Dinner With Friends

As the summer draws to a close, we’re all frantically trying to get together with all those people that we said we’d get together with this summer.  I don’t know about you but my list is long and often visits fall through what with kids, work, emergencies and that sloooooow, laaaaaazy feeling that comes with summer.  But sometimes we can manage a good few visits.

Today I got to spend the morning and early afternoon with a dear friend from a former job.  I last saw her in April when I went to see her and her new(ish) house.  A few weeks ago, she texted me to say that we needed to catch up, it had been too long.  I agreed and let her in on the pregnancy news and she texted back a big laugh along with her own pregnancy announcement.  As we discussed today, it’s nice to know that even though we don’t talk much, our sense of timing is still good (we got married within 5 months of each other, were pregnant the first time within 7 months of each other and this time around it’s 2 months difference).  Some friends are like that.

Tonight a friend and her boyfriend are joining me and the babe for dinner.  They’re bringing pizza and I’m providing a yummy side and a dessert.  I decided on an antipasto platter which is so much easier than it looks and is almost always a hit.  Plus, yesterday I was given this bounty from K’s garden:

zucchini, summer squash, two kinds of cucumbers and, oh, the sungold tomatoes. heaven!

So, to make an antipasto platter, you need a large platter.  Like this one:

This one was my Grandmother's. or my great-aunt's. Or someone's. It's always been in the house so, I'm going with Grandma.

Then you’ll need an assortment of cheeses, meats, and marinated and fresh veggies.  It’s a pretty versatile thing- you can use whatever you like.  I generally use marinated artichokes and mushrooms, some prosciutto, tomoatoes, fresh mozzerella, roasted red peppers, and lupini beans.  But I’ve mixed it up with grilled asparagus, ricotta salata, pepperoni, hot peppers, etc.

From the top left: Sungold tomatoes, marinated mushrooms, prosciutto, grilled zucchini, fresh mozzerella, grilled summer squash, ricotta salata and marinated artichoke hearts.

This time around, since I had such a HUGE zucchini and some summer squash, I decided to grill those with some balsamic vinegar and use them in the platter.  They’re also a great side dish and one of the few ways I can get the baby to eat veggies.  When you’re putting together your platter, just stack things and place them in sections.  I’m telling you, easiest thing ever.  And always looks pretty!

Grilled Zucchini & Summer Squash

Ingredients:

1-2 zucchini (depending on size)

1-2 summer squash

salt

balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Wash your zucchini and squash.  Slice off each end so that you lose the stem and you can hold it upright.  Make long slices, about 1/4 inch thick.

Lay the slices out on a cutting board, large plate or your counter, depending on how mess averse you are.  Sprinkle with salt and balsamic vinegar.  Let them stand for 5-10 minutes while you heat up your grill. 

Or, in my case, while you heat up your grill pan.  Because this was happening outside:

So, heat up your grill, about medium heat.  You can brush it with a little olive oil if you like but it’s not strictly necessary.  Place your veggies on and let them grill up for a few minutes on each side.  You want those tasty marks and for them to get a bit tender.  I did mine in batches as my grill pan is smaller than my outside grill.

Sorry, this photo taken one-handed as the babe was demanding "up, up" and there was lots of thunder and lightning so I decided to indulge her!

When I took mine off, I put them on a plate to cool and threw some more balsamic on top, to let it soak in a bit more.  Then I layered them into the antipasto platter.  Delish!

Also, a bonus kitchen tip:

When frosting a cake, you can place small pieces of waxed or parchment paper under the first layer so that you can frost while on the platter.

See the waxed paper along the sides?

Make the paper small so that when you pull it out it doesn’t take the whole cake with it.  The pieces should rest just a few centimeters under the cake- just enough to protect the platter.

And the final cake:

See?  Clean platter!  It also helps when frosting to turn the cake, not your knife.  Some people use a lazy susan for this.  I use a cake stand platter, turning it by the stem. That way the knife/spatula stays still and the cake moves.  Makes a huge difference.

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