Our First Al Fresco Dinner of the Season

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?

The word "David" written in script.

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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  1. I love your photo, it shows us even David Leite sometimes just wants to sit down and eat with his beloved. My daughter is allergic to seafood so I’m sitting here pondering what I can substitute for it. Looks like one of those meals worthy of having sauce all over your face and not giving a hoot. We were at the barn visiting horsey today and I got eaten alive by skeeters. My daughter remained untouched. I almost pushed her into the dirt I was so mad but I restrained myself.

    1. Thanks, Kim. And trust me, there are many times I just sit and eat with The One. No bells or whistles or sous vide machines.

      You can definitely substitute chicken for the shrimp.

      And, yes, some of us are skeeter fodder. Life is so unfair.

  2. I don’t see the dish towel. But I love the reflection of the sky and tree on the table top. Yes, it should be an Honest Entertaining recipe–it is honest and simple yet so inviting. I’m thinking of printing the pic and putting it on my bulletin board. Thank you.

    1. Donna, I’d be flattered for our table to grace your bulletin board. And if you’re ever out in western CT, perhaps you can join us at it. (Our table, not your bulletin board!)

  3. When people I have met through blogging or on Twitter wonder how I can “stand” living in Denver (you know the town with cows wandering the streets; cars haven’t been invented here yet); that life is so much more wonderful in New York, I would like to invite them here for a barbecue in the summer. No humidity and while not bug proof; we eat outdoors for almost every meal and I might get two mosquito bites every summer.

    You have reminded me that it’s been a good choice and now after a morning of pruning, weeding, and further reclaiming my backyard from two summers of dealing with an injury that kept me out of it…I think I might need this shrimp and a cocktail. Outside. Stat.

    1. Barbara, hear, hear. If I knew Denver was so bug-free, I would’ve forsaken New England ages ago. The sad results is that I’ve been known to take my dinner indoors and eat in front of the screen French doors, shouting my part of the conversation for The One and out guests to hear. True story.

      1. Come visit anytime. Especially in July when most folks are sweltering. Our low humidity and cool nights are one reason I love it so much. EVERY meal is eaten outdoors in the warm months. You might never leave. That would be OK with me. 🙂

        1. Barbara, do you know the can of worms you’re opening up here? I take invitations very seriously!