Thursday, October 15, 2009

Easy and Delicious Dinner Party Menu

Last night I had the pleasure of making a meal for Sandy (who is getting married on Saturday!), her sister and Maid of Honor Jen, and my boyfriend Kevin. After running around all day in preparation for Saturday, Sandy was really looking forward to a delicious homemade meal, a glass of wine, and relaxing and enjoying herself before the chaos of the wedding weekend. Having to soon squeeze into a wedding dress, I knew that Sandy would appreciate a healthy meal. I also knew that I wouldn't have much time to cook. So I put together a yummy, healthy and quick-cooking meal for our dinner party. The meal was a success and it was a treat to spend time with the bride before her big day!

Pear and Blue Cheese Salad

Tangy blue cheese and tender pears dress up any salad!
Serves 4

One 5 oz. bag mixed spring salad greens
2 oz. crumbled blue cheese
1 pear, sliced
4 tblsp. pistachios (roasted, shelled and salted)
1/2 c. sweet vinaigrette dressing (I recommend Trader Joe's Chardonnay, Pear and Gorgonzola Vinaigrette)

Empty bag of salad greens into large bowl. Add crumbled blue cheese and sliced pear and toss with salad dressing. Divide into four bowls and add 1 tblsp. pistachios and fresh cracked black pepper to each.

Tip: Buy cheese in bulk and crumble it yourself. It is less expensive,  fresher, creamier and tastier than the pre-crumbled kind.

Photo credit: (all other photos in this post by Sarah)

Shallot Spaghetti with Roasted Tomatoes and Cajun Sausage

Garlicky, oniony spaghetti combines beautifully with spicy sausage and mild tomatoes. 
Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
10 shallots, halved then thinly sliced
Salt and black pepper
1 pound whole-wheat spaghetti
A generous handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 container grape tomatoes
1/2 c. white wine
3 Cajun or Italian sausages

Preheat oven to 425. Halve tomatoes and roast on cookie sheet in oven for 20 minutes.

Heat the extra-virgin olive oil with the butter over medium-low heat in a skillet with high sides. Add garlic and shallots and season with salt and pepper then cook gently until caramelized about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile heat a large pot of water to boil for pasta, salt the water very liberally then add spaghetti and bring to a rolling boil. Cook to al dente. Add 1 ladle of starchy cooking water, about 1/2 cup, and 1/2 cup of white wine to the shallots and stir. Drain pasta and add to shallots. Add the parsley, tomatoes and cheese and more black pepper, to taste. Toss 1 to 2 minutes for liquid to absorb and serve alongside sausages.

Tip: Cook with shallots whenever you'd use onions or garlic. They are a delightful mix of both flavors and add unusual and satisfying complexity to dishes.

How to cook sausages
Heat medium skillet with sausages, 1/4 inch water and 2 tblsp. olive oil over high heat until boiling. Reduce heat to medium-high and simmer, turning sausages occasionally, until liquid evaporates (approximately 10 minutes). Cook 4-6 minutes more for skins to crisp up, continuing to turn occasionally.

Base pasta recipe provided by Rachael Ray,, doctored up by Sarah. 

Roasted Lemony-Garlic Broccoli

Lemon juice freshens up the broccoli as garlic enhances the depth of flavor. 
Serves 4

3 heads broccoli, cut into florets
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oiil
1/2 lemon
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread broccoli on pan and add olive oil, lemon zest and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Stir to evenly distribute flavors. Roast in oven for 20 minutes. Remove broccoli into serving bowl. Squeeze half of a lemon over broccoli and top with grated Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Lemon Parsley Bruschetta

Fresh lemon and parsley with crunchy garlic bread.
Serves 4

One loaf take-and-bake french bread
1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 lemon
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice loaf the long way and separate into two halves. Drizzle with olive oil and then squeeze fresh lemon juice onto bread. Salt to taste. Place on cookie sheet cut side up and bake in oven for 10-12 minutes until crispy on the edges. Remove from oven and top with fresh parsley. Slice and serve.

Wines of the Night

We enjoyed a red and white wine with tonight's meal. The red wine of the night was Cosentino Legends Cabernet Sauvignon. Kevin and I bought this wine while we were in Napa. Cosentino is an up-and-coming cabernet powerhouse, and this bottle is delicious. It is a Bordeaux-style wine and is spicy and complex. Learn more about it:

The white wine we enjoyed was Lindeman's Sauvignon Blanc, a South African white wine that is crisp and refreshing. I particularly enjoyed the wine with the spicy sausage, and felt that it cut well through the intense flavor. I would recommend this wine for cooking and with food. It is incredibly affordable!

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