Yet another super fantastic dinner with an amazing turn out. We had 12, count 'em, 12 food minded individuals sprawled in my living room and creating the most convivialist atmosphere in Geneva.
All in a post food orgy haze of course. As this was meant to be February's dinner (we kind of missed last month) a theme of 'aphrodesiac' was decided upon to commemorate Naked Flying Baby Day. Ladies and Gentlemen, love was in the air. Love of flavors bursting on our tongues and seducing us with tempting scents and sights. Luckily it was just foodlust, as the boy girl ratio was 1:11 ;) Too bad for all of the gents I invited that decided not to show, no? On to dinner....see if you can spot the 'active' ingredients (insert wicked grin here)
We started things off with brie puffs and grapes (recipe below)
Then moved right along to a creamy tomato and basil soup (see recipe below)
Hal and Al brought an arugalah pesto with dried cranberries and fresh pasta
I'll add for the record we did have green things and salad. I managed to make my first asparagus dish (yay!) a lemony and garlicy thing, and was quite pleased with the results...no photos though, sorry. (recipe below)
Kiriel started off the spice with her delicate and flaky ginger marinated fish
Rosa continued to heat things up with a zesty jerk chicken dish
Not to be outdone Hal and Al 'kicked things up a notch' with some truly tender flank steak that had been pan seared and smothered in a garlic and chili sauce (I was burping up spice all night and LOVED it)
And then there was dessert. Oh, the dessert we had. Generally at our dinners each foodie claims a part of the meal to bring. This time I do believe we all had to do a dessert IN ADDITION to the already fantastic other dishes we had done. And by god it was worth it. Nothing is sexier than dessert!
Rosa made a deadly flourless chocolate cake (recipe here) with 5 spice creme anglais and Hal and Al made individual sized banana bread puddings
I took advantage of the first strawberries of the season and made a downright homestyle strawberry creamcheese cake (see recipe below)
And Kiriel sweetened the deal with ricotta and pistachio...tartlets you might call them, with a ginger syrup (recipe here)
And then there were none :) The carnage after a typical theme dinner. We got saavy (if slightly less environmentally friendly) this time by using some disposible plates and cutlery. It might not be as classy but MY GOD! was the clean up less painful for all parties involved.
Please join us later this month for the 'real' March dinner...the theme? Hidden Secrets ;)
Apro-dine-iac Recipes from Rai
Phyllo sheets (the thicker pastry kind, not the flaky baklava kind)
bit of butter or oil
I deliberately left the amounts blank as you can make this to suit 1 or 100. This time I made individual bite sized appetizers but the brie works just as well as a whole half wheel. It looks fancy, tastes delicious and is so easy you'll have to hide your smirk when you get compliments on it. Simply take the desired amount of cheese and encase it in some phyllo dough. Be sure to seal the edges so that the cheese doesn't leak out (still delicious, just not as pretty) Brush the tops of the bites with a bit of melted butter or olive oil and bake on a foil covered cookie sheet at 400F (200C) until brown and crispy. Serve with a side of grapes, apple slices, strawberries, etc.
Tomato Basil Soup - by Max, modified by Rai
I originally found this recipe on Chew on That as Max's Fresh Tomato Basil Soup. It was very good the first time around...but missing 'something' to my taste buds. I tried it slightly differently this time and am getting closer but am by no means finished in my persuit of the perfect tomato soup. It's still a fantastic soup. Enjoy
4 C. fresh tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped (I didn't bother to peel as it's tedious...I strain the whole thing later)
4 C. good chicken stock
10 fresh basil leaves
1 C. heavy cream
1/4 lb. unsalted butter
(I added a bit of tomato paste, or even tomato sauce will do. I like my soups with some zing)
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine tomatoes and stock in saucepan. Simmer 30 minutes. Puree, along with the basil leaves in a blender or food processor. Return to saucepan and add cream, butter and tomato paste or sauce to taste, while stirring over low heat. (At this point I let it cool and stuck it in the refrigerator overnight to let the flavors develop. I then strained it the next day, as I can't stand those little curls of tomato peel on my tongue, and simply reheated on very very low) Garnish with extra basil leaves.
Lemon Garlic Asparagus
2 cloves of garlic
1 kilo asparagus
Wash asparagus and lie them in a shallow baking dish. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, squeeze the hell out of the lemon and gut for the pulp, and sprinkle with the grated fresh garlic. Bake at 375F until a vibrant green and cripsy/tender. The asparagus is good...but the lemony garlicy juice at the bottom of the pan is worth licking out on it's own later.
Strawberry Cheesecake - recipe by Rai
1 c. slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 c. crushed graham crackers
1/4 c. sugar
6 T. unsalted melted butter
Position rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F. Butter a 9" glass pie dish. Chop almonds and mix with other dry ingredients, slowly mix in melted butter until a course meal forms. Press firmly into pie pan and bake 10-12 minutes. Remove and cool, keep oven on.
1 box cream cheese (8 oz.)
1/3 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
Cream eggs and cheese. Add sugar and vanilla. Beat 10 minutes on high speed. Pour over cooled crust. Bake at 375F for 15-30 minutes (really keep an eye on it, baking time differs each and every time I do it. Sometimes it's necessary to double the filling amount, obviously before baking...use your own sense). Let cool completely and feel free to turn oven off. Time to focus on the stove now.
5 c. quartered hulled strawberries
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. cornstarch
2 T. fresh lemon juice
Place 2 cups of strawberries in a large sauce pan and squish with the back of a fork. Add sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice. Stir over medium high heat until sugar dissolves, color darkens, and the mixture begins to boil and thickens, ~3 min. Transfer mix to a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Stir in remaining 3 cups of strawberries. Chill pie for 2-6 hrs.