Sunday, October 19, 2008

Impromptu Dinner Party

Quinoa and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

When you live in Manhattan with two small children, separated from your relatives by 3000 miles, community is more than a word, it's a lifeline. Your friends become your extended family, the people you call when you desperately need a babysitter, when you don't know how to handle a school bully, or when you just need assurance that everyone yells at their kids once in a while.

I first met Laurie and Michael at Washington Square Park at 8:00am on a Saturday morning. They were there with their toddler twins, I was pregnant with my own toddler in tow. Who else but the parents of young boys would be out and about so early in the morning?

It would take another year or so, of seeing each other every weekend, before we became friends. I started bringing thermoses of coffee to share with them. They invited us to dinner. The four of us went to Lupa and bonded over our love of ideas, books and years spent in therapy offices.

Now we don't really make weekend plans––meeting up in the keypark with the kids and our other dear friends is a given. When it gets cold, we take turns hosting each other for indoor playdates, sometimes made sweeter by a glass of champagne or a Bloody Mary. They give us hand-me-downs for our youngest son. I like to cook for them.

Around 5:00pm yesterday, Michael called Steve to see what we were doing. I think the kids were driving him crazy and they needed to get out of the house and Laurie was at the gym. Since we've been in that state before (children gone wild, too much indoor time, needing another adult around), and Steve was planning on making pizza with our kids, we invited them over for dinner. Laurie would pick up a bottle of wine and come later.

Since Laurie doesn't eat wheat, I decided to make something more grown-up for the adults. I had a butternut squash I needed to use up and some quinoa in the cupboard, and so this recipe came to be. Inspired by a farro recipe I found on 101 Cookbooks, I merely substituted quinoa for the farro and changed up a few other things. For a little extra protein, I roasted up a single pork tenderloin and served it sliced over a bag of pre-washed spinach I had in the fridge that I sauteed for less than a minute in two cloves of garlic and a tablespoon of olive oil. Much more healthy and yet not vegetarian, which would never suit the meat-loving Frenchie part of me.

With it, we drank a 2006 Tres Picos, which is less then $15 and great with roasted squash. We quickly enjoyed our meal while the boys watched Wallace and Gramace in our bedroom. The quiet would not last long--before we could finish, the movie ended, the kids were cranky, the meal ended a bit prematurely. Still, it was a lovely evening.

Quinoa and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

3 cups of cooked Quinoa, prepared according to package
1 Butternut Squash, cut into 1-inch dice
5 tablespoons olive oil (total)
3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2-3 chopped green onions
a handful of chopped walnuts
1 small button of goat cheese, crumbled
a handful of parsely

Preheat over to 450.

Place cubed butternut squash on a roasting pan, and toss salt, pepper, thyme, one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil directly over squash. Mix with your hands to combine and roast in the over for 15-20 minutes.

Using a large shallow serving bowl, spread cooked quinoa around the bottom. When squash is finish, pour it over the quinoa, still warm. Top with green onions, walnuts, goat cheese and parsley. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Enjoy with people you love.