Sunday Family Dinner

Family Dinner Channels the Mediterranean!

June 2016 Fam Din

A couple of things about this month’s Family Dinner that we had last weekend.

First off, it was HOT AS HECK!! 104 degrees in Orange County and it wasn’t even technically summer yet!

Which is why we were okay with having {Diet} Coke Floats right out of the gates.

Y.O.L.O.

June 2016 Fam Din
Second, Fam Din took place two days after my eldest niece, Nina, graduated from high school.

She is the eldest of my siblings’ kids and my parents’ first grandchild. In many ways, she was all of our baby. In fact, I was in the room when she came into the world and heard her very first cry.

And now, here she is–all grown up and starting college this fall. How did this happen? So I was a cheering lunatic at the ceremony and a little sad….ALL at the same time.

Needless to say, I was still a little emotional two days later. Which is why I took a ton of pics at dinner. So be warned—there are more photos of the fam than food in this post. I’ll make it up to you next time.

But isn’t she adorable?

Nina

As I mentioned, it was a scorcher out that day and coincidentally, we all were feeling a little silly.

So it was no surprise that this happened….

June 2016 Fam Din

And then Lucasaurus had to break out his stunnahs because, well…

He’s a playah….

June 2016 Fam Din
We had anticipated the heat and wanted to create a menu that wasn’t too heavy. We settled on dishes with a Mediterranean slant and were able to use ingredients like oregano, mint, dill, pine nuts, feta, olives, anchovies and lemons. Plus, it lent to a colorful menu and who doesn’t love to taste the rainbow?

Next up–Cocktail Time!!! To help us cool down, I made several batches of Boozy Watermelon Lemonade. Doesn’t it just scream summah?

Refreshing, light, lemony and went down incredibly smooth….a little too smooth. That could be a good and bad thing.

June 2016 Fam Din
I’m going with good.

Oh, and the kiddos got regular Watermelon Lemonade–sans vodka.

June 2016 Fam Din
After the first pitcher or so, we needed a little nosh in our tummies.

Appetizers time!

I do enjoy a deviled egg from time to time but my seestrah absolutely L-O-V-E-S them! Which is kind of confusing because she doesn’t really like eggs.

Say WHAT?!? Say WHAT?!?

I know, she’s weird.

But then she pulls out a winner like this and then we were sold.

June 2016 Fam Din
Her Kicked Up Mediterranean Inspired Deviled Eggs were flavored with white truffle oil, paprika and then topped with crispy applewood bacon, freshly made tapenade and fried kale.

I know, right?!?

Tons of flavor and I loved the great texture contrast from the bacon and kale.

I may or may not have eaten like 5 or 6 of them…. but might I remind you–this is a “No Food Judgement Zone”.

June 2016 Fam Din
On to more fam pics….

These three melt my heart. ❤

June 2016 Fam Din

And then I go back into the house and find the seesters being a little silly.

Was it the Boozy Watermelon Lemonade?

Nah….I blame it on the kicked up Deviled Eggs.

June 2016 Fam Din
But….

When you can’t beat them—join them!

Throwing up SHAKA!…ROCK AND ROLL!…ZOT-ZOT!

Don’t know what zot-zot is? Ask anyone with ties to UC Irvine.

June 2016 Fam Din
And before we knew it, we needed another snack.

Hey–we started early that day and we like options!

So then I made a big batch of Kolokithokeftedes with a Tzatziki Dipping Sauce.

June 2016 Fam Din
What are Kolokithokeftedes, you ask? They’re delicious Greek zucchini fritters. Can’t pronounce Kolokithokeftedes? Don’t worry–neither can I. But they’re fab, nonetheless.

I made these from shredded zucchini, beaten eggs, chopped fresh dill and mint, feta cheese, panko breadcrumbs and some dried herbs. Just be sure to squeeze out as much liquid from the zucchini as possible before you make the fritters. Or you can do what I did and lightly salt them, put them in a colander and allowed the natural liquids to be drawn out. You’d be surprised how much liquid you’ll extract–I got almost 1 1/2 cups from about 2 pounds of zucchini!

After a quick pan fry, I sprinkled them with a bit of sea salt flakes and served them with Tzatziki.

As for the Tzatziki, it’s a breeze.

I mixed together shallots, garlic, diced cucumbers, Greek yogurt, sour cream, red wine vinegar, dill, salt and pepper. Very versatile and for the record, fantastic over grilled salmon, too.

June 2016 Fam Din
We love hanging out in seestrah’s backyard.

Great patio furniture, bistro lights, built in BBQ, lots of space and very SoCal inspired landscaping.

