I have this photographer friend Louie. I met him through Becky, the friend who was with me the first time I met Tim, and I’ve been following his Tweets and Instagrams and blog ever since that one random afternoon sitting across from him at Burger King or McDonald’s, watching him eat chicken nuggets, before the three of us went someplace else. Louie’s a cool kid—I say kid because, people, Louie is all of 22, as in the age I was when I started grad school, the age at which the only things I’d ever published were local newspaper articles about book clubs and town meetings, the age when I didn’t know much about cooking, much less about cooking and writing about it on a food blog. But Louie’s 22 looks a lot different than mine did, and he’s a crazy-good photographer shooting, get this, upwards of 20 weddings a year. So when he came into town last week from Chicago, asking for some help expanding his food portfolio, we were only too happy to have him over for our regular Sunday lunch with friends.
(All shots in this post courtesy of Louie Abellera Photography.)
So let’s talk about Sunday lunches. Tim’s been keeping this tradition with the same group of friends since before I knew him. When we were long-distance dating, and I’d come into town for the weekend, Sunday afternoons would have us all gathered together, grilling and assembling a meal to share at a dining room table. When my family came to town in February, when friends have come to visit this year, if they’re here on a Sunday, they come to our shared Sunday meal. It’s a nice constant, one thing that is consistently the same, no matter who else joins or leaves or what the time of year. And while usually we do it at our friends’ home, this week, we moved things to our table, where the sunlight was especially nice around 3 PM and where the four kids gathered around a blanket in our spare bedroom to “picnic” while the adults shared salads and pizza on our flea market chairs and vintage wedding plates.
Tim and I were talking recently about how every time we have people over for a meal, there’s a salad. He brought two giant salad bowls into our marriage and they get regular rotation in our eating and entertaining plans. A meal just doesn’t feel complete without a giant pile of leafy greens involved. This week, the salad couldn’t have been simpler: an arugula mix topped with sliced pluots, sliced red onions, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and seasonings, nothing else. We tossed it using my newest kitchen treasure, new Anthropologie servers, thanks to birthday gift cards from our family.
The pizza was just two batches of this thin and crunchy soaked crust recipe, decorated with four different choices of toppings. We baked them two by two before everyone arrived, trying to keep things as warm as we could, then placed them all on the table on cutting boards so people could serve themselves.
Then there was a quick zucchini-tomato salad, and water with lemon, and wine, gifted from Becky when she was in town a few weeks ago.
Last, for dessert, there was almond cake, a gluten-free, incredibly simply recipe my sister-in-law made for us while we were in Ohio and that wowed us so much, it was the first thing we thought of for Sunday’s meal. Light and sweet and with a nice crumb, the kind you expect cake flour, or at the very least all-purpose flour, to be necessary to achieve, this cake is made from a combination of almond flour and coconut flour, four eggs, butter, honey and a few other little things. It’s wonderful, especially topped by homemade whipped cream. (The cake and the whipped cream were made the day beforehand, and I put them together just before we ate.)
After dinner, the kids joined us around the table for card games, and Tim and I cleaned up the kitchen, and my brother-in-law had the football game on TV. Once all the guests had left, Tim and I agreed about the rich pleasure of hosting, of getting to have people into your home, give them your food and watch them eat. It is the single best part of cooking, this sharing around the table, if you ask me.
Sunday Lunch Menu
September 9, 2012
Pizza with this thin, crispy crust and four different sets of toppings, baked at 375 for about 30 minutes each (works especially well on a preheated pizza stone if you have one):
— Homemade sauce, fresh basil, slices of mozzarella
— Homemade sauce, fresh basil, slices of mozzarella (doubled amount); arugula post-bake
— Homemade sauce, sliced green pepper, sliced mushrooms, sliced onion, slices of mozzarella
— Olive oil, sliced peaches, goat cheese, basil; honey drizzled after baking
Arugula and pluot salad made of arugula mix, three sliced pluots, sliced red onions, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Tomato and cucumber salad of halved grape tomatoes, thinly sliced and halved cucumber, chopped parsley, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Gluten-Free Almond Cake with Whipped Cream
Makes one 10-inch-round cake, easily serves a crowd
My sister-in-law gave me this recipe, which she got from her chiropractor, after she made it for us while we were in Ohio and I couldn’t believe how light and moist the crumb was, despite being free of gluten or any grains.
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), room temperature
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup milk (or coconut milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 1/2 cups almond flour (I used blanched this time, but the original said almond meal also works)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 10-inch-round springform pan.
In a medium bowl, cream butter and honey. Add eggs one at a time, combining after each addition. Add 1/2 cup milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla; blend.
In a separate bowl, combine coconut flour, almond flour, salt and baking powder.
Combine the two mixtures together and pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes or, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.