Finally, dinner at MY house

I am a pretty lackadaisical housekeeper at the best of times. Candlelight and wine definitely help to cover up the awkward bits.

But you know you can't live with CHAOS (can't have anyone over syndrome) forever. You can I suppose, but then you start with one cat for company, and the next thing you know you have 87 cats and newspapers stacked to the ceiling. Oops!

So I lugged all the mess into the basement, swept a little, stuck candles everywhere, and told everyone to BYOB and lots of it!

Then I made a nice little late lunch/early dinner to celebrate Father's Day. And also that it is Dad's birthday, Mom & Dad's wedding anniversary, and the longest day of the year....

For the first time in a very long time I had a little tiny party and I didn't sweat it really. I did what I could do to tidy up everything and then I made a very easy meal.

A friend had given me a gigantic slab of very expensive & delicious cheese that I could not otherwise afford on my tuna fish budget. He was going out of town and wanted to get rid of the perishables, to that end he also gave me an enormous amount of basil and about a pound of sliced red peppers, both of which I used to make a baked chicken dish - recipe below. For a side dish I made couscous with feta, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and olives - recipe also below.

Then I bought a chocolate angel food cake and some ice cream, which I served with the strawberry-rhubarb-rum compote I'd made during the week.

Like I said, easy and delicious. Because between the idea of cleaning and hostessing, I was trying not to freak!

Easy Peasey Baked Chicken with Basil

I used 8 skinless chicken thighs with the bone in because I wanted leftovers -use more or less if you want.

Firstly I sauteed three onions and about 3 red peppers together until soft and the onions started to caramelize. Let cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally while you make the pesto. It's okay if they get nice and dark brown.

For the pesto I used about two cups plus of basil, whizzed it in the food processor, added in olive oil, whizzed it some more, then added a few peeled heads of garlic, some salt & pepper, and then I whizzed it some more, until it started to look like a runny pesto. You do want to make a good bit of this stuff.

Put the thighs into a baking dish. Pour the pesto all over the top of the chicken. Add the cooked onions and peppers over the chicken.

Put the whole thing into a 350o - 375o degree oven for about 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Until the meat is falling off the bone, the pesto is bubbling and the whole thing looks and smells lovely and delicious.

Note: I went the extra garlic step and tucked in some whole peeled garlic cloves around the dish and they turned lovely and soft and basil-y. And you know, if you don't have peppers and onions, or don't like them, use seasoned breadcrumbs instead. Whatever works for you.

Really Delicious Couscous

From the antipasto mix & match bar at Whole Foods you will need a container of the following: diced feta with olives, roasted garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes. It's sort of expensive, so you can also make it for yourself - just use those basic ingredients, stick them in a jar, douse with light olive oil and some whole pink and black peppercorns, and leave in the fridge until you need it. If you do this, I suggest chopping the sun-dried tomato into small pieces beforehand.

Ok, I made a whole box of couscous, and for this you will need about 2 or 3 cups of the above mixture. Be sure to use a slotted spoon when you are taking it out of the container - you will want a little olive oil in the dish, but not too much - then pick out and chop up the olives (be sure to remove the pits) and the sun-dried tomato. The feta and the garlic can be left whole.

Make the couscous according to package instructions, wait until it's mostly cooled, break up the lumps with a fork, and then blend it together with the antipasto mixture, some salt and a little pepper. Do this part gently because you don't want to mash everything together.

You can season it with a little cumin if you like, or paprika.

Serve it warm or room temp.

Note: You can use whatever antipasto mixture you like. Caperberries would be nice, and roasted red peppers. Use whatever you have, keep it easy.

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