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Salmon, and a Reminisence

[Mother’s Day Salmon, May 13, 2007]

Two years ago on Memorial Day weekend, I threw a dinner party to rival all dinner parties I’d ever thrown before. It was a sort of celebration for many of us who had worked (and sweated!) together at Reuters and who were now moving on to bigger and better things — it was one last time to get the gang all together again.

At the time, I lived in a studio apartment in Adams Morgan, with a small kitchen and limited counter space, but as I am rarely daunted by these things I invited all and sundry from my former workplace, some of whom graciously contributed to the menu. Extra guests came, too: a friend’s brothers, an old college room mate and his partner, various husbands and wives.

I think the total in attendance was 17.

Seventeen. Even now, that number makes me quake. What was I thinking? Or not thinking? I had hardly enough plates, and definitely not enough chairs. Rather than having a buffet, I insisted on courses (multiple appetizers, soup, a soufflé) and miraculously all came out of the oven on time, and at the right temperature. Some of us ate with spoons instead of forks, and forget about the knives. But to my astonishment and happiness, no one seemed to care, and it was still very festive and merry and pretty and so easy with the conversation and laughs and everything else.

I really do think it was the shining moment in my dinner party career — and I’ve given a lot of dinner parties. There is something about successfully cooking for a large crowd of people, with late-comers and last-minute additions to add to the mix, that is incredibly satisfying. [I threw a surprise welcome home party last January that was also a standout, but that was not a proper dinner party.] We ate and drank (and drank, and drank — starting with mojitoes and champagne and working our way through a cooler of beer) until late into the night and I remember somehow all the dishes got done, nothing broke, and, oh yes, everything tasted pretty delicious.

I made salmon for that party, and I think I almost always make salmon for special occasions. For Mother’s Day, I bought a pound of local, wild-caught, from the Ferry Building Fish market (how sweetly, beautifully pink it was, as you can see) and cooked it in my usual way: a splash of olive oil, a splash of white wine, a bit of water, some salt and pepper and chopped basil, and layered with lemons baked at 400-ish F for about 15-20 minutes.

I don’t eat fish, but when it’s fresh, it smells wonderful when it’s cooking. It seems like spring to me, and signifies that certain specialness parties always bring. I think I should throw another one, soon.

Over-the-top Menu for a Crowd

Rosemary foccacia and red onion foccacia with an arugula pesto
Hummus and pita

Roasted red and orange pepper soup

Salmon with a white wine tomato sauce
Roasted asparagus
Corn on the cob
Spinach salad with strawberries
Pearl couscous with chickpeas and roasted tomatoes
Spinach and green garlic soufflé
(melon slices I forgot about)

Cherry upside down cake
Waffles with chocolate and strawberry sauce


  1. One of these days I’m going to find a way to get invited to one of these dinner parties….xoxo, D

  2. I do recall, very fondly, that Memorial Day party two years ago. It was a Tour de Force with the odds heavily stacked against you.

    You left out (at least) one major impediment you overcame that evening — modestly requires it, you no doubt believe. Your oven’s pilot light refused to cooperate, despite manly attempts at intervention from at least two fire-wielding guests. Not everybody reads sfgate.com’s H&G section, you know :)

    We, who have enjoyed your hospitality, salute you!

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