Saturday Dinner with Friends


Saturday’s at the markets always yields a bounty that is beyond my family’s ability to consume. I buy with my stomach and eyes and it usually exceeds our recommended caloric intake for the week. So Saturday afternoons are the perfect time to easy2invite some good friends over for a last minute “un-orchestrated” dinner. Sometimes we have just two friends over, sometimes more. These friends are aware that this could be a “use what is in the fridge, freezer or pantry meal” and yet almost always oblige if they aren’t busy that night. Two Saturday’s ago, in the midst of the whole “maybe a coup” brouhaha, we decided to have this fairly easy meal… The main course was grilled angus sirloin steaks (out of the freezer, gifts from generous houseguests over the holidays) which we put on the barbecue for just 3-4 minutes on each side, some terrific sauteed portabello mushrooms (fresh from market and wickedly well priced) with butter and Italian parsley and some instant risotto Milanese (yes, instant! though it took 15 minutes to make!). Don’t worry, I normally make my risotto from scratch but this instant stuff was my wife’s discovery and it isn’t bad at all…

As a starter, we had an antipasto plate that had grilled red and yellow peppers (in the fridge), some ripe fresh tomatoes (in a basket in the kitchen, not in the fridge), bottled artichokes and nicoise olives (fridge) and some buffalo mozzarella (got at Santis when I went to buy French bread at a nearby bakery). I served this with some easy3fresh basil (garden), extra virgin olive oil (pantry) and our guests surprised us by bringing over a SUPERB bottle of truly syrupy balsamic vinegar for all to sample. At USD100 for this tiny bottle pictured here, this was precious stuff. It tasted absolutely delicious and you only needed a few drops on the mozzarella to realize there is a reason for its simply astronomical price tag. They took the little treasure of a bottle home after the meal… All in all, this took very little time in the kitchen and it was an extremely satisfying meal!


14 Responses

  1. wow, that spread looks absolutely delicious. it’s making me hungry–and all i have here is a cup of yakisoba… grrr…

  2. Wish I could whip up a meal like that in no time! Geez, the balsamic vinegar must’ve been aged for decades for it to be that thick…and that pricey.

  3. The balsamic vinegar must be the authentic one that I’ve watched in Discovery Travel and Living Channel. It even has to be tasted by some old man who is an expert and then sealed with red wax. Quite fancy.

  4. Where could you buy instant risotto? I’d like to try this – if MM says it’s good then I’d bet my money’s worth on it. I enjoy making risotto from scratch but having it in 15 minutes is something I’m looking forward to.

  5. lee, your comments are so succinct and yet so often witty you would definitely be on my short list of dinner guests… kulasa, they sell instant risotto at Santis (trust me, I am not advertising for them, I just happen to go there for some stuff that I like), Ana, there are several good balasamic vinegars but generally the ones that are 100% made up of vinegar that is 10-20 years old is the really pricey stuff. Mon C it was almost like syrup. The cheap way to achieve a similar effect is to heat up a pan and reduce cheap balsamic vinegar by half or more and it also get syrupy but obviously not the same as the really old stuff, Mandy, what are you doing eating a cup of yakisoba??!

  6. I was watching Alton Brown on Lifestyle Channel, he suggest using sherry vinegar. According to him same flavor and taste as balsamic but not as expensive. Any comments? Since strawberries are in season now, someone told me that balsamic vinegar and strawberries goes together very well, will have to try it out some time.

  7. Sherry vinegar is very good and I use it a lot…but I find it is much more acidic compared to the mellow almost sugary sweet taste of good balsamic vinegar. I suppose it depends what you use it for, but the flavor, texture and color of good balsamic is unique. And yes, balsamic and strawberries is a classic pairing. I have only tried it once and found it a bit odd but perhaps that was just ignorance. In theory the sugary sweetness of the balsamic pairs well with the tartish-sweet berries.

  8. I saw an episode of the cooking show of Diana De Laurentis, Everyday Italian(not sure of her name) where she reduced Balsamic vinegar with sugar to achieve the syrupy consistency. The end result is sweet and she paired it with Tenderloin steaks topped with goat cheese. Looked really yummy!

  9. nononono, sherry vinegar even from Spanish sherry isn’t close to good balsamic at all. unless perhaps if you made the vinegar yourself from some good sherry (you just need a mother!). i concur with the balsamic vinegar reduction. not the same thing but lifts inexpensive balsamic to a whole new level.

  10. Zita, they used to have it at Bacchus at the Shangrila Hotel but I am not sure if they still do. Also, there was supposed to be someone who made it and sold it from their home in Pasay somewhere but I don’t know how to contact them. Not a lot of help, I realize.

  11. i’ve been to salcedo and the lung center markets but i can’t seem to find fresh sprigs of rosemary for sale. would you know where? i’m planning on doing a rosemary themed gathering and i’ll use that from the appetizer to the dessert. thanks! i bought a shrub of rosemary but it died on me already. sigh.

  12. Joey at Salcedo carries rosemary plants and often sprigs. Also, the herb section of Rustan’s groceries at Rockwell and Glorietta also has rosemary particularly on Friday and the weekends.



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