Tuesday, September 27, 2005

CANCELLED end of summer dinner

Sometimes, the best menus are all in our heads. This one was supposed to be our final outdoor dinner party of the summer, but we had to cancel when the city turned off the water and dug up the street. (It was the fifth or sixth water main break of the year – zzzhhheeesh!) So, here is my fantasy end-of-summer dinner:

Cherry tomatoes stuffed with pesto
Roasted beet and walnut salad
Pasta Primavera
Black Forest cake

CHERRY TOMATOES STUFFED WITH PESTO – Cut the top of each cherry tomato. Using a small spoon, scoop out the flesh. Fill the cavity with pesto. You can make pesto by mixing in a blender:

1cup fresh basil leaves
5T freshly grated parmesan cheese
3T pine nuts
2 cloves of garlic
1/2cup olive oil
salt to taste

2 medium beets (or 4 small)
1/3cup walnut pieces
1T brown sugar
salad greens for two
a nob of goat’s cheese
1/2T sherry or balsamic vinegar
1/2T fruit syrup
3T canola oil

Roast the beets in the oven or cook in the microwave until they can be pierced through with a paring knife. Cool and peel. Heat 1T of water and the brown sugar in a non-stick skillet. Stir in the walnuts. Cook stirring until the liquid evaporates and the nuts are glazed. Place the greens on two salad plates, top with sliced beets, sprinkle on the walnuts and dot with goat’s cheese. (You can use a different cheese such as ricotta or feta.) Combine the vinegar, the fruit syrup (I used a chokecherry syrup made by my friend Laureen) with the oil and a bit of salt. Drizzle over the salad and serve.

This recipe is adapted from Lorenza’s Pasta, by Lorenza de’Medici. You can easily substitute other vegetables, and use more or less of each as they are available in season. According to Lorenza, this pasta dish is not served with cheese.

2T butter
1/2 cup canola or olive oil
1/2 chopped onion
1 chopped clove garlic
1 medium zucchini, sliced (or two small)
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 cup chopped snap peas (or shelled peas)
2 large ripe tomatoes
1T each parsley and/or basil
salt and pepper
Cooked pasta for four people (I prefer this with shaped pasta such as bowties or rigatoni, as opposed to long noodles like spaghetti.)

Melt the butter and half the olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently so it doesn’t brown. Add the zucchini, carrots and peas. Cook until the carrots are no longer hard to the bite. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cooked pasta along with the tomatoes, herbs and the rest of the oil. Toss it together and cook briefly until the tomatoes are softened. Serve hot.

This recipe is adapted from an old Time-Life series on the cooking of Germany (published in 1969). Since my dinner was cancelled, I didn’t get a chance to make it. But this is what I was going to do:

Make a tall chocolate cake. Cool the cake and cut in half horizontally, setting the top half aside. While still warm, prick both layers of the cake with a fork and sprinkle with cherry syrup:

Thaw and drain 1 cup of frozen sour cherries. (Pit the cherries if they aren’t pitted yet.) Pour the drained cherry juice into a measuring cup and fill to 1 cup with water. Combine this liquid with 3/4cup sugar in a saucepan over moderate heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Boil uncovered for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and when it is lukewarm stir in 1/3cup of kirsch.

Beat 2cups of cream until it starts to thicken. Sift 1/4cup confectioner’s sugar over the whipped cream and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Pour in 1/8cup kirsch and beat just until it is blended.

Place the bottom layer of the cake on a serving platter. Spread half the whipped cream on the cake, spilling over the edge. Sprinkle with 3/4 of the cherries. Place the top layer of cake and spread with the remaining whipped cream. Garnish with the remaining cherries.

Take a very good piece of chocolate and "peel" off curls of chocolate with a sharp knife or a vegetable peeler. Sprinkle the cake with chocolate. Be generous – this is not a dieter’s dessert!

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