Our First Al Fresco Dinner of the Season

Al Fresco Dinner

I really don’t like candid photos. Whenever people want to take a picture of me, I a.) make them sign a contract that gives me full PhotoShop approval–in perpetuity–over any image of me they publish, and b.) insist on spending an inordinate time on my hair and teeth. Once contractual obligations as well as buffing and fussing are out of the way, I give the go ahead to take that sparklingly spontaneous shot.

But when I saw this little moment of supper loveliness tonight, I grabbed my iPhone and just snapped. I didn’t even have enough sense to remove the Costco salt grinder or fluff the spaghetti. This was our supper table, unstyled. But to me, it sums up everything about outdoor dining: casual, simple, unpretentious, and, yes, bounteous. (It’s The One and me we’re talking about here. That man can polish off three-quarters of a pound of pasta in a single sitting.)

Dinner took as long to put together as it took the spaghetti rigati to cook. What–15 minutes, maybe? Meanwhile I sautéed tiger shrimp in a lake of brown butter and a bit of oil, then tossed in a big-ass handful of chopped garlic. I had about 1 1/2 cups of leftover homemade tomato sauce and spooned that in, too, for good measure. I dumped the drained spaghetti into the skillet and the sautéed it all together for another two to three minutes.

As I began plating, our frequent dinner companions, whom we haven’t seen since last October, dropped by for a visit. I mean, of course, the backyard bats and mosquitos. To prevent The One, a long-suffering chiroptophobe, from letting loose with his 12-year-old-girl shrieks that blow like a train whistle, I demanded he don a baseball cap and keep his eyes on his plate. Me, I’m just a great big flashing neon sign that sputters on and off “All You Can Eat Buffet!” We haven’t yet bought bug spray this season, so I wore thick wool socks with my pant legs tucked in and a dirty dish towel over my head. Lucky for us, the paparazzi didn’t know we were in town. Do you know how hard it is get them to agree to that PhotoShop contract?

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  1. David you are describing my favorite go-to dinner when I don’t know what to make and don’t want to fuss. Love the descriptions of your mosquito protection. I can well identify; it made me smile and brought back lots of memories. Mosquitos don’t bother me at all, but oh those black flies, vicious little devils they are, they draw blood, and they love the taste of me.

    Try the same dish sometime with bay scallops or leftover roast pork and mushrooms. The one thing that is always the same is the big-ass handful of chopped garlic. Your photo is gorgeous!

    1. Judy, you’re my new best friend. First, you like my photo (“You like me, you really like me!). Second, we share a hatred of black flies–true agents of the Lucifer. Third, you’re a big-ass garlic girl!

  2. David – having personally served as the main course for more mosquito banquets than I can count on all my fingers, I must tell you about a little device that has made my summer evenings so much more enjoyable. They’re little battery operated thingies that one attaches to his or her belt, belt loop or other convenient spot on the clothing, and magically the mosquitoes stay away. Completely away. They’re made by “Off” and are inexpensive. Give them a try. You are going to love me for telling you about them.

    1. Lana, I know the product, and I LOVE IT! I discovered it at the end of last season. I usually attached one to the back of my shirt collar, clipped one to my belt, and placed one on the ground under the table. The only thing is we used up all the packets of oils (I wonder why?) and didn’t get to the store in time. Once I buy new ones, I’ll be braver….

  3. David, did you ever think of having one really good photo of you and just PhotoShopping it into all the other photos you take when you are less than photo-worthy? Just a thought. Now I am rolling on the floor with laughter imagining you and the one sitting out eating this luscious romantic meal trying to battle the bugs. We always try to move to places where mosquitos don’t exist, but then we end up in places where bats come out at night. Gorgeous pasta dish!

    1. Jamie, good idea. I think instead of a hair and makeup team, I need a tech and PhotoShop team. The sad thing is the damn bats eat the mosquitos that eat me. As long as I’m around, we’ll have both.

  4. First, al fresco rocks. Minus the mosquitos of course–what the hell where the bats eating that night? Surely not the mosquitos.

    Second, unfussy meals don’t get better than this one. As a food blogger, sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in the “show” only to forget that the meal is what’s at the heart of entertaining.

    Third, I saw your tweets/instagrams from the weekend and felt like jumping in my car to go looking for you (in the most un-stalker-ish way possible, of course). I’m in Southbury. 🙂

  5. I will never look at a tea towel the same way again. Oh my. And yes–I’m skeeter fodder too. Like father, like daughter.

      1. Ooooh! Sign me up for them if you do (well–the tea towels for sure)!! For the mossies, don’t know if you can get one of those ultraviolet bug enticer/annihilator contraptions? Quite dramatic when they get zapped…

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