My father's birthday is next weekend. My sister is coming in for a visit so instead of two, or one, or even three I'll be cooking for four. Nevertheless, this menu is perfect for two and easily scaled down to one or up to four. It features some of my father's favorite foods - which actually means almost anything. I'll be going out to my parent's house, so I mostly want dishes I can make in advance.
An incredibly easy and delicious appetizer with bright clear fresh flavors, it will be delicious with a glass of champagne before dinner. I like using goat cheese (chèvre) but you can also use cream cheese or even ricotta. Although these can be made a few hours in advance, they can't be made a day in advance because you want to avoid refrigerating them (which destroys the flavor of the tomatoes).
Dad shares my pork gene - or perhaps it would be causally more accurate to say I share his. He also adores sharp spicy flavors and grilled meat. So what could be better than this dish? It's an astoundingly good recipe - the Spaniards really know (and love) their pork. The combination of Moroccan (Moorish) spices and pork is amazing. If you prefer a leaner meat, use lamb - or even chicken - instead of pork. Beef, though, wouldn't be as good.
Tabouleh is great at any time of the year, but is best with fresh local ingredients so I particularly look forward to it as a summertime treat. I like a rather tart version of the salad so I add some lemon juice to the soaking water. (You might want to taste it before adding the rest of the lemon juice.) It will be a perfect match to the pork. But if you're not a fan of tabouleh you might consider…
Pairing Spanish/Moroccan Pork with Japanese carrots may seem odd, but I promise the flavors work. The sweet carrots and mirin, smoky sesame oil, and tangy onions are a delicious match to the pork. The soy sauce heightens the meat's flavor. A friend of mine gave me the recipe and I think it's particularly good with grilled meats. The last time I took it to a pot luck it disappeared before I even got a helping.
I have a confession - I love my microwave, especially for corn. Mostly (almost exclusively in fact) I use it for warming up food I've already cooked. And I've gotten quite good at using it to reheat leftovers, which means I've figured out how to warm up food without cooking it further. But in general a microwave is really bad at actually cooking food. But corn is an exception. I can prep this the day before and then zap it at my folk's house when I pull the kabobs off the grill.
Another possibility is these artichoke bottoms with parmesan cheese. They can be prepped quickly in advance and only take a few minutes to cook while the kabobs rest. In fact, since they're cooked in a skillet on the stove, you could serve them and the corn on the cob with almost no additional effort. They're great with a squeeze of lemon and would pair wonderfully with the kabobs.
Ice cream would be great after this meal, but I'm not even going to think about hauling a frozen dessert out to my parents - even in a cooler - while temps are in the mid- to high-90s. Instead I'll make this cobbler which I can do the day before and will be every bit as good on Dad's birthday. Besides, Dad is famous in our family for his peach cobbler so it's a tribute to him.