J: Some friends of David's from the Czech Republic, Dean and Sarah, moved back to the U.S. a few weeks ago. They moved to San Diego so David put them in touch with me. They asked if I was the one of David's friends who is the gourmet chef. I was just about to go into my normal "I'm not a chef, I just cook things" modesty bit, when I remembered, David has a friend, an ex- roommate actually, who is a real gourmet chef at a fancy restaurant in San Francisco. Of course that is who they meant, so I had to just say "no". Nevertheless, for the Sunday Dinner they attended, I made a few dishes of my own creation. They're not gourmet by any means, but I like them and I think you've seen them all before. I made a salad with my tomato juice and balsamic vinegrette dressing, but I left out the garlic. I made my lentil barley with marinara soup. This time I used half the lentils in an attempt to make it more soup-like and less gloppy. It turns out the barley will just keep on absorbing as much liquid as you feed it so it was just as gloppy, but just as good. I left the garlic out of the soup as well. The third dish was my rapini and sun dried tomato pasta, which I am still trying to perfect. This time I used orechiette pasta, which makes it _much_ better. However people thought it was too bitter, so I think in the future, I'll peel the thick stems of the rapini. The peel is where a lot of the bitterness is. I like it a lot as it was, but I bullied people into giving me their honest opinions (something I'm not usually interested in) and got several comments about the bitterness. I think next time I'll also try a sweeter wine. I used Chardonnay. See also My Rapini Pasta for My Birthday, added September 2000. Fourth, I made risotto. That was less of a "my own creation" and more of a "just winging it" risotto with asparagus. Saute some onions and garlic in olive oil, then add the arborio rice and saute until opaque. Add a half cup of white wine and stir for a minute or two, until the wine is absorbed. Add enough vegetable stock (already hot or boiling is better) to cover. Keep stirring and simmering and adding hot stock until it's all cooked and creamy. Add some grated parmesan and margerine to taste. Add some cut-up pre-steamed but still crisp asparagus. Stir well and serve.