Dinner Club – February 2013

SBE 065February 2013 Dinner Club

Our February dinner club was held at Tiffany’s.  Her theme of choice was romance movies.  She asked all the participants to taylor their portion of the meal around their favorite romance movie.  If you haven’t read my blog about Dinner Club and how it works, check it out.  Since Tiffany was hosting, she had the entree.  Her movie was “Love Actually” and she chose to do penne in a red vodka cream sauce.  It goes without saying that the menu was amazing so keep reading.

Dinner Club Romance Media
Dinner Club Romance Media

Dinner Club Themes, Menu and Media

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Tiffany – “Love Actually” – Entree – You Won’t Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Sauce

Tracy – “Gidget Goes to Rome” – Appetizer –  Three Way Bruchetta

Kelly – “Mama Mia” – Side – Mediterranean Orzo, Feta, and Tomato Salad With Marjoram Vinaigrette

Jeni – “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” – Beverage – Champagne Bar

Stephanie – “Four Weddings and a Funeral” – Salad – Winterfruit Salad

Trisha – “Downton Abbey” – Dessert – Lemon Bar Cake Cookies

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Yes, I’m fully aware that Downton Abbey is not a movie, but a television miniseries on PBS.  I was reminded over and over again that evening by multiple people, but in my defense, I love it as if it were a movie and I don’t always run with the pack, therefore making it perfectly acceptable and after all, it’s Dinner Club, so all is forgiven.

Bruchetta Three Ways

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What’s better than having bruchetta three ways?  When your lover makes fresh french rolls the morning of Dinner Club day and you get to spoil all the girls with it!  Who needs store bought with that kind of man at home!

Ingredients

1 french baggette, preferably made by your lover, cut into half inch slices on the bias

1 T Olive Oil

1 clove garlic halved

Directions:  preheat your oven to 475 degrees.  Place baggette slices on a cookie sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and rub with halved garlic.  Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes watching closely so they don’t burn.  Remove from oven and arrange on a tray.  Serve with three sauces.  You can make these as you see them below or come up with  your own.  Personally, the tomato and the goat cheese are my favorite and they are really great together.

Tomato Topping:

2 diced roma tomatoes, seeds discarded

1 bunch fresh basil leaf, chiffonade

1 t. balsamic vinegar

freshly cracked black pepper

Directions:  Combine all ingredients into a mixing bowl and gently mix.  Serve on toasted baguette slices.

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Goat Cheese and Onion Topping:

1 8oz pkg of goat cheese

1/4 C. of thick sour cream

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 T. finely chopped chives

1/2 t. garlic powder

Directions:  Combine all ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix until blended and smooth.  Serve on toasted baguette slices.

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Drunken Fig Jam courtesy Epicurious.com

2 lemons

4 pounds ripe fresh figs (preferably black), stemmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 9 cups)

4 cups sugar

3/4 cup brandy or Cognac

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Using vegetable peeler, remove peel from lemons (yellow part only) in long strips. Cut peel into matchstick-size strips (about 3 tablespoons).

Combine lemon peel, figs, sugar, brandy, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt in heavy large deep saucepan; let stand at room temperature 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Bring fig mixture to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium; continue to boil until jam thickens and is reduced to 6 cups, stirring frequently and occasionally mashing mixture with potato masher to crush large fig pieces, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from heat.

Ladle mixture into 6 hot clean 1/2-pint glass canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch space at top of jars. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe jar threads and rims with clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process jars in pot of boiling water 10 minutes. Cool jars completely. Store in cool dark place up to 1 year.

You Won’t Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Sauce adapted by Food Network

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Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, once around the pan in a slow stream

1 tablespoon butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 shallots, minced

1 cup vodka

1 cup chicken stock

1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)

Coarse salt and pepper

16 ounces pasta, such as penne rigate

1/2 cup heavy cream

20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn

Crusty bread, for passing

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Directions

Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic, and shallots. Gently saute shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan, 3 turns around the pan in a steady stream will equal about 1 cup. Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

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While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it). While pasta cooks, prepare your salad or other side dishes.

Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves. Pass pasta with crusty bread.

Orzo, Feta, and Tomato Salad With Marjoram Vinaigrette adapted from Bon Appetit

SBE 107

Ingredients

1 pound orzo

1/4 C. fresh lemon juice

6 t finely chopped fresh marjoram

4 t Dijon mustard

1 t grated lemon peel

1/2 C. olive oil

1 1/2 C. crumbled feta cheese

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1 C. pitted Kalamata olives, quartered

24 oz. cherry tomatoes, stemmed, halved

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Directions

Cook orzo in a pot of boiling, salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occassionally.  Drain.  Rinse pasta under cold water until cool.  Drain well.  Transfer pasta to larger bowl.

Whisk lemon juice, 5 t. marjoram, mustard and lemon peel in a small bowl.  Whisk in olive oil.  Set aside 2 T. vinaigrette.  Add remaining vinaigrette, cheese, onions and olives to orzo; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cover and let stand 2 hours to allow flavors to develop.  Toss tomatoes with reserved vinaigrette.  Toss into salad and add remaining marjoram.  Serve cold.

Winter Fruit Salad with Lemon Poppyseed Dressing

SBE 104

Ingredients

1/2 C. white sugar

1/2 C. lemon juice

2 t. diced onion

1 t. Dijon-style prepared mustard

1/2 t. salt

2/3 C. vegetable oil

1 t. poppy seeds

1 head butter leaf lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

4 oz. shredded Swiss cheese

1 C. cashews

1/4 C. dried cranberries

1 apple, peeled, cored and diced

1 pear, peeled, cored and sliced

SBE 103

Directions

In a blender or food processor, combine sugar, lemon juice, onion, mustard, and salt. Process until well blended. With machine still running, add oil in a slow, steady stream until mixture is thick and smooth. Add poppy seeds, and process just a few seconds more to mix.

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In a large serving bowl, toss together the romaine lettuce, shredded Swiss cheese, cashews, dried cranberries, apple, and pear. Pour dressing over salad just before serving, and toss to coat.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s Champagne Bar

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This is such a wonderful idea.  If you have a number of guests over, grab a few bottles of your favorite champagne, mixers and your gorgeous glassware and have a ball mixing up your favorite champagne cocktails.  Don’t forget the must have cute napkins and drink stirrers.  With a champagne bar, everyone makes their own special version!

SBE 112

Ingredients

1 1/2 oz. orange vodka

1 1/2 oz. lemon juice

1 1/2 oz. orange juice

2 bar spoons Apricot preserves

Champagne

Directions

Combine ingredients in a martini shaker with ice and serve chilled in your favorite glassware!  Too many of these and we would have really had breakfast at Tiffany’s!

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As you can see, our champagne bar had the following ingredients, but you can use virtually anything.  Be creative and taylor your bar to a specific holiday or celebration.  Here are some other ingredients you may wish to use to stock your champagne bar:

Peach puree

Mango puree

Orange Juice

Lemon Juice

sugar cubes

Bitters

Triple Sec

Simple syrup

Raspberry puree

Strawberries, raspberries, cut pineapple and marischino cherries for garnish

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Downton Abbey Lemon Bar Cake Cookies

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Makes 18 to 20

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 9 x 13 glass Pyrex.

Crust:

2 C. all-purpose flour

½ C. powdered sugar

1 C. butter (you can mix ½ cup butter and ½ cup shortening as an alternative to all butter)

1 tsp. grated Meyer lemon peel

Dash salt

Mix ingredients together with your hands until crumbly and press into the greased 9×13 Pyrex dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let cool before adding filling.

