So I will preface this post by apologizing. I FORGOT TO TAKE PHOTOS!
I kindly borrowed these photos (see credits at bottom of post) so the rest will be a rather dull post, visually. But if you will bare with me, the food was really good.
I had a few upstairs neighbors over (down?) for a tapas-style dinner. If you’re not familiar with tapas, get familiar. It’s amazing! The concept is basically eating/tasting several small dishes in place of one large entree or meal. It’s a fun way to eat, try new things and I think makes for a more social meal.
Salad: spring greens with fresh green beans, water chestnuts, grated pepper jack and sunflower seeds – dressed lightly in olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, red pepper flake and lemon zest.
Light, easy and delicious way to start a meal!
1) Egg in purgatory: Single egg baked in individual ramekin with tomato sauce.
I use store bought (Newman’s Own Sockarooni – yum!) but it’d be great with homemade. Just pour about 1/2 cup tomato sauce in a dish and then crack on egg on top. Pop it in HOT oven for 10-15 minutes. Also good topped with a little cheese, but I skipped that tonight since there was cheese elsewhere.
2) Kebabs: Shrimp, halved new potatoes and a variety bell pepper chunks marinated overnight in roasted red pepper Italian salad dressing.
So easy. These are great on the grill, but as I don’t have one I just popped them under the broiler for a few minutes (until the peppers started to get that roasted look). The dressing is a great marinade – something my mom always did – and you can put just about anything on the kebabs. I used these ingredients because my guests don’t eat meat but chicken is also good. My parents like mushrooms too. If you’re doing things that cook at different times, be sure to put that ingredient all on its own skewer. It’s not as pretty but you don’t want some things underdone and other burnt.
3) Stuffed poblanos: Peppers stuffed with black bean, onion, pepper jack and corn meal mix, baked in spicy tomato sauce.
I followed this recipe from Martha Stewart pretty closely and was really pleased how it turned out.
The only thing I did different was cut it down to serve three and just cut out the top of the pepper instead of halving them. That way we each got one but it was a little more full than they would have been otherwise. The filling looked flipping disgusting when I mixed it up (especially the corn meal/water combination) but it really cooked up beautifully. The peppers were nice and tender and the cornmeal had a great texture, even though I made it the night before and the peppers sat stuffed in my refrigerator overnight. The sauce is essentially a basic salsa and was good too, although this recipe makes A TON.
Dessert: Individual blueberry lemon snack cakes, served with a side of vanilla bean ice cream and topped with blueberry compote.
I used the following recipe for an America’s Test Kitchen cookbook I have from the library right now. It’s called “Cooking for Two” and its the 2011 edition. The recipe is just for a blueberry snack cake, but I added lemon zest and subbed half the milk for lemon juice. I also adjusted the recipe to make three instead of two cakes and cooked them in loaf pans instead of mini bundt cake pans. That would have been adorable but I couldn’t find any in time. The cake baked up great. It was nice and springy, still moist but not gooey. It was absolutely delicious and I’ll make it again soon.
I served it with a side of vanilla bean ice cream, which was delicious but I think it would have been even better with lemon ice cream or sorbet. The whole thing was topped with a blueberry compote, which was AWESOME. It’s the first time I’ve made a compote and was shocked at how easy it was. Recipe follows.
Blueberry Snack Cake (makes 2 individual cakes)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons whole milk, room temperature
1/2 cup ripe blueberries
Modifications I made: Adjusted all amounts to make 3 cakes. Also, I used almond milk and subbed half for fresh-squeezed lemon juice. I also added a generous amount of lemon zest.
Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt
Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in egg and beat until combined. Beat in vanilla (and zest, if using).
Beat in one third flour mix, then half milk (juice). Repeat with half remaining flour, then rest of milk (juice). Add in remaining flour until just incorporated – batter will be quite thick. Fold in blueberries.
Divide batter evenly among greased pans and smooth tops to settle batter. Bake at 350 until toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
2 cups fresh blueberries
3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Add half the blueberries to a small sauce pan with the other ingredients. Cook for a few minutes, until skins burst. Add remaining berries, cook for a few minutes longer and serve warm.
So there you have it, folks! I great meal, shared with new friends and good wine. A lot of the prep can be done beforehand, so it only took about an hour for everything to come together tonight and a great time was had by all.
Have you ever tried tapas at home? What do you like to cook for dinner guests?
I have actually been sewing a lot. I’ve made a few things, which I’ve yet to get pictures of and I’m close on another dress which I’m very excited about. Post to come soon. Until then though, here is a photo where you can kind of see a top I recently made and have been wearing to death. It’s Simplicity 1886 and though I struggled with part of it, as blogged about here, it turned out great and I really like it. The fabric is a Project Runway sale bin grab at Joann’s and I’m really pleased. I’ve worn this two work several times and out for happy hour as well! Though I didn’t understand some of the pattern directions, I’ll make it again (probably with the same make-shift neckline finishing).
Our photographer, Tom Russo, caught this when I was interviewing Bill Murphy, director of the USDA’s RIsk Management Agency. He’s been touring the Midwest to talk to farmers devastated by the drought, which nearly all in Hancock County are. He stopped by a farm in Shirley, Ind., a couple weeks ago.
Food photo credits: NY Times, DukanItOut, Martha Stewart