This is the very first article in a series of articles I hope to write to share my passion for all things fun. Whether it’s entertaining, travel, fashion or food, I have always wanted to share happiness with others. 

Having had several close calls in life, it was made clear to me that we need to have as much fun and share happiness in the short time we have together. Life sometimes tricks us into believing that there’s no time for the things that we really want to do, but we must fit in every bit of fun and happiness in the fleeting moments in between. Whether it’s a simple birthday with those you love the most or a themed dinner party, I want to make the most out of all the moments life grants us.

One of my favorite ways to share happiness is by hosting people for dinner. For a while, I did it pretty regularly, then life got in the way (as it tends to do) and I stopped. In that time, I found myself unhappy and couldn’t put my finger on what could be causing it. Then I realized I had walled myself up with the busy-ness of life. All the responsibilities in life curtained me from the outside where I was having fun and connecting with others, and I had to start doing it again.

I decided to start with my girlfriends. We needed the time together and it’s always so comfortable. It doesn’t take much for all of us to have a good time, but a little bit extra always makes the night special and memorable. I had my girlfriends over just to catch up, and instead of a pizza or potluck, we opted for an actual composed meal.

With jobs, kids, responsibilities, we’re always working so hard to make everything around us great that we forget to do it for ourselves. This was one way I was able to fit in a little bit of fun and happiness for myself as well as for my friends. It took minimum effort and a little bit of preparation, and everything came together in about 30-35 minutes, including the food. There was still plenty of time to catch up and talk. 

Sometimes we get the idea in our heads that extra effort is much more than we can handle, but with a little focus and planning, most days can be equally special as the day I had making this dinner and entertaining great friends.

Here's what I did. 

I love the color white because it’s so versatile and pulls a theme out of thin air. Whether it’s a tablecloth or white plates, I gravitate towards white when I have very little time. For this night, I used silver chargers, white plates, simple wine glasses and fresh flowers from the local supermarket. The flowers provided the color I needed but created a simple but elegant setting. There was minimal work in setting it up or trying to match anything because the palette was so simple and clean.

With the table set, I focused on dinner. As I said, we could easily order pizza and do nothing to make dinner come together, or we could put forth just minimal effort and cook a meal to make everyone feel like the night was out of the ordinary. 

For this meal, I opted for something healthier and decided on an herb butter poached salmon with a garlic parmesan orzo served with a basil summer salad. (It sounds intense, but I assure you that after you gather the ingredients, it’s simple to pull together.) 

I hope you find an opportunity to press pause on life for a second to entertain someone special in your life, even if it’s just you. Time is fleeting, but every moment can be special and significant if we take a step toward making it so. 

Best wishes, Zara

 

Herb Butter Poached Salmon, Garlic Parmesan Orzo & Basil Summer Salad

Ingredients:

For the salmon:

  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. of your favorite dressing (I used Italian by Girard’s)
  • 1 tbsp. garlic paste
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp. chopped parsley
  • 2 sprigs thyme leaves, chopped
  • 4 filets salmon

Orzo:

  • 1/2 cup sautéed onions
  • 2 cups cooked orzo according to directions (reserve 2-4 tbsp. cooking liquid)
  • 2 tsp. garlic paste
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • squeeze of lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2-4 tbsp. reserved cooking liquid 

Salad:

  • 1/2 large tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1 large avocado, diced 
  • kernels of one fresh corn on the cob
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, diced 
  • 4-6 basil leaves, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp. good quality olive oil
  • optional: sliced cucumbers, chickpeas and sliced red onion

Directions:

  1. Salt and pepper both sides of salmon. 
  2. Add all salmon ingredients together in a bowl and microwave 30-45 seconds and mix. 
  3. Heat skillet to medium high/high heat. 
  4. Add in a bit of melted butter and sear salmon skin until golden brown. Baste top with melted butter and flip. 
  5. Reduce head to low/medium. Add in remaining butter mixture and baste skin side and flip once more each side while basting until cooked through. (Cook time depends on filet thickness. Mine took 7-8 minutes total and I cooked each side two times while basting.) 
  6. For the orzo, mix all ingredients together and taste for seasonings, and do the same for the salad.

 

From Z to A with Zara Abbasi

Zara Abbasi is the pastry chef and recipe developer for Zara Made It. Follow her food adventures on Instagram at @zaramadeit