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Filling:

4 eggs

1 C. all-purpose flour

1 ¼ C. granulated sugar

1 t. baking powder

Dash salt

¼ C. freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 t. lemon peel

1 t. lemon extract (optional)

Add all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and beat with a wire whisk until combined.  Pour into 9×13 over cooled cookie base and put in oven at 350 for 25 minutes or until center is cooked through.  Remove from oven and cool on counter.

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Icing:

1 C. powdered sugar

8 oz. cream cheese softened

¼ C. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Mix sugar and cream cheese until smooth.  Add lemon juice until desired consistency.  Pour over lemon bar cake.  Let icing set for about an hour before cutting lemon bars.    When you cut, they will look a bit rustic.

Serving Tip:  Serve inside large white paper muffin cups or on top of sweet little decorative doilies covering a cake stand.

SBE 024

Eggplant Strata with Basil and Marinara

This is soo good and my family adores it.  When dinner menus are discussed, it is often that I am asked to make the “eggplant thingy”.  I just had Dinner Club and my friend and her husband were going vegetarian for a few weeks as a personal challenge.  I thought that seemed like a good idea and when I got home, I dared my husband to go for two weeks without eating meat.  I found that it was really hard for me.  He did really good, but I failed miserably since my favorite lunch is the taco truck I go to near work.  In the end, we did okay.  We ate stir fry for a week and a few salads and the rustic pie.  I told my “vegetarian-for-a-few-weeks-girlfriend” that I had a great recipe for her.  Poor thing.  I bet she’s tired of stir fry.  Try this!

Ingredients

16 oz. of Marinara Sauce – Pick your favorite.

1 medium size eggplant, sliced into thin rounds about 1/4 inch thick

oil for frying

2 C. grated mozzarella cheese

2 cloves of garlic. slivered

4 ripe roma tomatoes, thinly sliced into rounds

1 large handful of fresh basil, torn or chiffonade

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

If you are using a deep fryer, prepare the fryer now to 325 degrees.  If you are using oil on the stovetop, start heating your oil until 325 degrees or until you drop a piece of eggplant in and it bubbles.

When your oil is ready, add the slices of eggplant to the oil to begin frying.  You may need to do this in a few batches.  When they are golden brown, remove from the oil and lay on a paper towel lined tray.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Continue these steps until your eggplant slices are done cooking.  Turn off heat and let oil cool before handling.

Layering your strata:  Take an oven safe casserole dish or bakeware and place 3 T of the marinara sauce on the bottom of your dish and spread evenly.  Layer the cooked eggplant slices on top of the marinara.  Use enough eggplant to make one layer.  Then add a thin layer of marinara.  Add the garlic slices.  Add a layer of mozzarella cheese.  Add thinly sliced tomatoes.  Add another layer of marinara. Add the remaining eggplant slices.  Add the last layer of marinara, distribute basil over the top and add the final layer with mozzarella cheese.

Bake strata for 35 minutes or until cheese on top is golden brown.  Remove from oven and let sit to cool for 20 minutes before serving.  This dish is very hot coming out of the oven so please use caution.

Enjoy!

Potato and Spring Greens Rustic Pie

This recipe was inspired by the Irish baked pies.  I wasn’t too sure how this was going to turn out, but my family loved it and wanted me to add it to the Easter menu next Sunday.  I’m having the whole crew over for Easter dinner so I’m calling this a head start. Remember, this is “rustic”, so quantities are not exact and it doesn’t have to look perfect.  It will, however, taste great.  Make it as a side for ham, pork roast or flat iron steak.  I had it for breakfast!  The pastry is very light, it cuts easy and it is all around quite impressive.

Pastry Dough Ingredients

2 C. flour

12 T. very cold butter (no substitutes), cubed

1 t. salt

2 egg yolks

2 t. cold water

Directions for Pastry

Prepare the pastry dough by adding the flour, butter and salt to your food processor and pulse until pebbles form.  Add egg yolks and water and pulse again until combined.  Remove dough from the food processor and place on a sheet of wax paper.  Place a sheet of wax paper over the top of the dough and using a rolling pin, roll out until ¼ inch thin.  Turn it out into a pie dish and keep the ends hanging over so when you wrap it up, they come over part of the top of your pie.  If you want to make individual or “personal” pies, just separate the dough into equal portions before you roll it.  You can turn it out over ramekins or other cute little oven safe dishes.

