my friend christine was in town from cleveland this past weekend, so we had a few kids over to have dinner and sweets with us. she and i did lots of baking on friday in preparation, though the meal itself was simple. ross and jenny encouraged me to post more often and more dinner recipes, so i will gladly grant that wish, starting with the dinner they were here to eat with us. i roasted some springy vegetables (mushrooms, asparagus, yellow summer squash). roasted vegetables are as simple as it gets, but are an amazing part of the meal. i bought organic everything. the zucchini and asparagus are in season right now, with the zucchini being a hair sweet after a slow roasting as was the asparagus, which was pencil thin and tender. no modified vegetables here. the mushrooms were huge, and were grown locally. i bought them in bulk at whole foods, and it was almost the cheapest thing in the produce aisle. this is where i will be buying mushrooms for the rest of my days. mushrooms are my favorite vegetable!
corey brought caprese salad, which i love. basil is so perfect for spring. he used a nice mozzarella cheese, with ripe sweet basil. it was delicious and simple, though i’m afraid to report that my friend brea was under a strong impression there would be greens in this salad, and no, basil doesn’t count as a green! we also had fresh sourdough bread, and booze. the main dish was pasta with 3 sauces: alfredo sauce, lemony sage goat cheese, and marinara sauce with veg meatballs, which brea made, so i can’t give the recipe for that. her’s was amazing, just a tiny sweet, with most of the flavor coming from slow cooked vegetables. i’m pretty sure she simmers it for a few hours. the recipes are quite simple for the 2 sauces i was responsible for, and pretty delicious, also. i bought my cheeses at whole foods because they always have a few different vegetarian cheeses. most packaged cheeses are NOT vegetarian. they contain rennet from animal derivatives, which i think is just nuts considering it can be done just as easily with the exact same result from vegetable rennet. it’s a little more typical of american cheeses to be vegetarian than imported cheeses. if you’re concerned, you should ask your local cheese dude or lady (like i had to at wholefoods) to point you in the direction of vegetarian parmesan. it is the same price, taste, shelf life, etc.
you can make this alfredo as healthy or fatty as you like. i made it with neufatchel (which is 1/3 less fat than normal cream cheese), and soy milk.
1/2 block neufatchel, 1/3 reduced fat, or regular cream cheese
1 cup soy milk, milk, cream, or whatever milk like thing you may have
5 oz a really nice parmasean (no, you shouldn’t be using kraft here)
seasonings you like (basil, black pepper, bit of salt)
over med heat, slowly heat up the soy milk (or whatever you chose) and seasonings. stir in the cream cheese. keep stirring, you don’t want anything to get too bubbly. once this mixture is nice and hot, maybe 10 minutes or so, add in cheese, a few tablespoons at a time. wait a half a minute or so to add more. keep it stirred. it will take a little while to really melt into the other ingredients. keep this mixture moving and on low heat once you are done adding the cheese. it only needs to cook until the consistency is uniform and smooth.
serve over other yummy things like pasta, cooked vegetables, or meats.
i really love my recipe for goat cheese. i think it is such a cool and fresh contrast in a warm pasta dish, and it gets a tiny melty and sweet from the heat of the noodles. it is extra good and sweet with roasted yellow summer squash, mushrooms, and asparagus, which i always stir in to my pasta.
lemony sage goat cheese:
8 oz crumbled goat cheese (cold)
a little lemon zest
juice from 1/4 – 1/2 lemon
tiny pinch of salt
1/4 tsp dried sage or 1/2 tsp of fresh
use a fork to fluff all ingredients together. keep it cold, serve over warm or cold pasta dishes.
for dessert, christine and i worked fairly hard on a vegan cheese cake and chocolate hazelnut biscotti. i had never made either of these before, which sort of goes against my policy of never serving guests a new recipe. but i wanted to try something new. the cheese cake was really good, which i wasn’t expecting from something vegan. i probably ate 1/4 of the thing myself. i loved it. it wasn’t as dense as a normal cheese cake, but i don’t necessarily require a stiffness in my cheesecake that real critics may. the biscotti were AMAZING, and are staring at me from inside my cake dome. -though, there are only 2 1/2 left from the 2 day massacre that they have so far survived.
the cheese cake recipe was one that i found online, from the fat free vegan kitchen. i will spare you the recipe, and let you click on the link. i did modify it slightly by using regular soy milk in place of egg nog, and i salted the batter just slightly. also, i used a lemon snap crust instead of graham cracker, which is just a big handful of lemon snap cookies in a food processor. i will, however, provide a recipe for the blackberry sauce i dumped over the top before i served it. i will definately be making this thing again. it is a perfect and fuss free for a dinner party, and the flavors could easily be modified to suit any taste.
jammy blackberry sauce:
1 heaping cup fresh blackberries
juice from a lemon
2 tbsp sugar (more or less to taste)
heat all ingredients over low. smash berries a little as they give their juice up and melt into a lovely jam consistancy. let it cook over low/medium for 10 minutes or so. there is no wrong way to do this, just don’t cook it for more than 30 minutes or so as it will turn into candy.
the biscotti were a recipe from elana’s pantry, and i will again spare you the recipe. if you haven’t visited her site yet, do yourself a favor and go. i have never had a bad batch of anything i have made from her site. she has beautiful foods (healthy and gluten free, for those of you who can’t have wheat etc), simple recipes, and great photography. needless to say, i can only rave about her recipes. i visit every day to see what’s new. go! now! the only modification i made was adding chopped toasted hazelnuts and using egg whites only. i didn’t have to reduce the amount of sugar used here, which i usually have to do. they are perfectly sweet, and use coffee for an extra delicious punch. there is also no fat added in this recipe, and that makes me very happy. the fat here comes from the almond meal and the chocolate (obviously). these were too easy to make. everything is pretty much done in a processor, so it’s really quick. i wasn’t sure what the instructions intended by forming 2 “logs”, but next time i’ll know to flatten them slightly, form them into a rectangle shape, and slightly square off the ends. be sure to sprinkle with sea salt before baking. trust me. these biscotti turned out beautifuly, and i encourage you to try making them. they would make a nice gift or treat for a weekend guest.
i have a lot of fun when people visit for the weekend. dinner parties are one of my favorite things. i love to host guests and entertain. christine is an amazing guest, and has stayed with us several times. this visit was one of my favorites because it was so laid back! when she comes, i don’t have to impress anyone. she’s up for walks, baking, sitting, watching miami vice…. anything brian and i already want to do, she’s there. thanks for bringing a little peace to this house, christine! we love you!