November 7, 2007

Dinner Party

Last night I had some friends coming over for dinner and decided to use it as an excuse to make it into a real dinner party with seasonal and local ingredients, of course. The menu for the evening was:

Kale and white bean crostini on homemade bread with grated piave cheese
Butternut squash tortellini with sage brown buttered sauce
Chocolate chip apple cake

A bit ambitious, but I had time to kill.
Part 1: Crostini
The night before I made the bread. It took longer than it was supposed to, and then after all that effort, it came out no good. While baking, it sunk into a dense rectangular block. A rectangular block that I was ashamed to photograph and that didn't taste great because I included buckwheat groats. The recipe said I could! But I should have known. Considering that I don't like the smell of buckwheat groats...its horrible smell was overpowering and affected the taste of the bread. Jesse liked it, but he seems to like anything. I almost went out and bought a baguette, but decided it would be passable, especially with a topping to mask the smell.
I also made the crostini topping the night before - I sauteed 2 cloves garlic, half a bunch of kale, and half a can of white beans, salt and peper to taste, then pureed it and put it in the refrigerator to store it.

To assemble the appetizer, I toasted half slices of bread with the kale and bean puree spread on top to warm both a the same time. Then I grated piave cheese over top - a mild cow cheese a bit more tasty than parmesan. Personally, I don't think I like kale enough for it to be a delicious crostini topping...it tastes too healthy!

Part 2: Squash Tortellini
The night before, I also roasted the butternut squash - I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, drizzled it with olive oil, and then placed it scooped side down on a baking pan to roast for approximately 45 minutes at 450. When it was soft and mushy, I scooped out all the flesh into a large bowl. Then I added a tsp or so each of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, and pepper and mashed it all together, and also stored it in the refrigerator.

Originally, I had hoped to make butternut squash ravioli myself from scratch. However, Jesse warned me not to make the pasta as he thought we should stick with the pros and buy pasta sheets from Raffetto's in the West Village. However, it turns out they don't sell pasta sheets for ravioli making, just their own ravioli fully made. So the Italian man sold Jesse spinach (hence the green color!) pasta for tortellini making with some vague directions on how to shape the tortellini. From the picture, you can see it looks nothing like tortellini. It was really hard to fold it up small like real tortellini, so Jesse took it upon himself to fold it into giant pockets with loose flaps.

Just before dinner, I took the butterut squash out of the fridge, and Jesse as my sous chef helped me plop little teaspoons of the squash filling into giant pasta messes. I boiled them in two batches of about three minutes each because they wouldn't all fit in our biggest pot.

Meanwhile I made the sauce. I sauteed 2 cloves garlic and a diced shallot in olive oil. Then I added half a stick of butter and 2 tsp of dried sage, as well as some rosemary, salt, and pepper. I was scared of too much butter, but realized it wasn't enough for sauce, so I added another half stick or more of butter and let it heat and brown a little. When the pasta was done, I strained it and then plated it, pouring the sage brown buttered sauce over each plate with some grated parmesan. We ended up with about 6 servings of giant tortellini, so there is still some in the fridge.
Part 3: Cake
For dessert, I made a moist chocolate chip apple cake. I would have used applesauce instead of all that milk, but someone ate all my extra apples, even though I bought them from the farmers market especially for this dessert. :-(

Cream 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup butter. Beat in 2 eggs one by one. Combine with 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp lemon juice, as well as 3/4 cup milk. Add 1 cup white flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp ginger, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt. Stir it all together. Add one package of chocolate chips. Dice one apple and throw that in. Stir it all together again. Grease a 9-inch round pan. Bake at 350 for approximately 40 minutes until golden brown. Sprinkle confectioners sugar over the top. Eat for dessert that night, and another huge hunk for breakfast the next morning.

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