Sunday, December 16, 2012

Zucchini Soup with Gruyere Croutons + Dinner Party Highlights

I love to entertain!  From the planning of the menus, to designing the table settings and decorations to matching the wine to the various courses – the entire process brings me much joy.  The greatest gift for me is bringing good friends together and sharing an evening together with tasty food, delicious wine and fun conversation.  Once I have a date on the calendar, my creative spirit goes into high gear.

Last night was such a gathering.  My dear friends Melissa and Rich along with Pam and Tom joined hubby and I for a special dinner party at our house.  Time flies by way too quickly; we had not seen Melissa and Rich for a bit, however, when I opened the front door, it was like no time had passed.  That is the beauty of good friendships – the time gap closes immediately.  It was a double treat to see Pam and Tom two weekends in a row. Smile.

Me, Melissa and Pam

A moment of remembrance. It is weighing heavy on my mind and I would be remiss not to take a moment to reflect on the tragedy in Connecticut that occurred on Friday.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the victims.  Incidents like this remind us how valuable each and every day is, along with cherishing our loved ones. Not having children of my own, but an Auntie to four wonderful nephews, this hits me hard to imagine what these folks are going through.  It is a time to send many prayers and positive thoughts and support to those impacted families. 

It was extra special to have long time great friends over to share an evening together.  With our house all decorated for the holidays, it is one of my favorite times of the year to entertain and spend time with friends.  I wanted to make the evening extraordinary by sharing classic dishes that are worth repeating over and over again and proven winners.  I selected some special wines to share with our friends and to pair with the various courses.

We began with a glass of J Vineyards & Winery 1999Vintage Brut with a few frozen blueberries added for a bit of pizzazz.  This delightful wine has tiny elegant bubbles with a bright pear and citrus notes. I never want my guests to go hungry; I tend to make enough food for a small army.  Along with our sparkling wine, we noshed on Shaved Brussels Sprouts withTruffle and Parmesan and Brie Cups with Grape Salsa.  (recipe coming soon) With the bright flavors and effervescence of sparkling wine, the pairing was perfect.

We advanced to the dining room to begin with the Crab Cakes with Srirachi Aioli and a glass of Laurent Reverdy 2009 Sancerre. It is from Trader Joe's and very reasonable at $13 to $14 per bottle. The dry crispness of the wine was perfect with the rich crab cake.  Having a small starter or amuse bouche is a terrific method to share with your guests the tone of the evening and give a treat to their palates.  Next on the menu was the Zucchini Soup with Gruyere Croutons.  I decided to pair this with a Pinot Noir from Breggo which sits in the Anderson Valley.  This wine displayed intense aromas of black cherry along with undertones of earth and sage, along with a supple mouth feel and delightful finish. 

Now it was time for the Grand Dame of the evening – The AsianBraised Shortribs with Orange Hoisin Sauce on top of Sour Cream and GarlicMashed Potatoes.  This is hubby’s absolute favorite dish that I make and always a top notch winner at my dinner parties.  Tonight was no exception.  To honor this dish and our good friends we shared a very special wine – Lancaster Estates 2005 Estate Bottled Nicole’s from Alexander Valley. This Bordeaux style wine is a combination of Sauvignon Cabernet and Merlot. From the tasting notes on the Lancaster website, this wine exhibits a ripe raspberry jam, black cherry and chocolate characteristics along with hints of plum, clove and lavender.  All I can say, this wine certainly has the “wow factor”.  We also enjoyed the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon since we were all in love with the Lancaster wines.

With full bellies, there was still a bit of room for a bite or two of something sweet.  When planning the menu, I originally was going to make an espresso and chocolate bread pudding with salted caramel sauce, but decided to put that on hold for an event I am hosting in January.  My food bloggerlunch and cookie swap that I attended on Thursday provided me the perfect dessert – a lovely cookie platter full of tasty treats.

All in all, a memorable evening full of great friends, tasty wines and delicious food was had by all.  Cheers!

Zucchini Soup with Gruyere Croutons

Serves 6 to 8

1 large White Onion, small dice
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
10 Cups Zucchini, diced (about 10 zucchini)
6 Cups Chicken Stock
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Curry Powder

In a large stock pot, add the diced onion and olive oil and cook over medium heat, until onions are translucent.  Add the 1 tablespoon of curry powder to the onion mixture and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the diced zucchini and mix well and cook for 3 or 4 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper. Next add the chicken stock and cook on medium heat for about an hour until the zucchini is super soft.

Use an emulsion blender to puree the soup.  Add the teaspoon of curry powder and cook for another 10 minutes.

Gruyere Croutons

Slice the desired amount of sour dough baguettes in ¼ inch thick slices.  Toast lightly on both sides under a broiler.  Add a small slice of gruyere cheese to each toasted slice and place under the broiler until bubbly.  Remove and let cool.  Serve on top of each bowl of soup along with a few sliced green onions or chives for garnish. 


  1. Looks like such a fun and delicious night, you really throw a fantastic party and I see those lovely fun! Great pictures Lisa and love your menu;-)

  2. I would have loved to be at your dinner party or even to have been a little mouse in your house ........... hoping a few crumbs of yummy gruyere croutons might fall unnoticed to the floor. Then after dinner while you were laughing, talking and enjoying your guests, I would be in the kitchen licking all the soup bowls clean. You'd come out to the kitchen after everyone left and think that someone had washed dishes for you. :) I'd be back in my little mouse house smiling with a happy little tummy :)

  3. Wow! I'll have a little bit of everything, please! :D This zucchini soup looks Amazing- love the addition of curry!

  4. Your dinner party sounds and looks wonderful! You are quite the hostess :). I love your soup, the gruyere croutons are the perfect finish!

  5. Lisa your party looked great, the table setting was gorgeous. How nice to enjoy good food with good friends, that is what life is all about. Your soup sounds fantastic as does your whole menu wow!

  6. Holy crap this spread looks delicious! This definitely makes me want to throw a dinner party, you have it set up so nice! Way to go, I will definitely be trying some of this stuff, thanks for sharing!

    Happy Valley Chow

  7. I just discovered your blog and look forward to following!

  8. Wow Lisa! Your table and that spread is absolutely gorgeous! Glad you are having help with the cookies :)

  9. What an amazing dinner party. The table is set so wonderfully and I wish there was a setting there for me:)Love this soup and want it now!

  10. I really should be invited to all your dinner parties--just sayin'. :)

    Your dining room looks gorgeous, Lisa!

  11. Lisa, love these pictures! And the crostini; made them for a part at work, had much fun with my colleagues while eating them. Was a magnificent experience.

    Wish you and your readers a very merry Christmas and a healthy and happy New year full of all those things that matter most to you!
    All the best from France!

  12. Wonderful dinner party and menu! Need to try those brie cups :)


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