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Dinner Club at our House!

We hosted our dinner club last night to rave reviews (at least I think they were rave reviews). Our menu was sent out a couple of weeks ago with one thing missing – the main entree!  So people started to guess what it could be.  I think we stumped them.  And you will have to read all the way to the end to find out. 
Our appetizer was inspired from our California trip.   While in California we roamed the gardens of various wineries and saw our first artichoke plants.  It was so cool to see how these plants grow! So, we gave this recipe to “Giada from across the street” and her wonderful hubby! 
Our Dining Room table set for a fall dinner!
Stuffed Artichokes 
Ingredients
  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 3 whole garlic cloves, smashed
  • 6 large artichokes
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 4 tablespoons drained capers
  • 6 ounces Italian bread, crust trimmed, bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, seeded, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 fresh Italian parsley sprigs, for garnish
Directions
Squeeze the juice from the lemon halves into a large pot of cold water; add the squeezed lemon halves and the whole garlic. Cut off the top quarter of each artichoke and discard. Use a small sharp knife to trim the stem of the artichokes. Starting at the base, bend the tough outer leaves back and snap off where they break naturally, leaving the tender inner leaves. Trim the outside of the base until no dark green areas remain. Cut the artichokes in half and then into quarters. Cut out the fibrous choke and small purple-tipped leaves. Submerge the artichoke quarters in the lemon water. Cover and boil until the artichokes are tender, about 45 minutes. Drain. Set the artichoke quarters aside to cool to room temperature.

Mix together lemon juice, herbs, garlic, lemon peel, capers, bread, and tomatoes in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Arrange artichokes, cut side up, on 2 platters. Spoon the tomato mixture into the center of the artichoke quarters, dividing equally. Drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with the parsley sprigs and serve.


With the appetizer we served some cheese’s we tasted in California at the Vella Cheese Company.  This was the last stop on the Segway tour.  I called the company last Friday and had a sampler pack delivered.  The Dry Jack and the Italian Table cheese were just wonderful with this dinner.  www.vellacheese.com

Course #2

Our next course was the Soup course. I love a good soup and I knew that our foodie friends love to make soup too. They received this recipe to bring to our dinner.

Italian Wedding Soup 
Ingredients
For the meatballs:
  • 3/4 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 pound chicken sausage, casings removed
  • 2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the soup:
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 cup minced yellow onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 10 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup small pasta such as tubetini or stars
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh dill
  • 12 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed
Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the meatballs, place the ground chicken, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Pecorino, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork. With a teaspoon, drop 1 to 1 1/4-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should have about 40 meatballs. They don’t have to be perfectly round.) Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

In the meantime, for the soup, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Add the pastato the simmering brothand cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmerfor 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted.

Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan.
Entrée – Surprise!  Recipe will be shared at End of Post

So our final recipe we sent out was dessert. I choose this cake because it is fall and that means pumpkin time, but it was also two days before my birthday, and this just might of been my birthday cake. (OK- not really since my hubby is in the kitchen now making me a Grand Girl Apple Cake). I gave this recipe to my artist friend and her Farm Boy Hubby to make. And what I found out is that she made two of them. Once for our dinner and one for her book club this coming Tuesday. It was delicious! Tasted like a great fall dessert. You might want to think about this for Thanksgiving! 

Now don’t get too shocked at the recipe size… It is from Fine Cooking and all of their recipes are very detailed.

Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake 

 

A gingery glazed nut topping and brown-butter-spiked cream cheese frosting are the finishing touches for this spectacular spiced pumpkin cake. Double the topping if you want to pile the nuts on as shown in the photo.


For the purée

  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 medium-large Sugar Pie pumpkin, cut in half from stem to bottom and seeded
Tip: You can substitute canned pumpkin purée for homemade, if you like.
For the cake
  • 6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter; more for the pans
  • 9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
For the topping
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup pecans
  • 1/2 cup unsalted, raw, hulled pepitas
  • 2 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. chopped crystallized ginger
For the frosting
  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 5 oz. (1-1/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar
Make the pumpkin purée –Please feel free to used canned!
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Brush a 9×13-inch baking dish with the oil. Put the pumpkin halves in the dish cut side down and bake until tender when pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes. Let cool. Peel the pumpkin and purée the flesh in a food processor until smooth. You’ll need 1-1/2 cups of the purée for the cake. Refrigerate or freeze any remaining purée for another use.
Make the cake
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans with removable bottoms (or butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter the parchment, and flour the pans).

Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until cool but not set, about 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves. In a large bowl, whisk 1-1/2 cups of the pumpkin purée with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until very well blended. With a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Gently whisk in the brown butter until completely incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.

Bake the cakes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto racks, remove the pan bottoms or parchment, and cool completely.

Make the topping
Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and pepitas and cook until the pecans brown slightly and the pepitas begin to pop, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and salt and stir until the sugar melts and the nuts are glazed, about 2 minutes. Stir in the ginger. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool in the skillet.
Make the frosting
Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until the solids settle at the bottom of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Carefully transfer the bowl to the freezer and chill until just firm, about 18 minutes. Using a spoon, carefully scrape the butter from bowl, leaving the browned solids at the bottom; discard the solids.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light in color and the brown sugar has dissolved, 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Assemble the cake
Put one cake layer on a cake plate. Spread 1/2 cup of the frosting on the layer. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the nut mixture over the frosting and top with the second layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Arrange the remaining topping in a ring 1-1/2 inches in from the edge of the cake and serve
Make Ahead Tips

You can make the purée up to 2 days ahead. The assembled, frosted cake can be covered with a cake dome and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Serve at room temperature.

