Growing up my family generally reserved extended family meals to gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We alternated between our house and my dad’s brother’s house. I have many happy memories of those holidays. Sunday dinners for my husband were a ritual throughout his childhood and beyond. I was lucky to enjoy several before his parents moved from the city to the country and Mom became too frail to cook. She was 100% Italian and a fabulous cook! We miss her.
Sunday dinners have become a relished, regular activity with family and close friends in recent years. The tradition began with a dinner after our beginner ballroom dance class on Sundays with our youngest daughter and friends. Dance class night changed, but the Sunday dinners continued and we began including my niece’s family, our friends’ sons and foreign exchange student, our daughter’s boyfriend, and our other children and relatives when they are in town.
I select menus with somewhat of a theme. The first themed series was ‘cooking’ our way through the regions of Italy using a book that our daughter received from her Italian grandma’s collection, although I doubt Mom ever used it since she didn't refer much to cookbooks. The project had multiple benefits … a tradition took hold, it was a great way to spend quality time with my daughter, and finally it was educational as we prepared for our trip to Italy. The book is “Claudia Roden's the Food of Italy: Region by Region” published in 1990. Our current theme is “The Food of Spain”, also by Roden, although I have suspended the theme and turned to grilling during this incredibly hot summer.
Typically, our friends bring wine and appetizers and my niece brings dessert. The evening begins at about 6 and the menfolk have a beer tasting with the appetizers and the womenfolk have a glass of wine. Our grandnieces like to help cook and set the table and I make sure there is a job for them. We sit down to a semi-formal table set using a tablecloth and cloth napkins and serve the meal family style. We catch up on life's events since the last time we were together.
This past Sunday, I made ancho adobo (flank) steak with whiskey glaze with herb butter-tossed potatoes and corn from the Cuisine At Home Weeknight Grilling cookbook; recipes below. The sides I made were chickpea and tomato salad (found on Pinterest) and Corn, poblano, and avocado salad (found on AllRecipes.com), and basic deviled eggs. My daughter made the Caprese salad (tomato, basil and mozzarella dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar), our friends also made a fruit salad and my niece made the Strawberry Pretzel dessert. I also made a watermelon lemonade that is really refreshing and even better with a little vodka, so I'm told.
I would love to hear from others about their traditions around family meals, how the tradition began and what you eat.
Ancho Adobo Steak with Wiskey Glaze
1/2 cup apricot preserves (I subbed marmalade)
1/3 cup whiskey
2 T chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced
Salt to taste.
Combine and set aside.
Dry Rub for steak - for each 1 to 1.5# steak
2 T brown sugar
1 T chile powder
2 t kosher salt (use about 1 teaspoon if you are using table salt)
1 t ground black pepper
Combine and rub on steak. Bring steak to room temperature before grilling.
On a preheated gas grill set to medium-high, cook steak for 3 minutes on each side. Then brush with the sauce to glaze and grill 2 minutes longer on each side using about one-half of the sauce; about 10 minutes total grill time. Allow steak to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing. Slice against the grain and serve with remaining sauce.
Herb butter-tossed potatoes and corn
1 lb. new potatoes, cut into rounds
2 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked, cut into 2" pieces
12 shallots, peeled (I omitted only because I forgot to buy them)
2 T unsalted butter, softened
2 T chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste.
Combine potatoes, corn and shallots and grill, turning often to prevent burning. I use a wok for the grill. Cook for about 20 minutes or until grill marks appear and potatoes are tender. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with butter, parsley, salt and pepper. (I had some leftover herb butter with parsely and used it.)