Last night we had a wonderful dinner and it wasn’t because of the food. It was because we were able to share our food with two very old and very good friends. We have been friends for over 25 years and we’ve been eating our way through those years. We came to Green Bay, WI in 1978 because Curt was a newly hired professor at the university. I had been a high school art teacher but there weren’t any teaching jobs available. I was a graduate assistant at the university library while in graduate school so I applied for a job at the local public library when we moved here. I got hired as a clerk and while working there I met Pam who headed the children’s department.
Curt and I had been part of a self-described “gourmet” group when we lived in Indiana. It had been a great experience and we wanted to get something like it started here. Pam and her husband, Kenn were our first invitees. We invited a third couple and planned on meeting at each others’ homes every three months to eat, drink, laugh, discuss and just have a great time. Getting that third couple to gel with the original two was a bit of a challenge but after two tries we found a twosome that shared our interest in food, our liberal politics and our sense of humor. A divorce caused a brief hiccup in the “Gourmet Group”, as we called ourselves, but the new man in the third couple was a natural and fit in perfectly. The final “Gourmet Group” was born and, in essence, has remained even though distance now separates us.
So yesterday, the original Jeanne and Curt, Pam and Kenn, who got together so many years before, had another wonderful meal together. And even though they now live in Washington state, it was like we had never been separated. We caught up on everyone’s health (unfortunately one of the reason’s we were together), our children, our jobs or absence of them (3 are retired), and of course current events. If we could have had more to drink and stayed up later, politics (thanks to Kenn) would have also been on the table. It was a great evening. I missed them as soon as they left.
So, what was for dinner? Baked cherry tomatoes with garlic and saffron oil (recipe below), tabbouleh, lamb and chicken Shish-ka-bobs, crusty french bread. The wine was Apothic Red, a blend of Syrah, Zinfandel and Merlot. Dessert was coffee and black cap muffins (see separate blog post from June 29th).
Baked Cherry Tomatoes with garlic and saffron oil
1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium pinch saffron, crumbled
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
4 fat garlic cloves, slivered
1/2 tsp smoked sweet Spanish paprika
1 sm. pinch crushed red pepper flakes
2 fresh thyme sprigs or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 small bay leaf
2-3 T minced flat leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat olive oil and saffron over low heat in a flameproof baking dish that can hold the tomatoes in one layer. Add tomatoes and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Remove the dish from the heat, stir in paprika and red pepper flakes, scatter the thyme and bay leaf on top. Sprinkle salt over the tomatoes and bake until they are plump and tender and are beginning to split, about 20 minutes.
Let the tomatoes cool for 5 minutes. Remove and discard the thyme (if using sprigs) and bay leaf, sprinkle parsley on top and serve directly from the dish or transfer to a serving dish. We put ours in individual bowls and brought those to the table. Serve with crusty bread to sop up the luscious garlic and saffron infused oil. Serves 6-8.