OK- so now you are asking…. What was the Entree?  

Surprise!


How to Make Spaghetti & Meatballs

The chef of New York City’s Meatball Shop shares his favorite recipe.

From Daniel Holzman from Fine Cooking Need to Know

Make a thick, chunky sauce, which will cling to the pasta and add some welcome texture to this simple dish. I like the fresh flavor of Pomì brand diced tomatoes, but feel free to use your favorite brand—just avoid preseasoned tomatoes and petite diced tomatoes, which will make a thinner sauce.

Add ricotta for juicy meatballs. Its fat content adds a little bit of extra moisture and a mildly creamy flavor without making the meatballs dense or heavy. Combine the meatball mix with your hands, and don’t over mix. Overworking the mixture can lead to dense meatballs. Using your hands literally gives you a feel for mixing, which helps keep the meatballs light.
Use an ice cream scoop to form the meatballs. A 2-oz. ice cream scoop that’s 2 inches in diameter quickly makes uniform balls that are just the right size.
Salt the pasta water until it tastes briny. You’ll need about 1 Tbs. of kosher salt for every 2 quarts of water. As the pasta cooks, it will absorb the salt and become more flavorful.
Thin the sauce with pasta water. Starch from the pasta will prevent the sauce from becoming too watery, and the salt adds flavor.
Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce. Stopping short of the recommended time and then simmering the pasta in the sauce lets it absorb the sauce’s flavor without becoming overcooked

Plenty of oregano and a touch of fennel makes these tender meatballs super flavorful. This recipe uses a higher proportion of pork than beef or veal in the meatballs because it gives the best texture, but meatloaf mix—equal parts beef, veal, and pork—is an easy-to-find substitute.

Ingredients

For the sauce

·         1/2 cup olive oil
·         1 large yellow onion, chopped (1-1/2 cups)
·         3 medium cloves garlic, crushed
·         2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dry oregano
·         1 bay leaf
·         1 Tbs. tomato paste
·         2 26- to 28-oz. containers diced tomatoes, preferably Pomì brand
·         Kosher salt

For the meatballs

·         1 Tbs. olive oil
·         8 oz. ground pork
·         6 oz. 80% lean ground beef
·         6 oz. ground veal
·         1 cup coarse fresh white breadcrumbs
·         1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta
·         2 large eggs
·         2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
·         1 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano or 1-1/2 tsp. dry oregano
·         1/2 tsp. freshly ground fennel seed
·         1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
·         Kosher salt

For the pasta

·         Kosher salt
·         1-1/2 lb. dried spaghetti

Directions

Make the sauce

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-duty 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, oregano, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is soft, 6 to 10 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until darkened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juice and 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce has reduced by about a third, 40 to 60 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and season to taste with salt. Keep warm, covered. (The sauce can also be refrigerated for up to 5 days, or frozen for 1 month.)

Make the meatballs

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F. Coat the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch baking dish with the olive oil. Set aside.

Combine the ground meats, breadcrumbs, ricotta, eggs, parsley, oregano, fennel seed, red pepper flakes, and 2 tsp. salt in a large bowl. Mix gently but thoroughly with your hands.

Divide the meat into 16 golf-ball-size portions using a 2-oz., 2-inch-diameter ice cream scoop or your hands; roll with wet hands to make them round. Arrange the balls snugly in the baking dish.

Bake the meatballs until they register about 90°F on an instant-read thermometer and are firm to the touch, 10 to 12 minutes. (If you’ve made the tomato sauce ahead, heat it while the meatballs are cooking.)

Remove the meatballs from the oven and drain excess fat, if there is any, from the pan. Ladle half of the sauce over them, return them to the oven, and continue to bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into one reads 165°F, about 15 minutes. (The meatballs can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for 2 weeks.)

Cook the pasta

Bring a large covered pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil.
Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes less than package timing for al dente. Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water and drain.
Return the pasta to the pot and mix with the remaining sauce. Add 1 cup pasta water to thin the sauce and cook over medium heat until the pasta is al dente, 2 to 3 minutes. Add more pasta water if necessary, and season to taste with salt. Transfer the spaghetti to a large heated serving bowl. Top with the meatballs and their sauce and serve.

Our Entree heading out to the table!

Our Side dish….. ( Found this recipe about 3 hours before dinner!)

Green Beans with Sage and Pancetta

Bon Appétit | December 2007

Makes 10 servings
Ingredients
2 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed
8 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh sage
Fleur de sel* or other medium-grain sea salt for serving (optional)

Preparation

Line baking sheet with several layers of paper towels. Cook beans in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes depending on size of beans. Drain. Spread beans out on paper towels. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Combine pancetta and 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet. Sauté over medium heat until pancetta is crisp, separating pieces with 2 forks, about 10 minutes. Add sage and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to plate.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add beans and sauté until heated through, about 5 minutes. Add pancetta mixture and toss to blend. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to large bowl; sprinkle with fleur de sel, if desired, and serve.*A sea salt with especially subtle, complex flavor; sold at specialty foods stores and online at chefshop.com. 

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