Today (March 20) is International Happiness Day; obviously, we need an International Happiness Day Stress Free Dinner Party. The day celebrates the unanimous adoption of UN Resolution 66/281 which (ironically) recognises:
- “The pursuit of happiness as a fundamental human goal.
- The relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world and the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives.
- The need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples”.
As usual. we’re making this dinner at home for friends, so we’re aiming to keep it simple.
Just as there are specific types of food for detoxing and boosting your immune system, there are foods that make you happy. Generally, these are very fresh and packed full of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids that regulate brain activity and consequently your moods, including:
- B6 from fish, bananas, and legumes.
- B9 (folate) from spinach, asparagus, and avocado.
- B12 from fish, meat, and dairy.
- D from eggs, fish, and dairy.
- Calcium from dairy, greens, and almonds.
- Chromium from broccoli, potatoes, and turkey.
- Iron from meat, grains, and legumes.
- Magnesium from greens, nuts, and bananas.
- Zinc from seafood, grains, and greens.
ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS
- Omega-3 from fish, grains and greens.
All of which suggests a fish supper accompanied by greens and grains.
Alcohol does trigger the release of feel-good endorphins, though of course, you are only happy up to a point – too much alcohol is not happiness inducing. Apparently, alcohol makes you happier when you are doing unpleasant things than when you are happily socialising, so we’ll just match drinks as usual.
I guess it’s the night to use your favourite crockery and glassware. The ones that make you happy. With a bit of Pharrell Williams (Happy).
Favourite clothes, whatever they may be.
As ever, six guests invited to arrive 6.30 for 7.00pm. You’ll need to get to the market early for the fish, and it’s back to work tomorrow, so we’ll drop the cheese course. I’m fairly sure that even I wouldn’t want cheese after this dessert!
6:30 Apéritif: Dry Champagne with Mixed Olives
Olives are good for your B vitamins as well as calcium, iron and magnesium. Get a nice mix of green and black in different sizes. Preferably marinated in chilli and garlic.
7.00 Entrée: Spanish Mussels and Sauvignon Blanc (or more Champagne)
This is a largish entrée, made with the assumption that you will lose a few mussels along the way.
Put 2.5 lb (1 ¼ kg) of mussels in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Some of them might need a little scrub if the shells are gritty or muddy. Some may still have he “beards” which are the sticky stringy bits that they attach themselves to rocks with. You pull them out by pulling them towards the hinge end of the shell. If there are any still open, tap them, and if they don’t close throw them out.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat. Saute 1 ¾ oz (50 g) chopped chorizo until it releases its fat and browns. Add a crushed clove of garlic, ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika, 2 teaspoons tomato paste, a pinch of cumin and chilli flakes to taste. Mix well and cook for two minutes.
Add ½ a cup of the wine you will be drinking, the juice and zest of half a lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer, add the mussels, cover and steam for 5 – 7 minutes until they open.
Pick through the mussels and throw out any that haven’t opened. Divide and serve in dishes topped with chopped cilantro (coriander) or parsley. Serve some crusty bread to sop up the juices if you like.
8.00 Main: Salmon Niçoise and more Sauvignon Blanc
Dressing: Whisk six tablespoons of olive oil, two tablespoons of tarragon vinegar, one teaspoon Dijon mustard, and a halved garlic clove. Leave for at least half an hour to infuse.
Salad: Trim and boil 8 oz (225 g) green beans for 7 – 10 minutes and refresh in iced water. Scrub and boil 8 oz (225 g) new potatoes for 15 minutes until cooked. Drain and cool in cold water. Hard boil three eggs for 8 – 10 minutes and cool in cold water. Line six plates with spinach and top with quartered potatoes, then eggs, and the beans. Top with 8 oz (225 g) quartered cherry tomatoes (divided among the plates), 2 oz (50 g) olives, two tablespoons of capers, and chopped anchovy fillets to taste.
Salmon: Preheat the oven to 425° F (220° C). Rub six salmon fillets, each about 5¼ oz (150 g) with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover a baking sheet with foil and place the fish on top. Roast for 10 – 12 minutes. Place on the salad and drizzle with dressing.
9.00 Dessert & Digestif: Banana Split with Kahlua, dark chocolate, and coffee (or tea)
You probably all know that a banana split is basically a banana topped with ice cream, sauce, chopped nuts, whipped cream and a maraschino cherry. They call it a split because you cut the banana in half and serve the toppings between and over them. There’s debate about which flavours of ice cream and sauce are traditional. And which nuts. Or if the sauce should be hot or cold. Whether there should be other fruit as well. For me, it’s plain vanilla, hot chocolate sauce, toasted flaked almonds and I’ll pass on the cherry. But you probably have a different idea.
So let’s put it all out on the table and let your guest make the splits that make them happy:
- Vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream.
- Whipped cream and Greek Yoghurt.
- Pineapple, strawberry, and chocolate sauces.
- Peanuts, almonds, pecans, and walnuts.
- Shaved chocolate and mixed chopped dried fruits.
- Fresh pineapple, strawberries, and any other fruit you have to hand.
- A jar of maraschino cherries (or fresh if they are in season where you are).
DARK chocolate is a good source of iron, magnesium and zinc, so it’s the perfect after dinner treat. Cinnamon has vitamins B6 and B12, as well as calcium, iron, and magnesium so if you can’t get chocolate with cinnamon in it, add some to your coffee.
If you still want some cheese try a single hard (old) cheese like Parmigiano. With fresh apple and sliced crusty bread is there’s any left. And maybe brandy.
This is all fairly quick cook stuff, so if you are super organised with everything chopped before hand you pretty much throw it together as the hours tick over. You’ll only need about 10 minutes preparation for the mussels and not more than an hour for the salad. so you could have it all ready to go before your guests arrive.
5.00 Measure out and chop the entrée ingredients.
5.10 Make the salad dressing, cook, chop, and assemble the salad ingredients.
6.10 Chop the nuts and dried fruit, grate the chocolate for dessert.
6.30 Guests arrive.
6.45 Cook the mussels and cut the bread.
7.00 Serve mussels.
7.30 Preheat the oven.
7.45 Put the salmon in the oven.
8.00 Serve salad.
9.00 Lay out dessert ingredients and put the coffee on.