Our friends Mark and Maia, of Chapel Hill, N.C., and their two amazing kiddos, Roan and Wilhem, were in town, also hoping to see Jen and Jon (we're all old college buddies). We decided last minute to stick with the plan, and include our other mutual friend, Dan, in chatting and noshing chez English.
The best part of the resulting meal Saturday evening, aside from the wonderful times that are always had in the presence of beloved friends, was just how inherently collaborative it was. Dan picked chard and leeks from his garden and brought them along with a bottle of N.C.-grown wine, while Mark and Maia brought some hummus, pita, cucumber, grape tomatoes, Greek yogurt and feta cheese.
Hubs took their offerings and incorporated them into what ended up feeling like a Mediterranean-by-way-of-Provence feast. He added chicken, Niman Ranch sweet Italian sausage, green peas, the tomatoes Mark and Maia brought, Dan's chard, wine, chicken stock, olive oil, olives, capers, lemon juice and zest, cremini mushrooms, Herbs de Provence, Greek spice blend, fresh marjoram, garlic, rainbow carrots, and onions (those last two ingredients came from Mother Earth Produce, a local multi-farm CSA that I've been writing for lately). All of that went into a cast iron serving dish, cooked on the stove and served right out of it, sprinkled with feta and fresh mint on top.
He also chopped up the cucumber (or maybe Dan did?) and mixed it with the Greek yogurt Mark and Maia brought, adding in some fresh dill and mint from our garden for a quick tzatziki sauce. The leeks were cooked down in butter, a kiss of sugar, chicken stock and wine until they were browned and sweet and creamy and utterly delicious. We dined al fresco, with wine and pita and hummus and kids and birds chirping and dogs running.
It was amazing, and really felt like an unofficial kick-off to the languid warm weather days of food and friends on the horizon. We're all in this together, this life, this journey, this wonderous experience. When we come together and literally bring different elements to the table, we enhance our time together ten-fold, I feel. Food, friends, family, and fellowship. It doesn't get any better than that.