Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Relaxed Italian Dinner Menu for Feeding My Army

Two weeks ago I invited my army of best friends over for a dinner party. I call them "my army" because that is exactly what they are: my backup, my support, my armada. And last night I needed them, so in exchange for their services, I (and Beth) decided to feed them.

And—surprise, surprise—what a fantastic time we had together. An evening with tears of laughter, full bellies and empty wine glasses.

Our appetizers were simple: Vodka-Spiked Tomatoes with Pepper-Salt (from 150 Best American Recipes) and cheese straws. Beth worked on the cheese straws

cheese strawswhile I prepped the tomatoes for the vodka marinade. To share in the experience, we both peeled the tomatoes together. My father, I believe, is the only one who can appreciate the peeling bit—so I took a picture of the "after" so he can have a little flashback:

peeled grape tomatoesFor the main course, Beth made antipasto-stuffed shells. Delicious.

antipasto stuffed shellsFor the entree, I wanted to make something different but easy, so Beth lent me her copy of "Best Make-Ahead Recipes" by Cooks Illustrated. I decided on stromboli. I hadn't had it since I was a teenager, and I thought it would be fun to try. I adapted my pizza dough recipe with a bit more whole wheat flour and then made three different strombolis: Pepperoni with Provolone and Mozzarella; Mushroom, Onion, and Roasted Peppers with Mozzarella, Provolone, and Romano; and Caprese with Mozzarella. They all turned out to be delicious. Will definitely do again. Easy to make the dough, easy to put together, easy to bake.

homemade stromboliAnd, then...Beth made dessert. OH MY GOD. She brought dough for beignets, which I'd never had, and rolled, cut and fried them right then and there. I masterfully sprinkled the steaming beignets with powdered sugar, thank you very much. And took the pictures. Just try to keep from drooling:

homemade beignets
homemade beignetsTo say the least, I thoroughly enjoyed myself: cooking, talking, eating, drinking, sharing old stories, relaxing in the presence of those I trust and love. But I don't think I was the only one. I believe, as Beth says, "A good time was had by all." For sure.

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