Thankyou Dinner with Friends

Last night we had some good friends over for dinner. We hadn’t caught up in a while, I love to cook and we also wanted to have an opportunity to say thanks for taking such good care of our dog while we were away over Christmas and New Years. T&R are always there to take amazing care of our dog when we go out of town. Thanks again T&R. It’s so nice to know that he’s in such capable hands and we know there are times that he can be a bit of a handful. You guys rock!

Now onto dinner. We had quite a full menu planned for the evening. Some new favorites, some old favorites and one completely new untested recipe. Some amount of co-ordination was required to get the timing right here especially with two dishes competing for the oven at completely different temperatures. But everything went off without a hitch and was seriously delicious. My only regret for the evening was that I didn’t take enough photos. So, I hope you’ll forgive me by using just a little file footage from the last time (pre-blog) I made a couple of these dishes.

Appetizers

We started with some delicious cheeses (thanks T&R!) and store bought hummus with crackers and vegetables. Sadly, no photos here but I made the hummus my own by adding a drizzle of olive oil, some za’atar, paprika and some toasted pine nuts.

Soup

It was time for some yummy “summer” corn chowder courtesy of blue apron. I love this soup. It’s quite rich and mealy, full of crunchy creamy corn flavor and you can really taste that hint of tarragon. Yes, you can make this recipe and serve it as a main dish for a weeknight dinner but if you split it into quarters it makes for a perfect little soup to start off your dinner party. Here it is near completion.

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Oh and the finished product for the soup is the featured photo in my blog post about blue apron here.

Salad

I really wanted to make a nice salad to go with dinner but nothing exciting really came to mind. I’ve made greek salads a bunch of times but I felt like mixing it up a little. Then I found this recipe for a balsamic roasted beet salad courtesy of Ina Garten. I’ve been doing a lot of cooking with beets recently so I was no longer intimidated by the idea of roasting them in the oven. The salad looked and tasted amazing and I didn’t find the balsamic to be too overpowering which I’m somtimes concerned about. I also loved the roasted marcona almonds which added a nice crunch to the salad. FYI – This wasn’t the only Ina dish to make an appearance for this dinner. More to come below!

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Main Dishes & Sides

Ok so I kept the Ina theme going for most of the main dishes. For the meat eaters of the group I prepared a slow roasted filet of beef with basil parmesan mayonnaise. This dish is so easy to make and it’s delicious. I can’t believe all it takes is a little oil, tarragon, salt and pepper to make such a simple yet flavorful dish. Oh and then there’s that basil parmesan mayo that is seriously a cinch to make. I just want to spread that stuff on a sandwich right now! I bought a beautiful cut of filet from the good folks at The Meat Hook in Brooklyn. It was quite shlep to get there in absolutely freezing temperatures but it was totally worth it. Just look at that beautiful filet.

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I actually ordered a smaller piece of meat than the recipe calls for as I was only feeding 3 meat eaters. No problem though, I just halved the recipe and everything came out great!

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I also made some potato gnocchi in tomato broth using this recipe from smitten kitchen. Making gnocchi from scratch is a bit of an involved process but it’s totally worth it and the recipe makes quite a lot of gnocchi that you’ll have plenty left over to make a second batch some other time. In fact for last nights dinner I was able to use a frozen batch I made a couple of weeks ago. The broth contains very simple ingredients but really has a delicate tomato flavor that is such a nice comfort on a cold winter night. One tip for cooking gnocchi that I recently picked up is that it can be really helpful to boil your gnocchi in a large deep saute pan. This way you can cook an entire batch without any risk of overcrowding these soft little potato pillows. The gnocchi was a great vegetarian main meal and was a cute mini bonus dish for the meat eaters in the group.

Sides

Time for sides? Time for some more Ina classics. I’d been itching to make Ina’s Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli for some time. I made it a few years ago and I think I must have misread the recipe and added too much lemon zest that time. It was a little too overpowering. But after reading Adam Roberts’ post about the best broccoli of your life I decided it was worth giving another go and I’m so glad I did. The broccoli was a hit and there wasn’t much left of it by the end of the night. I actually made a half portion of this broccoli dish just like Ina did on TV.

For the next side I went for Ina’s Dill Fingerling Potatoes. I loved how easy this dish was to make. I could set it on the stove and walk away while I finished up other dishes and prepared to serve everything else. It was the perfect sized dish, the potatoes were cooked and seasoned well and the dill added a little extra something without being too…dilly.

Dessert

I wanted to make something rich, creamy and full of flavor for dessert but at the same time keep the portion size small. I figured everyone would be pretty full by this stage so no need to go crazy and have everyone going home feeling sickly full! So it was time for some cappuccino semifreddo courtesy of the french laundry cookbook and the food network. This dessert has a soft spot for me because we were served this exact same dessert for my special birthday dinner at Perse last year. When I decided to try recreating the dessert I was so surprised to find the exact recipe online. There are definitely a few steps in making this dessert but each one is totally doable and really not difficult at all. Here’s the first step where the egg yolks are being beaten with sugar and the seeds from half a vanilla bean pod.

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I’ve had some trouble recently in finding some instant espresso powder so I made do with this Cafe Bustello product.

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It seemed to work well by following the same directions of mixing equal parts powder and boiling water. So for the two tablespoons needed for this recipe I used two tablespoons of powder + two tablespoons boiling water. I decided to serve the the semifreddo with some store bought almond biscotti. The portion size was perfect although I must admit some of us did go back for seconds. I had a couple of extra glass cups of semifreddo sitting the freezer, just in case!

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So that was it for dinner. Awesome food with great friends. To quote Ina – “Who wouldn’t want that?”

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Or that?! 🙂

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