The May 8 Dinner : For the support group …

IMG_4900When itsIMG_4883 a small sit-down dinner, one that is formal, and one seeks to choose, cook and serve with care … in the menu and the presentation, for flavour and ingredients, for the new and the interesting; this, then was how it went (sourced from the net), plated, assembled, tested, tasted and modified at the time of cooking, as all were new recipes, untried.

 

 

 

 

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The Menu
  • Champagne, wines, single malts
  • Starters
    Mini Caprese Bites
    Grilled Stuffed Jalapeños
    Bagel Crisps with Blue Cheese and Lime/Date relish from the Nilgiri Biosphere
  • Pasta – Antipasto Style Penne
    Greek Style Picnic Salad
    Marinated Salmon with Mango-Kiwi Relish
    Grilled Chicken a la Veronica
    Charred green beans
  • Dessert
  • Spiced Grapes in a Port Dessert Sauce
    Chocolate with Honeycomb from the Nilgiri Biosphere
  • And after
  • Tea : Tippy oolong, white or broken orange pekoe from the Nilgiri Biosphere
    Coffee : Arabica, ground with 5% chicory, also from the Nilgiri Biosphere

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  • Mini Caprese Bites

10 – 14 fresh small mozzarella cheese balls, sliced in thirds
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
6 fresh basil leaves, sliced
Marinade – 1/4 cup virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
dash of kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

  1. Thread 1 slice of mozzarella with half a grape tomato on either side of it.
  2. Layer in dish, pour marinade over it, scatter sliced basil over.
  3. Dust with more salt and pepper.

I used pink Himalayan salt and a raspberry balsamic.

IMG_4902And this is why you should test before you stride forth confidently. I sourced the freshest Mexican  jalapeños from the wet market. The hands were on fire by the time the peppers were halved and cleaned.

One had to immerse them (hands, not jalapeños) into a bowl of ice to cool them down, rub oil on them, blow on them and hop around for a bit before returning to the dish.

A wry helper suggested we actually grill the pepper with its stuffing before we served it pre-dinner, so we did and then our mouths were on fire !! So rather than have our guests choking and charging for ice and water, we changed the recipe, substituted the  jalapeños for wedges of baguette, same stuffing. A much tamer alternative, not so exciting, but well received nonetheless.

  • Grilled Stuffed Jalapeños

2 center-cut bacon slices
4 ounces cream cheese, softened (about 1/2 cup)
4 ounces fat-free cream cheese, softened (about 1/2 cup)
1 ounce extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup minced green onions
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small garlic clove, minced
14 jalapeño peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped seeded tomato

  1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
  2. Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove from pan; drain on paper towels. Crumble . Combine crumbled bacon, cheeses, and next 4 ingredients (through garlic) in a bowl, stirring well to combine.
  3. Divide cheese mixture evenly to fill the pepper halves. Place peppers, cheese sides up, on grill rack or grill grate coated with cooking spray.
  4. Cover and grill peppers 8 minutes or until bottoms of peppers are charred and cheese mixture is lightly browned.
  5. Place peppers on a serving platter. Sprinkle with cilantro and tomato.

Note: If making these peppers for a party, stuff, cover and chill. Grill just before guests arrive.

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  • Marinated Salmon with Mango-Kiwi Relish

4 six oz Salmon fillets (1” thick)

cooking spray
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp low sodium soy sauce For Relish
1 tsp olive oil

Relish

1/2 cup diced peeled mango
1/4 tsp black pepper 1/2 cup cubed peeled kiwi
1/4 cup chopped coriander
1/4 cup fresh orange juice

  1. Combine honey, soy sauce, olive oil and pepper, add fish, marinate 10 min, turning occasionally.
  2. Heat grill pan to medium-high heat. Remove fish, discard marinade, coat pan with cooking spray. Add fish, cook 5 min each side or till the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.
    For relish, combine ingredients, serve over fish.

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  • Greek style picnic salad

2 cups uncooked white rice (I used organic brown Thai jasmine rice)
1 cup boiling water
3⁄4 cup sun-dried tomato, packed without oil
1 1⁄2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 cups spinach (about 8 ounces) (used much less)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups feta cheese, crumbled
1⁄4 cup kalamata olives, chopped and pitted
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 (15 1/2 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (garbanzo beans)
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
10 lemon wedges (optional)

  1. Cook rice, cool to room temperature; set aside.
    While rice cooks, combine boiling water and sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl; let stand 30 minutes or until soft. Drain and cut into 1-inch pieces. (I didn’t soak the tomatoes in water, used them as they were, chopped, for a sweet crunch)
  2. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add spinach and garlic; sauté 3 minutes or until spinach wilts. (Didn’t do this either, just dressed them with a vinaigrette of olive oil, salt and pepper and stirred into the salad)
  3. Combine rice, tomatoes, spinach, cheese, and next 5 ingredients (through chickpeas).
  4. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil; toss gently to coat.
  5. Sprinkle with nuts; serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

I left out the lemon (it was tart enough with the olives and the feta), added chopped basil, pomegranate arils and some toasted sunflower seeds.

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  • Pasta – Antipasto Style Penne

1 medium red bell pepper, halved lengthwise, seeds and membrane removed
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
1/3 cup refrigerated pesto
3 ounces prosciutto, chopped, crisped on a baking sheet
1 (7-ounce) jar oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves, drained and chopped
1 (6-ounce) jar marinated quartered artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
8 ounces uncooked penne pasta (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

1. Preheat broiler.

2. Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 8 minutes or until blackened. Place in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 5 minutes. Peel and chop bell pepper; place in a large bowl. Stir in olives, pesto, prosciutto, tomatoes, and artichokes.

3. Cook the pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Add cooked pasta and 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to bell pepper mixture, and toss gently to combine. Spoon about 1 cup pasta mixture into each of 6 bowls, and sprinkle each serving with 2 teaspoons remaining cheese and 2 teaspoons pine nuts.

Forgot the Parmigiano-Reggiano but was still delish.

  • Pan charred green beans (4 to 6)

2 lbs green beans
1-2 tablespoon olive oil (or just enough to lightly coat beans)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
1⁄2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper (or to taste)

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Wash, dry well, and trim green beans.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Ensure all the beans are evenly coated and spread them out into 1 layer.
  5. Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning after 15 minutes, until beans are fairly brown in spots and somewhat shriveled.
  6. Serve hot or at room temperature.
  7. Sprinkle with Parmesan and a dash of lemon juice.

As per recipe, a delicious counterpoint.

  • Grilled Chicken a la Veronica

I didn’t do this, Veron did, a simple dish of drumsticks tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and pickled Egyptian limes and roasted to perfection.

  • Spiced Grapes in a Port Dessert Sauce

1 cup ruby port
2 tablespoons sugar
1 inch strip lemon rind
1 star anise
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups seedless red grapes, halved

  1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves.
  3. Reduce heat; simmer 15 minutes.
  4. Remove lemon rind and anise; discard.
  5. Add vinegar and pepper to wine mixture; cook until reduced to 1/4 cup (about 10 minutes).
  6. Remove from heat; stir in grapes.
  7. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

A dream of a dessert, the port was freshly purchased from Duty Free (!), the grapes were plump, purple and juicy. I replaced the vinegar with the raspberry balsamic and served it over vanilla ice cream, with a sprinkling of ground cloves (thanks Syl, for the suggestion).

Dark Chocolate with Honeycomb from the Nilgiri Biosphere

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