How does a week of great food, good drinks and hanging out with good friends sound? That was my fortunate lot in life recently when the kids and I flew back to Tennessee to meet up with a group of college friends. The summer gathering, known as Happy Hour Week (or weekend depending on the arrangements for the particular year), has been an annual event for more than 15 years.
Our group is fairly large, around 40 people ages 4 and up, so each family takes on either a lunch or dinner and shares in the preparation so no one is in the kitchen all the time. Being by and large a bunch of foodies, it's a great time of sharing meals and recipes. This year we had Mediterranean-, Thai-, Cajun- and Moroccan-themed menus. Even the burger and casserole meals had added touches and from scratch goodness. I have to confess that I took a lunch that didn't require a lot of cooking, but did require a lot of prep - a taco salad bar with homemade guacamole and fruit "salsa" with cinnamon tortilla crisps.
The interesting thing is that over the years we have transitioned from decadent, rich foods to meals that have to account for food sensitivities and our unfortunate slowing metabolisms. It's interesting to try new things and see new ways of adjusting for this - millet for couscous, coconut milk in coffee, vegetarian jambalaya. We're still gathering this year's recipes, so I'm hoping to work some of them into future articles. Here are some delicious ones we've had in the past.
(16 pieces, 10 or more portions)
4 chickens, 2 1/2 pounds each, quartered
1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed
1/4 cup dried oregano
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup fresh cilantro finely chopped
1. In a large bowl combine chicken quarters, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.
4. Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice.
5. With a slotted spoon transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with cilantro. Pass remaining juices in a sauce boat.
Mediterranean Couscous Salad
1 14-ounce Vegetable broth
1 cup packaged couscous
1 10-ounce Can garbanzo beans, drained
1 cup sliced green onions, including tops
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1 can (2 1/2 ounces) sliced ripe olives, drained
2/3 cup prepared Italian vinaigrette dressing
In a medium saucepan, bring vegetable broth to a boil; stir in couscous and remove pan from heat. Cover and let stand 5 minutes; transfer to a large bowl and fluff with fork. Let stand 5 minutes, then fluff again. Mix in garbanzos, onions, cheese and olives. Pour dressing over mixture and toss lightly with a fork.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Lori Rossi began collecting recipes at age 14, but her real love affair with cooking started after picking up a December 1989 Bon Appetit magazine. Today, she shares her love of the kitchen with her two kids, Nathan, 11, and Nicole, 8. Contact her with a question or idea at email@example.com.