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Unfussy meals with friends

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Arugula, Corn and Tomato Salad

VINAIGRETTE, PLEASE Just whisk, combine and toss to make the breezy Arugula, Corn and Tomato Salad from Peace Meals. (Photo: The Junior League of Houston)

Cooking Buzz is produced in partnership with the Junior League of Houston, a women’s charitable and education organization founded in 1925.

In the words of one of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist, “Hospitality is about love, not about performance,” a philosophy I embrace wholeheartedly.

I may not have the time or ability to prepare gourmet meals, but I love to host a good dinner party. And thankfully, so do our friends.

Gatherings in someone’s home feel more intimate, and the conversations are richer. We are able to linger around the table longer in a relaxed atmosphere. Plus, we don’t have to hire a babysitter as long as there’s a Pack ’n Play and an empty room.

Over the years, my friends and I have really learned our way around each other’s kitchens – where to find the wine openers, serving utensils and water glasses. That kind of comfort among friends makes hosting (and cleanup) even easier.

I like to serve homey, unfussy food: a simple appetizer, a hearty main course, a green salad, a delicious side, and a light but satisfying dessert.

If we’re hosting a large group, I’ll let The Pantry at the Junior League of Houston do the heavy lifting and will pick up the Sliced Beef Tenderloin with Creamed Horseradish and Rolls for the main course along with the Crudités and Fresh Dip for an easy appetizer. The seasoned fresh vegetables are offered with a choice of fresh dill, creamy blue cheese or roasted red pepper dips.

On my way home, I’ll pick up a succulent red fruit Pinot Noir and a rich Napa Cabernet Sauvignon to complement the flavorful tenderloin.

For a fall gathering, I love to serve the Avocado Cucumber Soup with Cilantro. It pairs well with the Arugula, Corn and Tomato Salad. Both recipes can be found in Peace Meals

Then before anyone has left the table, I’ll bring out a platter of Hazelnut Dream Cookies, also from Peace Meals. A ready-plated, no-fuss dessert is a wonderful way to round out the meal.

I hope you’ll consider hosting a dinner party instead of making a restaurant reservation the next time you gather around the table with friends.

To buy a Junior League of Houston cookbook, see jlh.org or call 713-871-6608.

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