Dinner: No Utensils Required | Cup of Jo

Last fall, my husband and I downsized from a house in the suburbs to an apartment in the city, which means I’ve had to make a few adjustments…

Chief among those adjustments is the way I eat in the summer. When I lived in a house, from May until late September, weather permitting, dinner was outside. Every night. Pretty much no exceptions. We had a patio table right outside the kitchen, which made transporting plates and wine glasses and food simple, and remembering the whole set-up now — the smell of our charcoal grill (RIP the grill!), the canopy of trees overhead, my daughters kicking a soccer ball against a backyard wall —  ignites heavy pangs of nostalgia the way little else has since my move. I don’t think it’s as much about the patio itself as it is about the two decades of family time we spent on that patio, and the way summer lends an extra layer of sentimentality to most memories. Or maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, I’m not complaining, I swear! Especially since I still eat outside — our apartment building has a pretty great roof deck and we take advantage of it as often as possible, enjoying a Friday night cocktail or a Saturday morning coffee alongside our dramatic view up the Hudson River and across Central Park. Dinner has proven trickier, though. Since an elevator and a narrow stairwell is involved, I have to be more strategic about what meals we eat there, and how many utensils and platters and plates and stuff is required. So far I’ve discovered two dinners that work: 1) Takeout and 2) what I’ve been calling my Grand Green Goddess Platter, which is like a Grand Aioli Platter but, you know, with Green Goddess dip instead of the garlicky mayo.

The meal is basically a crudité platter, assembled from whatever vegetables I have in the fridge, plus hard-boiled eggs and cooked shrimp if I’m feeling ambitious. None of it requires utensils or dinner plates (crucial), and all of it can be served at room temperature, which means it’s the kind of meal or starter platter that anyone — not just an empty-nesting recent city transplant — would love to have in the summer rotation. Here’s how to assemble it…

Step 1: Prep Your Vegetables and Dipping Things
Choose what you like, keeping in mind the best combination is whatever you’ve got in the fridge already.

Asparagus, simmered in salted water for 3-4 minutes, then immediately plunged into ice bath
Green beans, simmered in salted water for 2-3 minutes, then immediately plunged into ice bath
Broccoli, simmered in salted water for 3-4 minutes, then immediately plunged into ice bath
Cucumber, quartered
Carrots, halved lengthwise
Radishes, quartered
Small red potatoes, halved and boiled 10 minutes, then chilled for as long as possible
Endive or gem lettuce leaves, washed and dried
Shrimp, boiled gently in salted water for 3 minutes, strained, then chilled for as long as possible
Hard-boiled or jammy eggs
Baguette or crusty bread, sliced
Bread sticks

Step 2: Make Your Green Goddess Dip
Makes about 1 1/4 cups (enough for 4-5 enthusiastic dippers)

1/2 large avocado, in chunks
1 garlic clove, chopped roughly
1 cup delicate herbs such as cilantro, parsley, dill
1/2 cup chives
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoons olive oil
pinch of sugar

In a food processor (or mini food processor) combine all the ingredients, plus 2 tablespoons of water, and process until emulsified.

P.S. Grilled pizza with charred kale and burrata and a surprising perk of living in the city.

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