“The Lazy Gourmet” Dinner Party

I was a sophomore in college when I first walked into the first floor apartment on Graham Street, known as the Vortex. It was an art hub—smoky and impossible to leave once you got in—in the high-ceiling living room you could find live music, an ad-hoc photo studio, a couch to nap on between classes or to watch a Bergman film. In the kitchen, it was strong coffee, big plates of spicy falafel and sockarooni spaghetti, or loaves of warm from the oven sweet cornbread.

If you were around during those Pittsburgh days, you know what I mean, and even if you weren’t you would have been invited all the same, especially to one of the many unforgettable evenings, like The Great Gatsby or Monochrome parties. My early college years were as much about Ingmar Bergman and F. Scott Fitzgerald as they were about listening to The Birthday Party and the Pixies while coming up with a killer dinner menu: homemade guacamole with tortilla chips, almond-avocado enchiladas, and caramel flan.

When I recently read about Robin Donovan and Juliana Gallin’s new release, The Lazy Gourmet: Magnificent Meals Made Easy I thought about those Vortex days when last-minute dinners for a crowd was the norm. The book isn’t just for experienced cooks though—it features 125 easy recipes written for anyone who wants to produce great food in less time. Seasonal dishes like Orange Spiced Pecans, Basil Leaf and Goat Cheese Wraps, Gemelli with Roasted Cauliflower, Tomatoes, and Crispy Breadcrumbs, Portobello Mushroom Sandwiches, Cherry Clafoutis, and Lazy Chocolate “Mousse” are equally at home for weeknight dinners or an impromptu gathering of friends.

Part I covers kitchen basics with chapters on how to stock your pantry, along with essential tips, shortcuts, and kitchen tools. The authors include thirty-plus kitchen staples, and with these five ingredients you’ll be on your way to making dinner with a bright lemon vinaigrette: citrus fruits (lemons, limes, oranges), cheeses (blue, chevre, feta, Parmesan or other hard cheese varieties, and mascarpone), dijon mustard, flavored oils and vinegars, and garlic.

The recipes in Part II will take you from snacks and starters through dessert along with suggested menu pairings, ideas for changing the recipe, along with make ahead steps. We’re planning a diner party later this month to celebrate four May birthdays (mine included), and this year our Spring-inspired menu comes from The Lazy Gourmet, which will certainly include cooking to an old mixed tape or two followed by a Bergman film.

May Birthdays Menu (see vinaigrette and pasta recipes below):

Olive and Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade
Baby Greens Salad dressed with Lemon Vinaigrette
Pasta with Asparagus, Leeks, and Chevre
Miniature Flourless Chocolate Cakes

I’m giving away two copies of The Lazy Gourmet this week so be sure to click on my giveaways page for a chance to win.

For more recipes, articles, and interviews about the book, be sure to check out The Lazy Gourmet blog tour:

May 3: Words to Eat By
May 4: Art and Lemons
May 9: Living the Gourmet
May 10: MrFood
May 12: Food Blogga
May 13: Big Flavors Tiny Kitchen

Lemon Vinaigrette
from The Lazy Gourmet by Robin Donovan and Juliana Gallin

makes about ½ cup

3 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar, depending on the sweetness of your lemons
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼-½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil

In a small bowl or a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper. Add olive oil and whisk or shake vigorously until well combined. Taste, and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

Pasta with Asparagus, Leeks, and Chevre
from The Lazy Gourmet by Robin Donovan and Juliana Gallin

Yield 6 to 8 servings

2 pounds asparagus, woody ends snapped off, sliced on a sharp diagonal into 1/8-inch-thick disks
2 medium leeks (white and pale green part only), trimmed, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil or olive oil spray
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½-1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound dry pasta (gemelli, fusilli, rotelle, cavatappi, orecchiette, or other short pasta)
5 ounces chevre, cut into a few pieces
½ cup half-and-half or heavy cream
grated zest of one lemon, preferably Meyer
3 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1 lemon, preferably Meyer)
freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 450F.

Set a large pot of salted water (large enough to hold all ingredients) over high heat to boil for pasta.

Place asparagus and leeks on a large rimmed baking sheet, toss or spray with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven until asparagus is tender, about 10 minutes.

While the vegetables are roasting, cook pasta according to the instructions on the package. When pasta is done, reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and drain pasta in a colander. Place pasta pot back on the stove over medium heat. Add chevre and half-and-half or cream and cook, stirring frequently, until the cheese is melted. Stir in lemon zest and juice. Add asparagus, leeks, and pasta and stir until well combined. If you like a creamier consistency, add a little of the reserved pasta water or more half-and-half or cream. Taste, and add additional salt and pepper if needed. Serve immediately, garnished with freshly grated Parmesan, if desired.


    • ArtandLemons says

      A great crazy coincidence. It’s a fabulous neighborhood and city, although I haven’t been back in years…some favorite spots include The Mattress Factory Art Museum (on the North Side), the Strip District’s food shops and vendors, Pittsburgh Filmmakers on Melwood Ave (for films and classes), and the many dive bars with lots of character throughout the city.

  1. says

    looks scrumptious and those images are stunning! going to try the lemon vinaigrette tonight (it took me three times to spell vinaigrette right. make that 5).

    • ArtandLemons says

      Thanks, Laura and the vinaigrette is even better with Meyer lemons! I know what you mean about spelling, mine has gone downhill with the computer age…


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