Here are two images of Saturday night's dinner, which took me all day to prepare, because yes: I am that slow.
Click each image to grandiositize:
The above pic shows the entire spread. David and Patricia didn't really dig into the hummus-and-naan appetizer I had created for them when they arrived, which is unfortunate: there was way too much bread on the table when dinner started. Instead of eating the appetizer, David and Patricia (especially Patricia) nibbled on the bits of bacon that I had placed in reserve to use in making my fettuccine dish.
The courses that you see are:
1. Appetizer: Store-bought hummus (Costco) plus naan (also Costco) painted with my own jolly mix of olive oil, garlic powder, chili flakes, and salt, then broiled mercilessly into submission. I also added a sprinkling of feta to the hummus.
2. On the plates: (1) baked salmon filet with honey-mustard glaze. Alas, the glaze didn't turn out too well. It tasted just fine, but it didn't caramelize the way I had hoped, and ended up looking like, well... honey-mustard sauce. Also on the plates: (2) my faux-Alfredo pasta dish, with chicken, shrimp, bacon, and baby spinach. The cream sauce didn't have any parmesan: instead, I used Kirkland-brand bleu cheese, taking the sauce's flavor profile in a French direction. This turned out to be a great choice for the dish, which benefited from the bleu's pungency. Not a meal for kids, who would probably never get past the stink. The shrimp, which I'd cooked in a salt/garlic/butter mix, were plump and a tad overcooked in my opinion (David and Patricia had no complaints), but the chicken was awesome. As I normally do, I baked the chicken from a rock-hard frozen state, which made the breasts tender and exquisitely juicy when I took them out of the oven. I garnished the pasta with some minced green onions.
3. Bread: at Wal-mart, I had nabbed a cheap loaf of American-style "Italian" bread, which I sliced thickly on the bias and slathered with a butter/garlic/seasoning mix, then broiled into submission, like the naan/pitas. Patricia agreed to take all the leftover bread home with her—both the naan and the garlic bread.
4. Salad: a baby-spinach base overloaded with sliced cucumbers and peppers, julienned carrots, slivered almonds, raisins, mandarin oranges, bacon, bleu cheese, and minced green onion. The dressing was simplicity itself: a raspberry vinaigrette made from homemade raspberry syrup (raspberries + simple syrup) and balsamic vinegar—nothing else. I resisted the urge to add my usual Italian-dressing ingredients, i.e., salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, garlic, etc. Patricia once told me that, in Brazil, where the cuisine has been heavily influenced by Western Europe, salads are simple and unpretentious: the dressing is rarely more than balsamic vinegar (my own experience in France and Switzerland confirms this uncomplicated sensibility). In that spirit, I held back and made a dressing with only four ingredients: berries, sugar, water, and balsamic vinegar.
Patricia loved the salad dressing so much that she said she wanted just to drink it straight. She and David both ended up dipping their shrimp and salmon in the dressing. I groused that I should have used that dressing as the glaze for the salmon. Perhaps, next time, I will.
The second pic, below, is a close-up shot of my own place setting. You get a better view of the salmon and of the pasta dish. Alas, the salmon looks as if it's off-puttingly covered in mayonnaise, which it isn't: that's supposed to be a honey-mustard glaze. The glaze never acquired a proper sheen, unfortunately, despite an extra minute or two under the broiler. Next time, I may go heavier on the sugar to encourage caramelization. Or I'll just use the above-mentioned raspberry vinaigrette.
As before, click the image to enlarge:
And that was Saturday's dinner. Patricia joked, "Who else is coming?" when she saw all the food I had laid out for her and David. But everyone gamely stuffed him- or herself; I had made this meal in honor of David, who normally orders an Alfredo pasta dish whenever he finds himself at a family-dining resto like Outback Steakhouse or Applebee's. In the aftermath, I bagged up all the bread and half the remaining chicken, and gave that to Patricia to take home.