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Entertaining is hard. Add in the stress of knowing when to invite friends over for dinner post-pandemic and things get even more complicated. But worry not, Top Chef judge Padma Lakshmi says even she has felt nervous about knowing how to resume social activities as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes.
"I love to cook and I love to entertain, but even I have been reluctant to get back into the swing of things and invite people over," Lakshmi tells Yahoo Life. "Also I don't know where to begin — I'm a little out of practice. But entertaining is a really nice way to bring people together and remember what we love about cooking — which is sharing it with people that we love."
Lakshmi spoke with Yahoo Life as part of her work with Boursin Cheese. Her collaboration with the brand is focused on helping people regain the confidence to throw dinner parties, barbecues and potlucks again this summer. But what would the 51-year-old author, television host and model bring to a summer potluck if she was invited?
"A selection of condiments," she says. "I went to a party last night and I brought a spicy mango relish and I brought an Indian chili crisp. Bringing condiments seems kind of low-list but it's not if you make them from scratch."
"I really think that condiments are very important," she adds. "In a potluck especially, you're gonna get a mixed bag of food cooked by people at different skill levels, and if some of it's not seasoned well, at least you have some good condiments to go on top of that potato salad or casserole."
When she's not entertaining or being a party guest, Lakshmi says she and her daughter, Krishna, love whipping up a quick weeknight pasta dish. "We can throw a pasta together in 15 minutes or less," she says, "just with some cheese or some pasta sauce or bacon and eggs for a carbonara."
Among the recipes she's created as part of her collaboration with Boursin is Boursin e Pepe, a pasta dish made with black pepper, peas and a creamy cheese sauce. "I take a little bit of butter, a little bit of Parmigiano cheese, a lot of black pepper and a puck of garlic and chive Boursin and it comes together so fast," she says.
To make the dish, Lakshmi simply melts butter in a pan, then adds black pepper and peas to the mix. After about two minutes, she turns off the stove and adds Boursin cheese and a bit of pasta water to the pan and whisks before adding Parmigiano cheese and fresh herbs.
She's also created a recipe for a fresh spring salad topped with roasted figs and Boursin, something she describes as "nice, fresh and seasonal."
But there's a different treat Lakshmi loves to focus on come wintertime: Decorating gingerbread houses with her daughter.
"It’s a multi-day process," she explains. "If you buy those kits, the directions on the boxes always say to glue the house together and then to decorate it, but this is gonna trip you up because what happens is, a lot of those decorations — the little gumdrops — are very heavy so they fall."
Instead, Lakshmi recommends giving the standard gingerbread kit an additional upgrade.
"Whatever you do, just go out to a candy store and buy little candies in bulk and decorate each panel first," she says. "Then lay it flat and let it dry completely, overnight. Once you're done, then you assemble the house."
Padma's Roasted Figs au Boursin
Courtesy of Padma Lakshmi and Boursin Cheese
8 figs, ripe but firm, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons aged balsamic, divided
5 ounces spring mix salad greens
One-half cup fresh mint leaves, tightly packed
1 and one-half tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 ounces prosciutto (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Arrange fig halves cut side up on a sheet tray. Using a pastry brush, brush a generous layer of balsamic over each half.
Top each fig half with a heaping teaspoon of Boursin Garlic & Fine Herb Cheese, pressing gently so it flattens slightly over the surface of the figs. Transfer figs to the oven, roast for 20 minutes.
If using prosciutto, place the slices on the same sheet tray (or a different sheet tray if you don't have room) once the figs are 10 minutes into their cooking.
For the dressing:
Mix olive oil, reserved balsamic, lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Set aside until ready to serve.
Combine and serve:
Rip the mint leaves in pieces, toss with greens and the dressing in a large bowl. Transfer to a platter.
When the figs have finished cooking, using tongs gently place each fig on top of the greens. Crumble prosciutto (if using) over the top and serve.
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