I was invited to join a lovely evening at my neighbor Rita’s house earlier this week. She is a member of an herb group that meets once/month at a member’s house for some activity or experience together planned by the hostess. Each August they meet at Rita’s for an evening of cooking and eating together.
Rita prepares stations each with a recipe and all the necessary ingredients and tools. All the recipes use herbs in some way.
At the beginning she told us all the various foods that would be prepared, making my mouth water before the house was yet full of the smells of food cooking. Then she told us, “Ok, go and cook or just get a drink and socialize. The house is yours. Enjoy yourself and when the food is ready, we will eat!”
Suddenly the house was full of motion as ladies moved about looking at the stations and deciding what they wanted to work on. Some went out to the herb garden to collect fresh herbs for their dishes. Some sat by the vegetable garden shucking fresh corn. The atmosphere was jovial and lively. Rita walked around checking on groups and making sure everyone had what they needed.
Before long the fennel was roasting in the oven and the house began to fill with that earthy licorice smell, accented by fresh herbs being torn and cut.
In about an hour we arranged the various prepared dishes in a buffet line and filled our plates. Ladies sat around the big dining room table and spilled out onto the porches too, enjoying a perfect August evening right on the line between summer’s heat and fall’s coming crispness.
It was all around a wonderful evening filled with flavorful, fresh food and good company – a mix of Rita’s herb group, family members, friends and neighbors.
Here’s some highlights of the food…
This was my favorite dish: fresh tomatoes (many from my garden) cut into thick slices atop a bed of greens, drizzled with homemade basil buttermilk dressing and accented with edible flowers.
Sweet and sour cucumbers is a summer staple at our house. These cucumbers are from my garden too.
Here’s the roasted fennel topped with Romano cheese. After it came out of the oven she added the fronds for another flavor punch. So good!
Rita’s husband Frank grilled chicken kabobs for us ahead of time and one of the ladies prepared an herb sauce to put over them.
I enjoyed this so much it made me think it would be fun to create a group that meets once/month at rotating houses and cooks a meal together maybe around some theme. If you live near me would you like to join? If I can gather a group I’ll host the first dinner!