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Connecting through food

Mary Lee Wilkens
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White Bean Dip with Lemon Sage Olive Oil

WARM WELCOME For an appetizer, try this creamy, warm White Bean Dip with Lemon Sage Olive Oil served with pita triangles or crackers. (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.

Ten years ago, the Junior League of Houston published Peace Meals: A Book of Recipes for Cooking and Connecting. As members prepared to distribute the new cookbook celebrating a “nourishing connection,” Hurricane Ike struck Houston, wreaking havoc and prompting residents to reach out and help each other.

That connection was on display again a year ago, as Houstonians delivered meals to friends, fed strangers, and ate with homebound neighbors. The anniversary of Hurricane Harvey reminds us of the powerful comfort of a meal.

The late-summer months are a good time to nurture our connections with the help of food. Consider welcoming guests with warm White Bean Dip with Lemon Sage Olive Oil. This creamy dip is perfect served with warm pita triangles or crackers. The flavors are complex, but the recipe is not.

The Radicchio Salad with Blue Cheese and Peppered Almonds is colorful and full of flavor. Double the portion of peppered almonds for guests to snack on while you plate individual salad servings in radicchio leaf “cups.” Feel free to substitute goat or feta cheese if blue cheese is not your favorite.

To balance the flavors of the salad, I love the creaminess of Spinach Tortellini Casserole. This dish serves as an entrée or side dish. For a hungrier audience, pair the casserole with a rotisserie chicken and a loaf of crusty bread.

Some of the best recipes don’t even require a trip to the grocery store. The Any Day Chocolate Cake is a brownie-like cake made with pantry ingredients. It is delicious served plain or topped with fresh whipped cream and berries.

So often we wait for a reason to gather over food: to celebrate, mourn, reminisce or comfort. Consider inviting friends over for a relaxed meal now and celebrate the enduring neighborly spirit of Houston.

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