June 2016 Fam Din
And their jacuzzi is fantastic too!

June 2016 Fam Din
After some shenanigans, lots of pictures and even more cocktails – it was time to focus in on dinner.

Keeping with the Mediterranean flavors, seestrah made up a big batch of Oregano Chicken to be grilled.

June 2016 Fam Din
She marinated lots of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs overnight. The marinade consisted of garlic, anchovies, olives brine, lemons, onions and fresh oregano.

Seestrah then handed it over to her hubs to grill low and slow so that the meat was wonderfully juicy and skin was perfectly crispy.

June 2016 Fam Din
Once the chicken was grilled and rested, it was slathered with a flavorful mixture of anchovies, olive oil, chopped olives, garlic, lemon juice and parsley.

As someone who loves olives, I thought this was fantastic!

The “topping” added the right amount of brininess and acidity to the chicken. If you’re interested, the recipe can be found here.

June 2016 Fam Din

While the chicken rested, I snapped a couple pics of the kid sibbies.

First up–Lucas and Maya and then Nini and Nina.

They. Are. Adorable.

June 2016 Fam Din
Back to dinner….

Big seester made two sides to go along with the chicken.

First, a bright and fresh Cucumber Salad that had heirloom tomatoes, olives, Persian cucumbers, feta cheese and lots of fresh dill. She dressed the salad with an anchovy vinaigrette.

June 2016 Fam Din
Her second side dish was this beautiful Orzo Salad.

June 2016 Fam Din
It was made of cooked orzo, artichokes, tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, pine nuts, fresh basil, lemon and shrimp.

I adored it–LOVED what the pine nuts added to the dish.

June 2016 Fam Din
Now isn’t this plating a delicious sight?

I also added a dollup of tzatziki to the party because why the heck not?

June 2016 Fam Din
After dinner, we lounged about and enjoyed some more vino.

June 2016 Fam Din
We chatted about random stuff, laughed a lot, sang a bunch of 80’s hits, did a little gossiping and started planning for July’s menu.

It’s never too early to plan the next meal in our book.

And trust me, I would have loved to have share the video of us singing Jessie’s Girl.…but I value my life too much.

June 2016 Fam Din
Finally, it was time to dig into dessert.

Carrying on with the Mediterranean flavors, I made an olive oil cake–a Chocolate Olive Oil Cake –and used Nigella Lawson’s recipe that can be found here.

June 2016 Fam Din
If you’ve never had an olive oil cake, don’t worry, it doesn’t taste like olives. The oil just lends to a very moist sponge and gives a slight floral flavor. It works particularly well since there’s no flour in the recipe but instead it uses ground almonds.

And it’s freaking delicious.

I paired the dense, chocolatey cake with a whipped berry cream. Super easy since I made my standard whipped cream and then folded in crushed fresh blueberries and raspberries. And it was fantastic!

YUM!

I’d definitely make this combo again. And you should make it too.

June 2016 Fam Din
Moral of the post?

I love Family Dinners in the summer.

Even when it’s just “almost” summer.

June 2016 Fam Din
Days are longer and the sun hangs out until 8ish.

Which means more time for food and a lot more time with the fam.

June 2016 Fam Din

And in my book, that’s definitely a Win-Nguyen!

June 2016 Fam Din

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Boozy Watermelon Lemonade
Appetizers: Kicked Up Mediterranean Inspired Deviled Eggs, Kolokithokeftedes with Tzatziki
Entrees: Grilled Oregano Chicken with Green Olives & Anchovies
Sides: Cucumber & Heirloom Tomato Salad with Anchovy Vinaigrette, Shrimp and Orzo Salad
Dessert: Chocolate Olive Oil Cake with Whipped Berry Cream

Pastas/Noodles · Seafood · Sunday Family Dinner

Grilled Shrimp with Chimichurri Orzo

Grilled Shrimp with Chimichurri Orzo

I’m quite pleased to share that our Sunday Family Dinners have been going swimmingly well.

And what’s fun is that we’ve adopted some international themes for each dinner—the last inspired by Latin flavors. It was a memorable afternoon/evening where everyone had a hand in creating our delicioso menu.

My contribution this time around were fresh margaritas (no pre-bottled stuff here!) and a huge bowl of Grilled Shrimp with Chimichurri Orzo.

Grilled Shrimp with Chimichurri Orzo

I’m pretty obsessed with Chimichurri Sauce –full of bright herbs and citrus flavors. I usually drizzle it over grilled skirt steak but I’ve been known to stir a spoonful of it into scrambled eggs or as a spread in sandwiches in lieu of pesto.

