Not long ago, my husband and I had a dinner party.
It came at the worst time—at the end of a busy day during a busy week when the last thing I wanted to think about was entertaining. But they were good friends and we’d been meaning to get together for a long while. So it was important to take advantage of our mutual availability, even if the timing was less than ideal.
But what to serve?
So we did what we knew would be easy yet impressive.
We pulled out a couple of bottles of Cabernet and bought some steaks. Then planned the meal around them.
For a starter, we bought a few small pieces of really good cheese. Just enough to tease of treats to come, but not enough to ruin appetites.
Because—nobody doesn’t like cheese. And—easy.
For the main course, we made a simple salad designed to pair perfectly with the Cab—hearty, slightly bitter greens like arugula, radicchio, and endive, tossed with sundried tomatoes, red onion, toasted walnuts, and balsamic vinaigrette.
If you ever want to seal the deal on a big red wine pairing, add balsamic vinegar and/or walnuts to the food. For a match made in heaven, add both.
We grilled the steaks and topped them with some flavored butter I had in the freezer—for Steaks with Lemon-Thyme Butter. The butter melted into the just-cooked steaks, flavoring them and making a small pool of sauce to swipe onto every elegant bite.
It was all crazy-simple, but deliciously indulgent.
It was summery and fun, but it also let our friends know we seriously appreciated them.
And it was easy.
For dessert, we served Fresh Fruit Parfaits, and in the interest of time, I didn’t even bother to macerate the fruit. They were sweet, summery, refreshing. The glasses were scraped clean.
At the end of the night, cleaning up and rehashing the evening with my husband, I felt really satisfied. Really pleased.
Because I was happy to have been with our friends, happy to have spent an evening enjoying them, and together enjoying good food and drink.
But I was also happy to be reminded that quality time with friends need not be a bother or a hassle.
Sure, it helps to have nice wine on hand and flavored butter in the freezer. And it’s nice to afford good steaks now and then.
But what made the evening delicious was starting with good ingredients and adding a few small flourishes. Not big to-dos, but simple, easy flourishes.
And then, of course, being relaxed enough about whatever worked out to simply be present and appreciate it all.