Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Dinner in the Garden 2014

For the last couple years, each summer we have hosted a dinner in the garden where we set up a formal dinner outside and celebrate the wonderful foods that we are growing in our own and local farmers gardens. We missed last year with all of our remodeling so we were excited to get back on our normal routine.  I love creating the menu and cooking some fun new foods and sharing them with our friends.

I feel like I'm going to write almost the same thing as our last garden party. It poured all afternoon the day of our party and then miraculously, 30 minutes before guests arrived, the clouds parted and the evening turned into a beautiful celebration of summer. It was a mad scramble to set the table and get the last minute things ready before the first guests arrived.

As it often happens, someone asks me why I don't do this full time and my answer is always the same; I love to cook because I love to eat good food. I do love cooking for other people but I couldn't be in a kitchen all the time, it's just not me. I love cooking alongside friends and family and then sitting down to enjoy the meal with them. And to be completely honest, it's so much fun when people love what you've cooked for them. So this night is as much for me as it is for them.

The menu was mostly new items that I hadn't cooked before. It's more challenging that way and gives me some new favorites each time. Of course dessert will always be the same and I've never had anyone not finish it all. Creme Brulee. Nothing can beat breaking through that hard sugar shell and digging into perfectly creamy vanilla custard. We also brought back our beverage from two years ago; the amazing Lemongrass-lime leaf soda. It is so refreshing and the perfect way to get things started.

Stuffed Dates

The first new menu item was our Bacon wrapped stuffed dates. I smoked some almonds to start and then stuffed a large date with the almond and some chunks of blue cheese. Wrapped it up with a thick piece of apple smoked bacon and then cooked it at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes or so or until the bacon is cooked through but not too crispy. I cooked them on a cooling rack set in a cookie sheet so they wouldn't be sitting in the fat as they cooked. Cooking them at a fairly low temperature allows the bacon to cook all the way through without getting too crispy and without having fatty spots that don't cook.

The end result is perfection. You get the crunch of the almond, sweetness of the date and the chewy saltiness from the bacon all in one simple bite.

Grilled Zucchini Flatbread

I made this flatbread for the dinner and then we made it the next day for lunch too. It is so simple yet the flavors are so amazing. I used Artisan Bread in Five's Master Pizza dough recipe (similar to this olive oil recipe) and then grilled it on the smoker at high heat for a few minutes on one side until it was getting pretty brown. Flipped it over and cooked for just a minute and then removed from the heat. I then topped the cooked dough, pacing it on the side I grilled longer, with some grilled zucchini, shaved asparagus and some fresh honey chevre. I placed the flatbread back on the grill for a few minutes until it was warmed through.

Skirt Steak with Pickled Fennel Salad

This is the course that took the longest to decide on. I went back and forth on what meat I wanted but when I saw this skirt steak at Costco I knew that's what I wanted to try. We cook flank steak a lot around here but I've never done a skirt steak before. It's marinated just in some orange juice before going on the grill and then served over a perfect salad of pickled fennel, fresh mint and basil. The mint and basil both came from our own garden and were both the perfect accompaniment to the steak. I followed this recipe for the steak and then topped it with the herb sauce from this recipe.

Creme Brulee

Like I mentioned, this dessert is a given and never complained about. The recipe is here.

If I could do this every weekend, we probably would! We had a great time with our friends and finished the evening sitting around the fire pit, at least until the mosquito's started taking more blood than we could afford.


  1. How beautiful and fun! Love the fire pit placement in your backyard. And the menu! Nothing needs to be said about that - perfect.

  2. Bravo, i guess it's almost like a michelin chef menu testing....
    i hope its possible held this kind of outdoor party, unfortunately it's rainy days lately here in Indonesia,
    good job for both of you!!!

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