Prep salad. Throw the cherry tomatoes in a baking pan with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. (Slice a few—they look pretty—and leave the rest as is. The heat makes the whole ones pop and dribble juice, which is what I want for the dressing.) Roast in the oven for 25 minutes.
Prep chops. Coat the chops on each side with a little pesto, then roll them in a plate of bread crumbs (the best utensils for doing this are your hands). Place them on a cookie sheet, cover with aluminum foil and set aside.
Toast pine nuts. This is actually the only way I like to eat pine nuts; untoasted, they’re too waxy for my tastes. In a pan on medium heat, toss until they’re lightly browned and emit their nutty, woody essence.
- 3 racks of lamb (ask to have them frenched—i.e., the meat is cut away at the tip to expose the bone—and cut into individual chops)
- 6 to 8 small Yukon Gold potatoes
- 1 bunch leeks
- 2 bags prewashed mixed greens
- 1 red onion
- 1 lb. cherry tomatoes
- 1 lemon
- 1 pint each strawberries, raspberries and blueberries
- 1/4 lb. Gruyère
- 1/4 lb. each of three cheeses (1 hard, 1 soft, 1 semisoft)
- 1 container (4 oz.) crumbled feta cheese
- 1 container (7.6 oz.) Greek yogurt milk
- 1 pint assorted olives
- olive oil
- 1/2 pint roasted red peppers
- 1/2 pint hummus
- 1 pint pesto
- 1 baguette
- 1 jar honey
- salt and pepper
- 1 container bread crumbs
- pine nuts
- candied orange peel
- 3 bottles red wine
- 2 bunches flowers
the pine nuts—they
Cheese course. On a side or coffee table, set out cheeses with olives, hummus and roasted red peppers in bowls, using fig leaves for garnish. Top soft cheese with a little candied orange peel. (Style is in the details.) Thinly slice baguette for an accompaniment.
Set out wine and glasses. Uncork two bottles of good but
Deal with flowers. I turn my lackluster blooms into what I hope are chic, monochromatic arrangements by breaking up the bunches, then regrouping by color. I notice that my water glasses match some of the blossoms, so I commandeer them as vases to help pull together the look.
Pretty up the powder room. Light a candle and put out a clean hand towel. My friends will think I always live like this.
Assemble salad. Mix greens, crumbled feta and toasted pine nuts. Remember the red onion; slice and add it to the bowl too.
Make dressing. With a slotted spoon, remove tomatoes from the baking pan and add to salad. The leftover juices are the base for the dressing. Pour them into a bowl and add vinegar to taste—I like white balsamic because it’s not heavy—and a pinch each sugar and salt. Whisk with a fork.
Set the mood. Switch off overheads and turn on lamps. Light a few votive candles, but make sure they’re unscented. Freshen up. Seven whole minutes to change my shirt, brush my teeth and make sure my hair isn’t sticking up in weird ways.
Plate the meal. Everyone gets two lamb chops plus one mini gratin to start (there are extras). Have guests bring their wineglasses to the table, and place the salad bowl in the center. Bon appétit!
1. Stock up on wine in advance, so you’ll have one less thing to think about.
2. Take the cooking and serving pieces out of your cupboards the night before, and check to make sure you have staple ingredients on hand.
3. Set the table and straighten the powder room before you go to work.