Michele called. An old friend would be in town for a few days on business and staying with her and her husband, Dave. How nice, I thought, to see him. Even nicer - especially because he used to be a member of our round-robin dinner parties - would be sharing the evening meal. Michele was not displeased when I suggested dinner at my place. But what to make for someone who is a superb cook with highly discriminating taste? I cannot think of a mediocre offering at one of his dinners. I had to make it good, although time was in short supply. Here’s what I made, based on ingredients already on hand and some from a quick trip to my favorite salumeria, Pastosa on Forest Ave.
Fig with honeyed goat cheese: Make a small hollow in a fig half with a melon baller. Fill it with a young goat cheese infused with honey, Prosciutto wrapped around pear: Peel ripe pears, preferably Bartletts, and cut into small pieces. Wrap prosciutto around each piece. Midnight Moon cheese: From Pastosa came this aged goat cheese from Cypress Grove in California. Soup In the freezer was a batch of red pepper soup which I described in a previous post on October 16, “A Rib Roast Dinner, Totally Prime”. Sauté red peppers with onion, garlic, chili pepper, herbs and small amounts of cumin and coriander; then simmer with vegetable stock and white wine (3:1). Process until smooth. Reheat with a small amount of heavy cream to balance the spices. With a multitude of flavors, creamy umami and a chili pepper kick, this soup is YUM!
Prime rib-eye steaks from Pastosa:
Two people requested really rare steaks, two asked for medium rare. Pan frying in butter makes it easy to accommodate both tastes. Use different skillets. Start the steaks destined for medium rare before the really rare ones. With the right skillet and temperature, the outsides of the steaks can acquire a nice char while leaving the inside as rare as desired.
A. Butternut squash: One resided in my pantry (aka garage). For easy preparation, preheat oven to 400F. Cover a sheet pan with aluminum foil and lightly oil it. Slice the squash in half lengthwise, lay the halves flesh-side down on the foil and bake for about 1 hour, until skin is somewhat charred and flesh is soft. Cool. At this point, the skin easily peels away. For terrific taste, add caramelized onion, orange and lemon zest and a small amount of cinnamon. Because it’s a favorite condiment and it's just about as easy to make a huge amount as a small quantity, I keep batches of caramelized onion in the freezer. In fact, this preparation for butternut squash freezes very well and I often make a large amount and store some in the freezer. B. Asparagus: A standard recipe always works well. For easy preparation, snap each spear at the natural breaking point and discard the bottoms. Roast with olive oil, grated garlic, grated lemon zest and Parmesan cheese. C. Wild rice with cranberries: Wild rice has a nutty flavor and interesting texture that I find delightful. I make it according to package directions and then add embellishments, typically sautéed onion, dried fruit and/or nuts. In this case, I heated some butter in a saucepan, sautéed the onion, and added cranberries and the rice.
Michele brought along a luscious cheesecake topped with assorted fruits, from Royal Crown Bakery.