Note:  This dough is also great for desserts so keep it on hand.

Ingredients for Filling

5 medium potatoes, any kind, cubed

1/4 C. milk

¼ C. cheese (gruyere, parmigiano reggiano, fontina)

1 T. Butter

1 T. Olive Oil

½ red onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 hand sized bunches of chopped assorted greens, stems removed (spinach, broccoli raab, kale raab, swiss chard, mustard greens), also try some herbs!

Salt and pepper

1 egg, whisked

Directions for Filling

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Wash and cube your potatoes.  Heat a pot of enough water to cover potatoes to a boil.  Place potatoes in the pot with about 1 t. salt.  Cook until tender and remove from heat.  Drain water and place potatoes into a bowl suitable for mashing and mash them.  Add the milk and cheese(s) and stir until combined.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

In a skillet, heat the butter and the olive oil together.  Add onion and cook for three minutes.  Add the minced garlic and sauté for one more minute.  Stir in greens and cover for about five minutes stirring occasionally.  Finish with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

When the greens and onions are done, add them to the potato mixture and stir gently until combined.   Add all the contents to the pie plate and smooth to the sides.  Gently wrap the pastry up over the sides of the greens mixture.  Baste pastry with egg wash.  Bake in the oven for 40 minutes until crust is golden brown.

Note: You can make this a day ahead and refrigerate.  It’s also great as leftovers.

Enjoy!

 

Pesto

How does it feel to be in my Cuisanart?
Let me tell you a little something about basil. Basil is an herb that has a uniqueness all of it’s own. Mostly an annual, with the exception of tropical climates, it is strong and delicate at the same time. Often used in Italian and Asian foods, basil has a reputation as an antioxidant, an anticancer, and an antimicrobial. It is native to southeast Asia, mostly Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia and is said to originally make its way to us from Iran and India. I am mainly interested in this part of the world for two things; their food and their culture.

Pesto is made out of basil and a few other ingredients that you’ll no doubt have on hand. Simply, the aroma given off by fresh pesto makes you feel like you just layed down on long cool wet grass after running a 5k. Delightful and refreshing. Having a little pesto around will fill up your heart with happiness and make you the superhero of the meal. You won’t be disappointed. I do have to make the suggestion that you use a Cuisanart to finely mince the ingredients. If you do this by hand, then you ARE a superhero.

The pesto can be used fresh or divided and frozen for later use. Some people say pour it in ice cube trays and freeze for later use. I’m all for cutting corners, but I think that’s a little cocky and I like to keep mine fresh and store it in small plastic tubs with lids. I pull it out of the freezer in the morning and thaw it in the fridge. I have used it on salmon, shrimp, chicken, pasta, mixed it into cooked rice, and as a spread on bread.

Try it! Purchase a loaf of ciabatta bread (ciabatta means ‘slipper’ in Italian), slice the long way through the middle, lay both pieces flat with insides facing up, spread some pesto lightly on each side and put under the broiler for 4 minutes. Serve with wine. Everyone I know raves about this bread and it is always the first to go. Plan on sharing a lot!

Pesto

3 C. fresh basil leaves
2 or 3 cloves garlic
1/2 C. parmesan cheese
3 T. Pignoli nuts (pine nuts)
1 T. lemon juice
Salt to taste
3/4 C. olive oil

In a Cuisanart, pulse on and off the first six ingredients. While keeping Cuisanart running, gradually poor in the olive oil until the pesto sauce is the consistentcy you desire for the entree you are making. Either use immediately or divide the batch into separate small tubs and freeze for future use. The versatility is amazing!