The dish turned out to be a winning combination that can be served either warm or at room temperature. Total Nguyen-Win 🙂

Stay tuned for our upcoming Family Dinner where we will venture to Europe!


This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Margaritas on the Rocks
Appetizers: Fresh Guacamole
Entrees: Grilled Tri Tip, Grilled Shrimp with Chimichurri Orzo

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Grilled Shrimp with Chimichurri Orzo
Serves approximately 6

Ingredients:

1 Pound Dried Orzo
1 Pound Large Shrimp, peeled and deveined
Kosher Salt
Pepper

Chimichurri Sauce
1 Large Bunch Fresh Cilantro, roughly chopped
1 Large Bunch Fresh Parsley, roughly chopped
6 Sprigs Fresh Oregano
2 Large Garlic Cloves
1 Serrano Chile Pepper*
1 Tablespoon Lime Zest
¼ Cup Lime Juice
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
½ Teaspoon Red Chili Flakes*
1 Teaspoon Honey
3/4 – 1 Cup Olive Oil, more if needed
Kosher Salt
Pepper

Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and set aside.

Prepare the Chimichurri Sauce. In a food processor or blender, add the first nine ingredients and pulse several times. Stream in the olive oil and blend until the items have fully incorporated. More olive oil can be added if a smoother, loose texture is desired. Check for seasonings and add salt and pepper as needed. Refrigerate until ready to be used. (*Chile amounts can be adjusted based on heat level preference)

Bring a grill pan to medium high heat. Cover the pan with cooking spray and grill the shrimp about 1-2 minutes per side. Transfer the shrimp to a plate and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the orzo until al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Drain well.

In a large bowl, toss together the orzo, shrimp and ½ cup of the Chimichurri Sauce at a time. (Add additional sauce as needed.) Plate and garnish with additional cilantro.

Pastas/Noodles · Seafood

Grilled Prawns with Orzo

 

Awhile back, our friend Carol had her photo of an Artichoke Orzo Salad showcased with Pioneer Woman and it reminded me of how much I love this Mediterannean-styled salad from our local deli. So for lunch the other day, I decided to make my version of this light and fairly healthy dish.

The BF and I really enjoyed the final product. It was fresh, bright, and deliciously savory–without leaving you with that heavy feeling other pastas often do. By using jarred artichoke hearts, I easily cut the prep time while adding in a great texture–not to mention, veggies. The use of both fresh mozzarella and feta cheeses gave the orzo an almost “decadent” flavor to compliment the warm grilled prawns.

Next time you’re in the mood for a pasta, give this recipe a try and hopefully–it will give you the feeling of eating while on some fabulous Mediterranean Island. 🙂

 

Looking for a Vegetarian dish? Leave out the Prawns or use firm tofu in lieu. Be sure to extend marinating time if using tofu.

Grilled Prawns with Orzo
Makes 4-5 Servings

Ingredients:

Prawns
20-25 Prawns (peeled, deveined, with tail on)
1 Teaspoon Lemon Zest
3 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ Teaspoon Red Chili Flakes
1 Teaspoon Salt

Orzo
1 Cup Orzo (Before cooking)
1½ Cups Chopped Artichoke Hearts
½ Cup Chopped Sun Dried Tomatoes (preserved in olive oil)
¾ Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese
½ Cup Diced Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
¼ Cup Chopped Fresh Sweet Basil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Vinaigrette (see below)

Vinaigrette
2 Tablespoons Oil from the Sun Dried Tomatoes
4 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Fresh Thyme Leaves
½ Teaspoon Dried Thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste

Prepare vinaigrette by whisking together the first 4 ingredients. Add Salt and Pepper to taste.

Cook the 1 cup of dried Orzo in salted water. Drain thoroughly and move to a large bowl. Immediately add Artichokes, Sun Dried Tomatoes and toss with Vinaigrette. Add ½ cup Feta Cheese and Sweet Basil. Toss lightly. Salt and Pepper to taste and chill for a minimum of 30-45 minutes.

While the Orzo is chilling, mix the Prawns together with Lemon Zest, Olive Oil, Chili Flakes, and Salt. Marinate for 10-15 minutes. On a grill pan at high heat, cook Prawns 1-2 minutes per side–being careful not to overcook. Move to clean plate.

Retrieve chilled Orzo and toss in diced Mozzarella and remaining ¼ cup Feta Cheese. Check seasonings and add additional salt and pepper as needed.

Plate Orzo on dishes and place 4-5 grilled Prawns on top. Garnish and serve.