Lunch for Kelly

December 31, 2009


A couple of months ago, I got a call from a guy speaking in a hushed voice.  He said he had locked himself in the bathroom and wanted to arrange something with me.  His name was Gregg and he is the husband of one of my close friends.

Now, you may be thinking something naughty but what Gregg wanted to arrange with me was a surprise lunch for his lovely bride.  Kelly’s birthday is December 31st – a New Year’s Eve baby – and this year she turns 40.  He wanted to do something special for her and first he asked me if I was free to come to the lunch.  Once I said yes, he sheepishly asked me if I would cater it.  I laughed out loud and said of course.

I have known Kelly since 3rd grade but we really became friends our freshman year in high school.  We have taken road trips together, thrown parties, done lots of laughing, and even lived together for a year.  She has two boys as well and we have enjoyed getting our kids together, although not as often as either of us would like.  Kelly is a quality person, a class act as my dad likes to say.  She deserved to find happiness with a wonderful man and that she did.  Not only did Gregg invite 15 people to their house for lunch, but he is sending her out for some spa treatment so that I can set everything up without being detected.  Can we all stand up and give Gregg a hand?

So, what’s for lunch?  Well, the birthday cake will be this one.  I am making two galettes – the Butternut Squash one and the Roasted Tomato one.  I’m making a Mediterranean chick pea salad.  I plan to have veggies and Buttermilk dip on hand for people to snack on.  And I made this pasta salad.


One of my least favorite words for food is gloppy.  In my book, anything with mayonnaise is gloppy and for some reason most pasta salad, even if it doesn’t star mayo, is gloppy.  Over-dressed, over-cooked pasta, under-seasoned.  If you agree with me, you might want to try this recipe.  It is far from gloppy.  In fact, it is light and bright and very tasty.  Golden beets, almonds, fennel, and radicchio mix together with Orecchiette in a lemony dressing.  It’s one of those wonderful recipes that looks and tastes great.  Happy birthday, Kell!

My little family and I are going to be heading out of town right after lunch for 2 nights away with wonderful friends.  If I could, I would personally wish each and every one of you amazing people who read this blog a Happy New Year, but my super powers only extend so far.  I hope your 2009 was filled with life, love, and good food and I wish you more of the same in 2010!


One Year Ago:  Vegetable Couscous Paella and Manchego Skewers

Orecchiette Salad with Roasted Beets, Fennel, & Toasted Almonds
Adapted from Macrina Bakery and Café Cookbook
Serves 4-6

Do yourself a favor and serve this (and every) pasta salad at room temperature.  It needs some warmth for the flavors to bloom.  Also, don’t be afraid of salt here.  Add enough to make the flavors pop.

2 medium golden beets, washed
4 tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup whole almonds
2 cups dry orecchiette pasta
1 cup thinly sliced radicchio
½ cup thinly sliced fennel bulb
¼ cup chopped fennel fronds
½ cup sliced scallions
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/3 cup Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place washed beets in the center of a large piece of aluminum foil.  Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with a bit of salt and pepper.  Gather up the edges of the foil and seal the beets inside a pouch.  Bake on center rack of oven for about 1 hour, or until beets are tender when poked with a fork.  Let cool, then peel the beets and chop to a medium dice.  Set aside.  Leave oven on.

Spread almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.  (This can be done while the beets are roasting.)  Let almonds cool, then coarsely chop and set aside.

Fill a large saucepan with water.  Add a pinch of kosher salt and bring to a boil.  Drop in pasta and simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until tender.  Drain in a colander, shaking off excess water.  Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil to keep pasta from sticking.

Add the diced beets, toasted almonds, radicchio, fennel bulb and fronds, scallions, and parsley.  Drizzle in Lemon Vinaigrette and toss all ingredients together.  Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper.  Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Lemon Vinaigrette
Makes approximately 1¼ cups

This dressing makes more than you need for the pasta salad, but it’s also delicious used as a green salad dressing.  Go ahead and make the whole amount and use it over the course of a week.

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. honey
1 tbsp. freshly grated lemon zest
1 garlic clove, finely chopped or pressed
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
¾ cup olive oil

Combine mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, honey, lemon zest, garlic, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.  Mix well with a whisk.  Add olive oil in a slow stream, whisking as you pour in the oil.  Continue whisking until dressing has emulsified, then cover and store in the refrigerator.


  1. Beautiful salad – doesn’t look gloppy in the slightest! Bon New Year :-)

    Comment by Koek! — December 31, 2009 @ 12:04 pm

  2. I like this winter pasta salad, sounds interesting and I love roasted golden beets, I will bookmark this.

    Happy Bday Kelly! and Happy New Year to Mrs. Treat!

    Comment by stacey snacks — December 31, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

  3. PS…and I confess, I love gloppy mayo pasta salads, I just made one (but don’t tell anyone!).

    Comment by stacey snacks — December 31, 2009 @ 2:44 pm

  4. This is the most interesting and lovely-looking pasta salad I think I’ve ever seen. Lucky Kelly!

    Haha, “Will you come to my wife’s birthday party?”… “Will you cater it?” I love it. How can you say no – it’s actually a huge compliment!

    Comment by Hilary — December 31, 2009 @ 8:10 pm

  5. Lucky Kelly, sweet Gregg and you are a great friend. This is a fabulous-looking salad. Have a great New Year, Dana!

    Comment by veron — January 1, 2010 @ 1:31 am

  6. I love the veggies you chose in your pasta dish! Sensass!

    Comment by Karine — January 1, 2010 @ 3:56 pm

  7. Looks Yummy!

    Here is a wee book for some birthday cake inspiration.

    Comment by Sylvie — January 2, 2010 @ 1:59 am

  8. Clapping for Gregg!!! What a wonderful husband and what a wonderful friend you are to help out!

    Comment by Leslie — January 2, 2010 @ 4:54 am

  9. Dana thank you SO much for catering the lunch!!! The food was AMAZING and the company was fantastic. I am a very lucky gal who had a truly memorable 40th birthday thanks to you and my thoughtful husband.

    Comment by Kelly — January 2, 2010 @ 7:04 am

  10. Wow, what a great winter pasta salad. Bookmarking this!

    Comment by Tracy — January 2, 2010 @ 6:52 pm

  11. OMG I was thinking something naughty. I was like WHAT IF KELLY READS YOUR BLOG!?

    And then I read on :)

    Now I’m not big on beets but I clicked through to your paella skewers and YUM! Can’t wait to try those.

    Comment by maris — January 3, 2010 @ 5:56 pm

  12. What a sweet birthday gift! I have everything but the fennel on hand for this pasta salad… I may have to make a run to the store! Also I am going to have to try that buttermilk vegi dip you linked to, mmmm!

    Comment by fresh365 — January 3, 2010 @ 7:52 pm

  13. Wow what great looking recipes! Every single one of them looks wonderful!

    Comment by Sook — January 7, 2010 @ 9:41 pm

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