I’ve got a date tonight. It’s OK – Brad knows and he approves.
I’m meeting Melissa for happy hour. She’ll be tucked away in her home in east Nashville while I’m snuggled up with Pearl the rescue pup in Lakeway. Our original plans had us in the same place at the same time, but Austin isn’t always the friendliest city to visit when it comes to airfare, so we’re celebrating our friendship via FaceTime. We set the menu by text – freshly made crostini with Port Salut, fig preserves, and Granny Smith apples. Grapes for good measure. And a crisp wine for toasting.
I share this with you because I believe we need to celebrate each other more. We need to gather and pour. The Gospel lives at the table, you know. Looking back at my childhood, I see it now. The kitchen was the safe place in a troubled home. The table was the place where confession happened, where hearts were nourished, where strangers were welcomed. As a child, I didn’t understand the grace that was extended – but I felt it. Now, I see eternity in it all. #kitchentherapy may seem an unlikely third wheel in the midst of posts about my faith journey, but it’s about so much more than the recipes to me.
There is no act more sacred that sharing a meal. It’s communion.
And that’s why Melissa and I are having a date. Last week, there was a good old-fashioned sleepover at CasaRock to celebrate birthdays and a decade of friendship. Courtney and Niki packed their bags and came over for dinner, good conversation, a special Sunday brunch, and an afternoon on the Texas Wine Trail. I remember the first time I ever talked to Courtney. She walked into my house in 2007, sidled up to the counter where I was preparing dinner, looked at me and said, “I just want you to know – thanks for the invitation, but I probably won’t be back.” That night, three couples sat at the table for the first time and talked about Jesus. We all needed a place to be real, a place where questions were welcomed and shame was left outside. She was afraid. We all were. But grace welcomed us that night. And it still welcomes us.
Grace welcomed us last weekend as we picnicked in a local park on Sunday morning. We read Psalm 139, and then wrote messages to each other – what we thought God might want to say about how He sees us. It’s difficult for us to see ourselves as image and likeness and truly exquisite, isn’t it? A tiny Moleskine journal now holds treasure for me. I’ll cherish it, and cherish the time spent with friends who aren’t afraid to remind me of my true worth.
That’s what happens when we celebrate each other. This week, do that. Find someone and celebrate them. Invite them to the table for good food and great conversation. Let them find grace – even if they don’t understand its source. And let me know what happens – I want to celebrate with you.
Here are a few tips and recipes to get you started. Enjoy!
Melissa’s FaceTime Date Night Menu
We’re keeping things simple, with homemade crostini topped with fruit, cheese, and preserves. Making your own crostini is simple and delicious!
Courtney and Niki’s Saturday Night Noshing Menu
Rather than spend a lot of time in the kitchen preparing a large meal, I thought it would be fun to have a noshing menu filled with the things they love. We had charcuterie with white gazpacho and a simple salad of butter lettuce, fennel, and pear tossed in a lemon vinaigrette. A medium-bodied Rosé and some macarons purchased from a local bakery completed the menu.
Tips for creating a lovely charcuterie platter:
Two or three meats are plenty. I used thinly sliced prosciutto, coppo, and Spanish chorizo (it will make another appearance at a family meal – stay tuned). These were served with a little whole grain mustard, some cherry butter, rainbow carrots, olives (hooray for the cool O-Live brand tiny packs of marinated olives), cornichons, and SweetyPops (tiny little peppers). Rather than make crostini, I thickly sliced some great bread and toasted it with a little drizzle of olive oil. You may have noticed that the plates aren’t overflowing with goodies. I thought about portions for three – and built my platters. When we wanted more later in the evening, it was an easy thing to pull everything out of the fridge and fill the platters again.
We’re all cheese fans, so I purchased Robusto (a wonderful aged gouda from Whole Foods) and a sharp English cheddar alongside pistachio-crusted goat cheese with fig and honey glaze. Yes, it’s exactly what it says it is. And it’s incredible.
1 – 8 ounce log of mild goat cheese
1/2 cup roasted and shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
1/4 cup honey
2 T. fig preserves
1/2 t. vanilla (Mexican is the best)
Gently roll goat cheese in chopped pistachios, and place on a serving dish. In a small saucepan, combine the honey, preserve, and vanilla. Stir over medium heat until well blended. Carefully pour honey over the goat cheese and serve!
I also made a white gazpacho, which is honestly right up there with salmorejo as one of my favorite soups. It’s a chilled soup that’s refreshing and light, and it’s well worth the effort. There are a lot of recipe variations online, but this one from Food & Wine is my personal favorite.
1 cup crustless 1/2-inch white country bread cubes
1 cup white grape juice
1- 1/4 cups blanched sliced almonds
1 cup peeled, seeded and diced cucumber
1 Granny Smith apple—peeled, seeded and chopped
1 cup seedless green grapes
1 garlic clove
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
1 cup buttermilk
Freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 350. In a small bowl, soak the bread cubes in the grape juice for at least 5 minutes. While the bread is soaking, spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes in the oven or until lightly golden brown. Let them cool, and then place 1 cup of the almonds in a blender or food processor. Add the cucumber, apple, grapes, garlic, and sherry vinegar. Blend or process until VERY smooth (it takes a bit – be patient), and then strain into a bowl to gather the rich liquid. Discard the solids, and whisk in the buttermilk into the soup. pour into individual bowls, and garnish with a slice of cucumber, two grapes, and some almonds.
Sunday Morning Brunch Menu
Again, it’s all about keeping it easy (like Sunday morning). Freshly made scones (these are adapted from The Kitchen Magpie) with clotted cream, butter, and preserves were the main course. Some canteloupe and blackberries joined the feast (along with Guatemalan coffee). And the journals – don’t forget the journals. Write love notes to your friends. Give them space to write them to you too.
1 cup sour cream
1 t baking soda
4 cups of flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup butter or margarine
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
In a small bowl, combine sour cream and baking soda and set aside.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter using a pastry blender or two knives until it resemble’s cornmeal or course sand). Add sour cream mixture, and stir until just combined. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and, with a little flour, work to create a combine all the ingredients. Make three small rounds of dough, and cut to resemble pie slices. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Enjoy with your favorite toppings!