Sunday Lunch with Friends

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When I was growing up Sundays were traditionally a family gathering day. It revolved around the main meal served around 2pm usually consisting of pasta and meats from the gravy (sauce).  Oh the glory days, when life was much simpler and we made time to gather for food and laughter.  Much to my sadness, those days of living around the corner from one another and having oodles of time are long gone.  And so are the weekly family gatherings.  I could go into a long diatribe about that subject but the point here is to try to create new Sunday traditions.  With that in mind, JuanCarlos and I usually cherish making pasta on Sundays.  We have this funny joke between us where one of us will smilingly state, "Lidia said".  We glommed this phrase after watching a cooking show with Lidia Bastianich where she stated that it's ok to eat a little pasta every day.  That was all I needed to justify my habit. We couldn't agree more and with her permission we proudly, confidently shout out: "Lidia said", and a tradition was born.  We also try to harken back to those olden days and invite people over.

The only unfortunate part is that since we live in the burbs we don't have many friends who can just stop by.  
We do, however, have a few that like to venture up from the Big Apple.  And so one wintery Sunday we were graced with a visit from two adventurous souls from Manhattan willing to share a Sunday meal with us.  They are originally from Florence, Italy.  Our friend, Tecla, now lives in NYC but her dad, Paolo, recently returned to Tuscany and was here for a visit.   When we were in Italy last April, he welcomed us into his home, so it seemed only fitting that we would return the favor in this small way. (Tecla's husband, Scott was not able to join us.)

 Tecla is always smiling and laughing and is a blast to have around.  Paolo is a gentleman and a gem of a man.

Tecla is always smiling and laughing and is a blast to have around.  Paolo is a gentleman and a gem of a man.

First things first. Set a simple but inviting table. 

It was a Sunday lunch so I wanted to keep it informal yet welcoming.  Staying with an all white dish theme and adding cream hued napkins helps to tone down the formality.  In order to keep it from feeling too overdone, I opted for no tablecloth instead using a layered placemat approach.  First layer is a cream linen placemat with a dark wooden wicker mat placed in the opposite direction so it hung over the table.

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 Bird's eye view of this simple but chic table setting.

Bird's eye view of this simple but chic table setting.

Adding individual salt & pepper shakers to the table avoids each guest having to pass them around. It's especially helpful since some guests might feel intimidated to ask thinking that adding salt/pepper is an insult to the chef.  

I left the middle of the table open as the landing spot for the family style platters and moved all the candles and votives to the far end of the table. It's all about the food and company.

Now with the table set, onto the food. 

What a treat to share a Sunday meal.  I know I rambled on and on about enjoying pasta on Sundays.   So I bet you are anticipating a pasta dish.  Foiled again.  We swerved from that tradition, and instead made risotto and pork loin.  The traditional part was served by a big dose of enjoying a meal with people we love, and that was plenty enough tradition for us. 

Hosting doesn't mean that you have to go nuts preparing for days. Simple food that tastes good is all you need.  And that is exactly what we did.  I had made a bean and escarole soup the day before and thought it would be nice to start with a little bowl to warm their souls on that chilly day.  Then we moved onto to snacking from a cheese/charcuterie platter followed by roasted eggplant topped with feta gremolata and roasted tomatoes.  We enjoyed those treats in our kitchen while we caught up on life, and while I began making the risotto.  

 Charcuterie & Cheese Platter, chock full of  Serrano ham, chorizo, Mahon Curado  cheese, grapes,  Marie's Gone Crackers

Charcuterie & Cheese Platter, chock full of Serrano ham, chorizo, Mahon Curado cheese, grapes, Marie's Gone Crackers

 Roasted eggplant with  feta gremolata  and  roasted tomatoes .  Honestly, having a ton of roasted tomatoes in your fridge or freezer is your best secret weapon.  The dishes you can make are endless!

Roasted eggplant with feta gremolata and roasted tomatoes.  Honestly, having a ton of roasted tomatoes in your fridge or freezer is your best secret weapon.  The dishes you can make are endless!

Our meal was a simple offering of:

Pork Loin
Creamy Risotto
Sautéd Mushrooms
Apple Crisp Salad

Served with an Italian red wine 

Cream Puffs served with warm strawberry compote

 Pork Loin, simple but tasty and fresh with a squeeze of lemon.

Pork Loin, simple but tasty and fresh with a squeeze of lemon.

 Creamy risotto, replacing pasta this Sunday. Still hearty and satisfying.   

Creamy risotto, replacing pasta this Sunday. Still hearty and satisfying.   

 Apple crisp salad and sautéd mushrooms

Apple crisp salad and sautéd mushrooms

 Fill your plate.  Fill your heart.

Fill your plate.  Fill your heart.

Dessert was a pile of cream puffs served with warm strawberry relish, and continued to keep the wine flowing.

 Cream puffs

Cream puffs

I can't tell you how fortunate we are to have such wonderful friends, and the ability to share delicious food that is super easy to make, and even easier to enjoy.  

I hope you have a Sunday tradition that you cherish, or take this cue to create one to enjoy for decades to come. 

P.S. Out of pure coincidence and happiness, this post is launching on Tecla's birthday.  So happy birthday, dear friend.  Here's to many more Sunday lunches and more!

 

I love hearing from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.

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