Friday, December 22, 2006

3 Course Meal

"The soup was amazing and the tart was spectacular." ~Guest #2

"These dishes are truly impressive!" ~Guest #3

"The flavor combination in this tart is out of this world!" ~Guest #1

Last night my roommate and I had some friends over for a dinner party and, as you can see, the reviews were pretty favorable for the dishes we made. Or, should I say, the way I remember the reviews, were pretty favorable. I love dinner parties because they are a chance to sit down, enjoy good food, and catch up with whomever you decide to invite. All of the dishes we served were made ahead so it was simply a case of heating them up and serving them out. This is a real time saver when having a dinner party because it cuts down on the amount of dishes to clean afterwards and also allows the hostess to enjoy the party instead of being in the kitchen all night. The menu for the evening was as follows:
Leek and Potato Soup

Eggplant, Tomato, and Smoked Mozzarella Tart with Herbed Salad

White Chocolate, Cranberry and Macadamia Nut Cookies
Pistachio and Cherry Mexican Wedding Cakes

Leek and Potato Soup
This recipe comes straight from my mother, the master leek and potato soup maker.

3 medium leeks, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 large potato, cubed
1 small onion, diced
reduced sodium vegetable stock
herbes de provence

  • In a large skillet or wok, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and leeks and cook until softened.

  • Add diced potatoes and enough vegetable stock to cover all ingredients. Season to taste with herbes de provence. Simmer until soft.

  • When potatoes are soft, let soup cool, and then liquidize in batches in your food processor.

  • Enjoy!

Eggplant, Tomato, and Smoked Mozzarella Tart
This recipe is originally from Cooking Light (April 2004). The smoked mozzarella really brings the flavor up a notch and is a nice contrast to the herbs and garlic. Serve with simple side salad, such as herbed salad which you can find in the bagged salad area at your local supermarket.

I have to admit I am not that great at following original recipes to "T" and therefore made a few substitutions. I eliminated the mint from the recipe, used Chinese eggplants and dried herbs, and bought a premade pastry crust. Below is my modified recipe:

frozen prepared whole wheat pastry crust
2 medium sized Chinese eggplants, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or 2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup (2 oz) shredded smoked mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese

  • To prepare the crust, preheat oven to 400F. Remove frozen crust from its packaging, pierce the bottom and sides of the dough with a fork. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Cool completely on a wire rack.

  • To prepare the filling, arrange eggplant on several layers of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt; let stand 15 minutes. Pat the eggplant slices dry, brush with oil, and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes or until eggplant is soft. Stack eggplants on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand for 7 minutes to steam.

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add basil, oregano; mix well. Remove from heat, stir in tomatoes.

  • Sprinkle 2 tablespoons smoked mozzarella on the bottom of the cooled baked tart. Layer the eggplant and the tomato mixture in the crust. Top with remaining smoked mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake at 400F for 10 minutes or until cheese melts.

  • Cut into wedges and serve with a simple side salad. Yield: 4 servings

White Chocolate, Cranberry, and Macadamia Nut Cookies
This is one my roommate picked out from this months copy of Bon Appetit. A baker she is not, but honestly I have to say she has a lot of potential. It was loads of fun working together in the kitchen as it gave us a chance to catch up away from the normal stresses of our lives. Cooking making is a great holiday activity for all, young or old. We only used a cup of the cranberries and white chocolate chips, but I wish there had been more macadamia nuts.

3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries (about 6 oz)
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips (about 8 1/2 oz)
1 cup coarsely chopped roasted salted macadamia nuts (about 4 1/2 oz)

  • Preheat oven to 350F.

  • In a medium bowl combine first three ingredients. Set aside.

  • In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add both sugars and beat until blended. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and beat until just blended.

  • Using a spatula, stir in the cranberries, white chocolate chips, and macadamia nuts.

  • Drop dough by teaspoonful onto baking sheet, and bake until just golden. About 15 minutes. Yields 36 (large) or 72 (small) cookies.

  • [Note: Due to the holidays we had to use Christmas color swirled white chocolate chips. From this recipe we made 45 medium sized cookies]

Pistachio and Cherry Mexican Wedding Cakes
The tart chewy cherries provide a wonderful contrast to the powdered sugar coating and crumbly cookie.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar plus more for coating
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pistachios
1/2 cup cherries
2 1/2 cups flour

  • Preheat oven to 350F.

  • In a large bowl, beat butter and powdered sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in vanilla and salt, then pistachios and cherries. Using a spatula stir in all flour (do not over mix dough).

  • Shape dough by generous tablespoonfuls into football-shaped ovals. Place on baking sheet and bake until bottoms just begin to color. Approximately 15 minutes.

  • Cool cookies on sheets 10 minutes, before coating.

  • Pour a generous amount of powdered sugar into a medium bowl. Add cookies to bowl and gently turn to coat thickly. Transfer cookies to a sheet of wax paper, cool completely and enjoy!

1 comment:

K.S. said...

yummy. when can i come over?