Our gatherings are weeknight affairs, so when it's my turn to cook, I rely on a menu that can be prepared in advance and assembled at the last minute. I start each evening with an adult riff on popcorn and soda. The rest of the meal includes seasonal flavors; tonight, it's roasted pork with onion and carrots, fig chutney, beet salad, and stone-fruit cake. Everything is served buffet-style so we can settle on the sofa for dinner and Bernardo Bertoluccis 1900, a movie unlikely to play at our local cinema anytime soon.
Up to a Week in Advance
Make the fig chutney. Select and rent the movie.
Up to Day Before
Roast the pork and vegetables. Roast, peel, and slice beets.
The Morning Of
Bake the cake.
Gather drink ingredients. Make the popcorn. Assemble the salad. Set out the pork, vegetables, and chutney.
6 red beets
4 to 6 ripe tomatoes
1 bunch small carrots, stems attached
1 medium onion
9 or 10 large black plums
5 ounces each dried Black Mission and Calimyrna figs
1 orange or 4 kumquats, or a combination
1 bunch fresh mint
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
2 cans or bottles (12 ounces each) cola
1/2 cup whole milk
2 pork tenderloins (1˙ pounds total)
1 bottle dark rum
1 bottle ruby or tawny port
1 large egg
Granulated brown sugar or
Pure vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick and ground cinnamon
Coarse salt, table salt, and black pepper
2 dried bay leaves
4 garlic cloves
Extra-virgin olive oil