Greetings from Boston! I’m busy exploring vegan eats and hilarious New Hampshire antique shops, and I’ll be back with a full report of the good, bad, and the bland. Fortunately, my radio silence here at Quick Cook Rice does not mean radio silence in life. I’ve been hanging with friends and stuffing my face. Just the way life was meant to be. 

Unfortunately I don’t live near most of my closest friends, so they can’t often pop on by for dinner or a I-was-in-the-neighborhood-tea-and-crumpets visit, and I’ve yet to prefect to the art of impromptu entertaining. You know the kind I mean. It’s totally up Martha Stweart’s alley — effortless entertaining that comes from throwing together this and that, a fancy jar of olives, a box of pasta, that expensive carton of specialty tomatoes, and voila, a gourmet meal that your friends think you slaved over for hours.

The only problem is that the beautiful impromptu spreads you see on TV have been prepped by interns working for free, slaving away in hopes of a bigger break and a bigger purse, and it’s a most likely a false reality.  Even impromptu entertaining, particularly the kind that Martha would deem worthy, still requires planning, thought, and teensy bit of elbow grease.

So when I was stuck at the in-laws in North Jersey this past week and one of my best friends was in the neighborhood (and by in the neighborhood, I mean an hour and a half away, but for the purposes of this story, I think it should slide), an impromptu dinner was the perfect way to solve our need to see each other and my need to eat vegan food in a place that was making going out to eat largely impossible.

Unfortunately, the situation on the mainland wasn’t much different from the island, and despite the in-laws’ massive kitchen, fancy stove, and walk-in pantry, there was not a fancy jar of olives to be found. Luckily I’m not easily discouraged. One trip to the not-so-local Whole Foods, plus some help from the interns the olive bar, I was ready for my guests.

The spread was simple, inspired by simple picnic food, with no real main dish. While it felt fancy to eat our special hummus and pickles and bread I didn’t bake, it was even fancier to spend time chatting without worrying too much about the pairings of entrees and desserts and wines.

Ok, who am I kidding? I rarely worry about that stuff.

But still, this dinner felt like a glamorous picnic, one where you can bring your furry friends, your favorite blueberry beer, and your husband who refuses to shave his beard until just before the Bar (a fun good luck charm that’s been in existence since oh, you know, MAY). You may not see it the pages of the glossy mags anytime soon, but it was one for the books.

Grilled Veggies with Herb Balsamic Dressing

  • 2 red peppers, quartered
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 zucchini, evenly sliced into rounds
  • 1 yellow squash, evenly sliced into rounds
  • 1 box of button mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
  • 1 eggplant, evenly sliced into rounds
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus 2 T
  • 1 T fresh basil, minced
  • 1 T fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 T garlic, minced
  • 3 T balsamic vinegar
  • Salt & pepper to taste
1.  Wash, chop, and prepare all of your veggies. Brush all of the veggies with the 1/4 cup of olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt & pepper. Set aside until you’re ready to grill.
2. Combine basil, rosemary, garlic, balsamic vinegar, 2 T of olive oil into a small bowl. Set aside.
3. With your grill set to high (we used gas, and I assume you could do charcoal – this could easily work on a grill pan), grill the red peppers for 7 minutes, the asparagus for 5, and the eggplant, zucchini, squash, and mushrooms for 4 minutes. Remove veggies from the grill.
4. Coat all of the veggies with the balsamic dressing you made earlier. Serve immediately or set aside. Grilled veggies are pretty much delicious at any temperature.


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2 Responses to “Impromptu Entertaining: Grilled Veggies with Herb Balsamic Dressing”

  1. you are in my old stomping grounds. there aren’t many all veggie places (if any) in NH but a few in boston.

    i have a sudden huge grilled veggie craving!

  2. ahhh perfect veggies! I want to eat them all now!

    and I’m laughing about the beard-as-good-luck-charm! hey, I’m sure I’d be the same way if I had to take the bar! Well, I wouldn’t grow a beard, but, you know what I mean… ;)

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