Thursday, December 31, 2009
since b's mom is town, I thought it would be nice for her to meet some of our friends. (we can be pretty hermit-like most of the time) so I called up my friend bobbi and invited her and her bf carlos over for dinner last night. I love to cook and make most things from scratch when I do. but I've only thrown a handful of dinner parties in my life, and find the whole time management thing a big challenge. (I started cooking as soon as I woke up, and still served dinner an hour and half after our guests arrived.) I hadn't planned on having appetizers since I didn't want everyone to fill up, but realized it would have been a good idea. b got beer, soda and chips, but the chips went fast. so anyway I thought I'd share the recipes for what I made last night because I realized that I pulled off something pretty great- a gluten-free Italian meal for five. Not consciously making it gluten-free, but it's just the way I cook now. So here's the thing- I usually don't post recipes because I seldom measure anything. But I'll do my best to estimate, and some of the recipes are ones that I got online.
1/2 to 3/4 head romaine lettuce, cut into strips
4-5 radishes, thinly sliced
generous handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves
adapted from Grandpa Blake
dollop of mayonnaise (I like Trader Joe's organic)
squirt of ketchup
dash of tamari soy sauce
squeeze of lime
Polenta with Mushrooms
I found this amazing quick-cooking polenta at union market. I thought I was buying regular polenta and didn't know there was such as thing as quick-cooking. It's ground much finer than the regular stuff so the texture isn't quite the same. but I found that with the addition of mushrooms, it is greatly improved. I prepared it according to the directions using water instead of chicken broth, and subbing pecorino romano for parmesan. I buy it by the block at Whole Foods and grate it as needed. Before preparing the polenta I sauteed a whole bunch of crimini mushrooms (cut in half, then medium sliced) in butter, olive oil and fresh thyme. when the polenta was cooked I stirred in the mushrooms and transferred it to an oiled bowl, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula. When it was ready to serve I placed a plate on top of the bowl and flipped it over, exposing a perfectly-molded polenta. you can leave the bowl over the polenta until everyone is ready to eat, to keep it warm.
This is hands-down the best pasta substitute on the market if you have a sensitivity to wheat. Cook according to directions and toss in a bowl with butter and olive oil.
Pasta Sauce with Turkey Meatballs
Smash and coarsely chop 3-4 large cloves of garlic. Chop 1/2- 3/4 lg. white or red onion. Saute both with a douse of olive oil, a pinch of dried chili flakes and (about a teaspoon?) of rosemary in a large pot. I like to break the rosemary up a bit in my fingers before adding. Saute until onion is tender, stirring occasionally to prevent the garlic from sticking. Add two 28-oz. cans of tomatoes. I used one can crushed and one can of whole tomatoes. I cut off the stem end and chopped the whole tomatoes before adding. Then add about a teaspoon of dried oregano, a whole bunch of chopped flat-leaf parsley (about a 1/4 cup?), and 1/2 to 1 tsp. dried thyme. Fresh basil is lovely in this sauce but out of season right now. Maybe some stores have it- I don't know. Oh, and I usually find that the salt in the canned tomatoes makes it unnecessary to add any to the sauce. So simmer the ingredients a while, partially-covered, stirring occasionally. I cooked the sauce about halfway before adding the meatballs, then finished cooking. I'm not one to leave a pot of sauce on the stove cooking all day. As soon as the herbs have melded into the sauce, it's ready for me. Maybe an hour of cooking tops. It might have been a little longer with the addition of meatballs. (before adding the meatballs I blended the sauce with a wand blender. this is great for combining the tomato chunks and the juice. just a few blends to break them up)
adapted from cooks.com
1 1/4 lb. ground turkey
1 jumbo egg
2/3 c. breadcrumbs from 1 1/2 slices 100% rye bread
rounded 1/4 c. grated pecorino romano
rounded 1/4 c. chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 t. dried oregano
Mix all ingredients together with your hands. Use two soup spoons to portion mixture into 10 balls. Heat a little olive oil in a wok. Then roll each ball between your hands before adding to the wok. Brown each one, rolling to get all sides, then add to the sauce. The meatballs will finish cooking in the sauce. As you might be able to tell from looking at the original recipe, I increased it by 1/4. The butcher I went to only had 1 1/4 lb. portions of ground turkey. But it ended up being the perfect amount for five people. About the meatball rolling- handling ground turkey can be very messy. I found it much easier to form the balls roughly first with the spoons, then shape and compact them by hand to finish.
Flourless Chocolate Cake
from all recipes.com
Here is a simplified version of this cake. It's very quick and easy to make, but more fudgey and dense than the more familiar cake-like version. It was my first time trying a flourless chocolate cake. I will try one of the more complicated versions (where the egss are separated and the whites beaten) when I have more time. But if you're in a rush, this is a great (and impressive) dessert option.
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
3/4 c. sugar (I used turbinado)
1/2 c. cocoa
3 eggs, beaten
1 t. vanilla
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease an 8 inch round cake pan, and dust with cocoa powder. (line the bottom of your pan with a piece of parchment, cut to fit)
In the top of a double boiler over lightly simmering water, melt chocolate and butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, cocoa powder, eggs, and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
We added blueberries and sliced strawberries. I never buy fruit that's sold in a plastic box or shipped across state lines. really. Tutu bought the fruit.
served with barley tea, available in Korean food markets. barley tea has the nice hearty and toasty flavor of dark teas, without the caffeine.
about the herbs:
If you cook a lot, buying small bottles of dried herbs and spices can be very costly. I buy most of my spices in bulk at Indian grocery stores for a tiny fraction of the price. But for Mediterranean-style herbs that are readily grown in the U.S., I prefer to buy them fresh and (if appropriate) dry them myself. Some herbs are ill-advised to dry or purchase dry such as basil or parsley. But the ones I dry as a rule are rosemary and thyme. I learned this trick from my mentor, Michael King of Richmond's Grace Place. Take your bundle of herbs (unleash them from their rubber band first) and place in a paper bag. roll down the top of the bag and fasten with a paper clip. Place on a shelf and within a week or so you will have perfectly dried herbs. Roll the leaves off the stem with your fingers and decant into a glass herb jar or vitamin bottle. Keep your herbs inside a cabinet for maximum freshness. Light and heat are enemies to herbs.
I hope you enjoy my recipes and we all agree to cook more in the new year! go local! go fresh! compost if you can.