Recently, my father became engaged. After spending two years seeing the pandemic throw a wrench in couples' lives, I decided to throw them a proper dinner party, place cards and all.
I wanted to give a nod to our Palestinian roots, so I threw a Mediterranean feast. I avoided most of my favorite dishes, as I tend to favor meals that require a lot of prep. I wanted to keep things light and simple, and make sure I was drinking before the guests rolled in.
Like proper hosts, Bobby and I sat at the head and foot of the table, while couples were seated across from one another, so someone less familiar would sit beside them. This is to foster mingling and refreshing conversations.
I love the challenge of pulling together place cards using what I have. In my art studio, I found wood cuttings stained with mahogany around the edges. I glue-gunned a leaf to each, and wrote people's names in paint pens. Along the table, I lit tiny silver candles in the shape of pinecones. I busted out a crisp white tablecloth, gold flatware, and played some great music.
For dinner, we had homemade garlicky hummus and crudite, pita bread, roasted eggplant with lemon and cilantro atop beds of arugula, lamb kibbeh nayeh (raw), and fire oven-roasted lamb. When serving at a long table, it's best to use mini serving platters on each end of the table, filled with the same foods. That way, there's no need to pass trays around, and everyone can reach what they need.
For dessert, we at a traditional knafeh, which is shredded phyllo dough (dyed bright orange) and sweet spring cheese. It's baked in the oven until it is both crispy and gooey, then it's drizzled with simple syrup and served hot. We served pots of Arabic coffee with cardamom, enjoying them in tiny Turkish-style cups. Sugar cubes are perfect for sweetening this treat.
I was thrilled for my father's new chapter in life, and happy that we are inching back to the decadent way we used to celebrate. Here's to even better times ahead!