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Ladies who Lunch

Inviting friends for dinner or a cocktail party is a pretty common occurrence.  Having a weekend brunch is probably the next most popular entertaining option.  Lunch, however, is often overlooked as a meal suitable for entertaining and that’s a shame.  Lunch might be the easiest entertaining opportunity.  It’s generally more casual, you can choose to serve courses or serve everything at once.  If you choose courses there are fewer than for a dinner, in most cases.  Lunch is more relaxed, and therefore more relaxing, all the way around. 
Over the weekend I had M and her Mom over for Sunday lunch.  I chose a menu that was casual, yet had some celebratory tones.  There were just three courses and they involved very little work after my guests had arrived. 
We started with a simple green salad.  Thinly sliced red onions, mushrooms and Satsuma orange wedges added variety.  It was tossed with a tasty and brightly colored dressing, Cranberry Vinaigrette.   The recipe is from Dishing with Kathy Casey: Food, Fun, and Cocktails from Seattle’s Culinary Diva, one of my favorite cookbooks. 
After the salad we moved on to Shrimp Bisque from Tyler’s Ultimate: Brilliant Simple Food to Make Any Time.  I had the soup made all the way up to the final step where the chopped shrimp is added to the hot bisque and cooked for just a couple minutes.  You don’t want to add the shrimp until you are ready to serve as it can get tough if heated too long.  Just keep the bisque simmering over a low heat during the salad course and as you clear the salad dishes turn up the heat to bring the bisque to nearly a boil.  Since the shrimp are chopped they really only need 2 or 3 minutes to cook through. 
For our finale, we had a dessert I created a couple months ago for a Wine Club meeting, Stuffed Poached Pears (recipe below).  Again this was all ready to go with just the final broil and drizzle of honey and nuts left to finish it off. 
The little bit of final preparation for the second and third courses provides a nice little break so you don’t feel like you are just sitting at the table and shoveling food down.  With whatever menu you choose, make sure that the final preparation is limited so that you don’t desert your guests for too long.  Or, if you have a kitchen that allows them to perch at a counter-top and talk to you while you are working that is also a nice option. 
In this new year you may have decided that one of your resolutions is to entertain more often. Even if that wasn’t a resolution, I encourage you to think about inviting a few friends for a lunch or two for a nice change of pace. 
Stuffed Poached Pears

For Poaching the Pears

3 Forelle pears, ripe but firm

2 cups water

1 cup sugar

1 vanilla bean, sliced in half lengthwise


To poach the pears, peel the pears and cut them in half lengthwise.  Trim out core.  Combine sugar and water in large saucepan.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean then add the seeds, pod and pears to the sugar and water.  To keep the pears submerged while they poach, put a sheet of parchment or wax paper on the surface and weight it with a plate or small lid.  Place the saucepan on high heat.  When the liquid comes to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer.  The amount of time to poach depends on the pears ripeness, probably 10 minutes or so.  Test for doneness by poking a pear with the point of a small knife.  As soon as the pears are soft, but not mushy, remove the saucepan from the heat.  Allow them to cool in the liquid. 


For filling:

½ cup Blue cheese (preferably soft, not crumbly) at room temperature

½ cup Mascarpone at room temperature

(measurements are approximate, may be more of a 60-40 combination depending on how strong the blue cheese is and your personal preference)


Mix together until blended.


To Finish

¼ cup chopped, toasted walnuts

2 Tbsp warmed honey (10 seconds in the microwave)


To Assemble

Generously fill the cavity in each pear with the cheese mixture. It should be a little bit heaping. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbling slightly.


Place a small amount of cheese mixture on a plate to help hold the pear in place.  Put ½ pear on the plate.  Drizzle with warmed honey and toasted walnuts. 


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