Lucky you — two posts in two days! I’m trying to catch up on blog material, since I’m leaving for Taiwan and Japan this week, and I KNOW there will be much to blog about from that trip!
I had the second of my Sunday Night Dinners a few weeks back. On the guest list: LC, who cooked dinner for me in order to appear on this blog; SP, who has hosted me many times especially at Stitch n Bitch; and JL, my good friend and film watching buddy. In addition to being a very fun group, there were special reasons to invite each of these friends. LC and SP are both moving far, far away soon, and JL was celebrating a birthday the following Tuesday.
For the menu, I decided to focus on the dessert since it was JL’s birthday. In addition, SP is vegetarian and JL doesn’t eat red meat or pork, so I went with two recipes from the Chez Panisse Vegetables cookbook by the one and only Alice Waters. We started with olives and Manhattans — very civilized, no? For the first course, I made a pink grapefruit, avocado, and curly endive salad with citrus vinaigrette. It was delicious but would’ve been better had I chosen riper avocados. You’d think four years of living in California would confer some innate ability to buy avocados, but nope. Big shame!
For the main course, I made a simple roasted eggplant and tomato penne pasta. The key to this dish was the ricotta salata cheese that is crumbled on top of the pasta. Ricotta salata is an amazing and flavorful (and salty!) cheese that is solid, unlike its liquefied and more common cousin. It will beat Parmesan any day of the week, in terms of being a pasta topper. It is also, for the record, the only cheese made from sheeps’ milk that I have ever liked.
Now, for dessert! Back when LC cooked dinner for me, I had requested moelleux au chocolat, or molten chocolate cake. It is probably my favorite dessert of all time, which is saying a lot! He didn’t make it then, so I thought better late than never, right? And as I said earlier, it was JL’s birthday so I wanted to make dessert extra special.
You might recall that I’m not the best baker in the world, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the recipe (from The Gourmet Cookbook) was fairly easy. Instead of the coffee créme anglaise that I was supposed to serve with the cake, I bought Häagen Dazs vanilla ice cream, which I thought would provide a refreshing cold contrast to the warm cake. Besides, LC said that the créme anglaise would have been too rich as an accompaniment. I’m so happy when there’s a good excuse to be lazy!
It was a very successful dinner party, in part due to the amount of alcohol we imbibed. Between the four of us, we managed to put away four Manhattan cocktails and three bottles of wine. Cheers!