing . . . oh, whatever. Let's just forget about this conversation. Hydrate, people.) 

Main course? We fell back on our favorite chicken recipe. Basically, this really is the best grilled chicken on salad you will ever, ever have. People freak out about this chicken. You brine it early, so that's chilling in the fridge, too. Basically, when people come over, all you have to do is rub on the spice mix (premade, also while standing in front of the fan while not wearing pants), and give it to the Grill Person (Lala) to cook. While she's doing that, put spring mix and (pre)chopped green onions on guests' plates. Add the lemon juice and oil to the OTHER spice mix you (pre)made for the Moroccan Dipping Sauce (same recipe page). Chicken's done? Chop one breast per person, perch on salad, drizzle with dipping sauce, and there! A knee-balance dinner that is gobsmackingly delicious. 

Dessert? No problem. Fire up the grill once more for a few minutes, scrape off that char, and make

Grilled Peaches and Vanilla Ice Cream with Balsamic Vinegar Glaze. 

Confession: we own a chocolate balsamic vinegar (which is to die for) that I use for this. But you can use any good quality balsamic for the same intensely wonderful results. 

Halve (good quality, firm but ripe) peaches, one half per person. Set face down in a plate of balsamic vinegar so that the cut sides absorb the deliciousness. Let rest for ten minutes. Turn over on plate, dust each cut side with a bit of brown sugar. You'll know how much. Grill on low, 2 minutes(ish) on each side. Hope for those lovely grill marks. 

Serve with a little scoop of good vanilla ice cream. At the last minute, have the genius idea of drizzling a little of that brown-sugar vinegar glaze that was still lying sad and abandoned on the original plate over the ice cream -- just a little trickle. Then watch your guests go dreamy and fuzzy around the edges as they eat, melting into their chairs in happiness. 

Let me repeat, I did not overheat having this dinner party. There was very little sweat on my part (a MIRACLE -- I hate hot days). And I spent 95% of my time on the porch in the warm (but not hot) air, with my friends, talking. Not scurrying around the kitchen.

And that, really, was the best part. The talking. That was the Sunset moment. White twinkle lights shone through the flowers along the porch rail, and up in the deep blue night sky we could see the flashing lights of passing planes. Chris and Wendy rocked on the swing, threatening to steal our dog, Clementine. Grant and Heather told stories of the viciousness of the PTA. Lala was charming and funny and a great griller. And I got to bask in the fact that this was my life. Those intense in-the-moment feelings of gratitude, those are the moments that mean everything. What a gift. 

And then, there are peaches. Damn, how lucky I am. 



My goodness, this really sounds lovely.

My friend in San Diego (I am in Virginia where we expect that kind of hot in August and September) has been posting about how damn hot it is out there....Oh. And while the west has Sunset Magazine we have Southern Living. :)

Sounds delicious, and yes, Sunset is on the whole West coast and a bit of the southwest.

Sounds like a fabulous dinner to me! I'll have to try the chicken.

We recently bit the bullet and invested in a Vitamix as well, and our favorite dessert is a quick fruit sherbety thing in the Vitamix--frozen fruit, a little milk (dairy or non-dairy substitute), splash of sugar or honey, a small wedge of a meyer lemon with the rind still on if you want a zing of lemon and about 45 seconds of blending, using the plunger to make sure all the fruit gets blended. Fast and easy soft serve for a hot night!

You have succeeded in describing a lovely dinner party that I will never, ever have :-). I enjoyed hearing about it, though.

Sounds wonderful. I am definitely going to try the grilled peaches. I have a Blendtec blender & it has changed my life! Glad you are feeling better!!!!

Ha! That's my best-ever-grilled-chicken recipe too. :) Have you tried her slow-cooker roast pork? Un-freakin-believable!

That sounds very lovely and dreamy. You are a lucky woman! And we get Sunset Magazine in Oregon and I totally have Vitamix envy. I want one SO BAD! But right now I no can afford. Someday, soon, my Preshhhhishhh will be mine!

I'm glad you are feeling better!

Well, I grew up in Vegas so I definitely know about Sunset Magazine but I MAY be the only one in South Jersey to have an inkling.

By the way, I blame YOU for my current obsession with ModCloth dresses. You enabler, you! And I don't even have overtime - I'm a "salary man" but I DO retire at the end of this month and enter a new field. So I need new dresses, right? I have to look professional as I represent the college, no?

It works for me.

I hope you are healing quickly!

We have Sunset "how-to" books in the Southeast, but I've never seen a Sunset magazine.

Sounds like you had a great evening. Don't you just love those idyllic evenings where everything seems perfect--few and far between sometimes. Good to hear that you are recovering nicely.

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