J:

Some friends of David's from the Czech Republic, Dean and
Sarah, moved back to the U.S. a few weeks ago. They moved to
San Diego so David put them in touch with me. They asked if I
was the one of David's friends who is the gourmet chef. I was
just about to go into my normal "I'm not a chef, I just cook
things" modesty bit, when I remembered, David has a friend, an
ex- roommate actually, who is a real gourmet chef at a fancy
restaurant in San Francisco. Of course that is who they meant,
so I had to just say "no".

Nevertheless, for the Sunday Dinner they attended, I made a few
dishes of my own creation. They're not gourmet by any means,
but I like them and I think you've seen them all before.

I made a salad with my tomato juice and balsamic vinegrette
dressing, but I left out the garlic.

I made my lentil barley with marinara soup. This time I used
half the lentils in an attempt to make it more soup-like and
less gloppy. It turns out the barley will just keep on
absorbing as much liquid as you feed it so it was just as
gloppy, but just as good. I left the garlic out of the soup as
well.

The third dish was my rapini and sun dried tomato pasta, which
I am still trying to perfect. This time I used orechiette
pasta, which makes it _much_ better. However people thought it
was too bitter, so I think in the future, I'll peel the thick
stems of the rapini. The peel is where a lot of the bitterness
is. I like it a lot as it was, but I bullied people into giving
me their honest opinions (something I'm not usually interested
in) and got several comments about the bitterness. I think next
time I'll also try a sweeter wine. I used Chardonnay.

See also My Rapini Pasta for My Birthday, added September 2000.

Fourth, I made risotto. That was less of a "my own creation"
and more of a "just winging it" risotto with asparagus. Saute
some onions and garlic in olive oil, then add the arborio rice
and saute until opaque. Add a half cup of white wine and stir
for a minute or two, until the wine is absorbed. Add enough
vegetable stock (already hot or boiling is better) to cover.
Keep stirring and simmering and adding hot stock until it's all
cooked and creamy. Add some grated parmesan and margerine to
taste. Add some cut-up pre-steamed but still crisp asparagus.
Stir well and serve.