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May 3, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

dinner with friends.

We recently invited friends to join us for dinner at the bungalow. We had not seen each other in a while, and I felt inspired to create a special meal to honor the occasion. With busy jobs, schedules, and life always getting in the way, any time we can share a meal with friends feels like a special occasion.

Luckily, this month’s Bon Appetit arrived in the mail just in time to inspire and help create this menu. In fact, almost the entire menu came from the May issue. As I thumbed through the pages, the coconut cake caught my eye. What is more inviting than a layer cake, baked fresh for the occasion? And as I scanned through the recipe, I was intrigued by the method used to frost the cake. It’s frosted when it’s still warm, which is not traditional, per say, but in my experience, results in an extremely moist cake. My mother has a recipe for a chocolate cake that gets frosted right out of the oven, and it’s the most moist chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted. I felt like this method had real potential, and I was confident in trying it out. In the case of an emergency, I told my husband, I would send him over to Magnolia Bakery, which is only a short walk from the bungalow. As you can see from the photo, it was a success, and we didn’t need to rely on Magnolia this time!

The next photo that caught my eye was for a snap pea salad. To me, snap peas are the quintessential veggie of spring: vibrant green, perfectly crunchy, incredibly fresh. Instead of keeping the snap peas whole, the photo showed them pulled apart, exposing the tiny, green jewels that rest inside the crunchy pod. It’s stunning to the eye, and I felt it would be a beautiful addition to the menu. And who doesn’t love burrata? A cream-filled ball of mozzarella always has a place at my table.

Tarragon is another flavor that I love to use in spring, so the poached arctic char with basil-tarragon aioli sounded divine. It looks beautiful too, served with vibrant green asparagus. I decided to make this my main course, and contemplated adding a starch. Baby potatoes? They would work but they might take away from the simplistic beauty on the plate. Rice didn’t sound good with aioli, nor did any other grain like quinoa or farro.

Pasta, on the other hand, did sound interesting to me. A pasta course was exactly what we needed, and I had saved a pasta feature from the February Bon Appetit because the pictures were so beautiful that I was inspired to try a couple of them. Now I had my chance to experiment, so I chose an orichette with greens + breadcrumbs. Their version called for kale but I decided to use mustard greens instead. My husband loves the flavor of mustard in and on just about anything, and since I had recently used kale, I opted for mustard greens.

I ended up making a couple more tweaks to the original recipes: I found beautiful baby romaine at the farmers’ market, and added it to the burrata salad because the purple hues of the romaine complimented the bright green of the snap peas. I had leftover toasted whole wheat panko breadcrumbs from a party I had catered, so I used those instead of making fresh breadcrumbs. I love panko because it’s really crunchy, and I loved the crunchy breadcrumbs next to the soft pasta and greens. I found fresh arctic char at Santa Monica Seafood, but it was available in a different cut than the one shown in Bon Appetit. By that point in the meal, I was hungry and ready to eat, so I didn’t spend as much time making our plates look as beautiful as in the magazine. Please so forgive me for the “rustic” nature of the photo! The asparagus and aioli were beautiful on the plate, which I also drizzled with my best extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkled with Maldon salt. I think it came together quite nicely; the flavors were fantastic. And my one final tweak was to use a wider flake unsweetened dried coconut rather than shredded. I prefer the texture of the wider flake.

We ate, drank, and caught up over this beautiful meal that felt really special. I had just as much fun planning it as I did cooking and eating it! I hope this inspires you to create a special meal to be enjoyed with friends.

Here are the links to the original recipes:
http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2013/05/snap-pea-salad-with-burrata
http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2013/02/orecchiette-with-kale-and-breadcrumbs
http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2013/05/poached-arctic-char-with-basil-tarragon-mayonnaise
http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2013/05/laurie-osteens-coconut-cake

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