Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An Evening in Rome

{An Evening In Rome}
November 2009
Lisa N. & Becky

{The Invitations}

{Italian Decor}

{The Place Settings}

{Italian Cream Soda}
2 oz Italian Syrup
2 oz Half and Half
5 oz Club Soda
Mix ingredients and serve over ice, then top with Whipped Cream. Serves 1.

{Pomegranate Punch}

2 liter of Ginger Ale
1 can white grape/ raspberry juice frozen concentrate (do not make up)
½ cup Pomegranate seeds

{Ciabatta Bread}

1 recipe biga made the day before (see recipe below)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plus more for working & shaping)
1 ½ Teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 ½ cups warm water

Biga for Bread making:
¼ teaspoon Active Dry Yeast
1 Cup warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1 1/3 cups bread flour
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Sprinkle the yeast over the water in a bowl large enough to fit all of the ingredients, and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the flours, and stir to combine. The dough may seem stiff, but will soften up as it sits. Cover the biga tightly with plastic wrap, and let it sit for 6 hours at room temperature. Stir it, and refrigerate it until the next day, or at least 12 hours.
Combine the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Add the water and biga, and stir until the dough is mixed. It will be quite wet, and rough in texture. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter or breadboard, and using as little flour as possible, knead for 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth. Don’t worry that your dough still seems very loose and moist, it will firm up as it rises. Place the dough into a large bowl three times the size of the dough that has been lightly oiled first. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let sit in a warm spot for 2 to 3 hours, or until the dough has doubled, punching down and turning the dough every 30 minutes or so.
If using baking sheets, sprinkle them lightly with cornmeal. Divide the dough in two pieces and fold each into a rectangle. Stretch the rectangle until it is about 12 to 14 inches long. Place each prepared loaf onto a baking sheet, and cover lightly with a flour sack (as part of your take home gift). If you are using a baking stone, flour two kitchen towels, or bread making peels with flour, and place the shaped loaves on them to rise. Cover loosely with towels. Preheat oven at this time to 450 degrees.
After 45 minutes, place the baking sheets into the hot oven, or move the loaves onto the hot baking stone. Bake for about 23 minutes, rotating the loaves once during this time, or until the dough is a dark golden brown all over. Remove and let cool on a wire rack.

{Fresh Broiled Tomatoes}

Preheat Broiler. Halve a variety of cherry tomatoes and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper. Top with sliced fresh mozzarella, buffalo mozzarella, provolone, emmentaler or fontina cheese. Broil for 3 to 5 minutes or until cheese melts, bubbles, and begins to brown. If desired, sprinkle with additional pepper.

{Tuscan Meatballs}
1 ½ cups seasoned Italian bread crumbs
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 onion- diced small
1/8 cup toasted pine nuts
5 eggs
1 lb. Pork Sausage
1 lb. ground beef
¾ cup Parmesan cheese
2 cups sliced mushrooms (for Alfredo sauce)
Mix all ingredients together well and form balls (about the size of golf balls). Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Serve with your favorite Marinara or Alfredo Sauce (with added mushrooms.)

{Mixed Greens and Pear Salad}

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar
¼ tsp. Salt
2 ounces pancetta or 3 slices bacon (cut into bite-sized pieces)
2 medium firm ripe pears (such as Anjou or Bosc), cored and thinly sliced
1- 5 ounce package arugula or mixed green salad (about 7 cups)
6 thin slices red onion, halved
1 ounce Gorgonzola Cheese, crumbled (1/4 cup)
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
1. For dressing: In a small screw top jar, combine oil, vinegar, and salt. Cover and shake well. Set aside.
2. In a large skillet, cook pancetta over medium heat until crisp. Drain pancetta on paper towels, reserving drippings in skillet. Add pears to the reserved drippings. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until the pears are tender and lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cover and keep warm.
3. In a very large bowl, combine arugula (salad) and red onion. Shake dressing. Pour dressing over salad mixture; toss gently to coat.
4. Divide salad mixture among plates. Arrange pears on top. Sprinkle with pancetta, cheese and pine nuts. If desired top with fresh ground pepper. Makes 6 servings.

{Asiago Frico}

1 pound Asiago Cheese, finely shredded
Heat medium skillet over medium heat. For each frico, sprinkle ¼ cup loosely packed cheese into the skillet. Using a flexible metal spatula, shape cheese into an irregular 4 ½ inch circle. Cook, without touching for 2 to 3 minutes or until frico is set and bottom lightly browned. (The cheese will melt, then bubble and become lacy as the fat separates.) Turn the Frico over; cook for 2 to 3 minutes more or until bottom is lightly browned. Transfer to a sheet of waxed paper; cool.

To store place frico in an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes 16 fricos.
{Chicken Scallopine w/Sage and Fontina Cheese}

6 Chicken Cutlets, pounded thin
Salt and freshly grounded pepper
6 sage leaves
3 ounces grated Fontina Cheese
3 TBSP Olive Oil
1 Garlic Clove
½ White Wine (we substituted with Apple juice)
1 (28 Oz) Can Whole San Marzano Tomatoes
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Place the chicken cutlets on a clean work surface, narrow end facing you. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place one sage leaf crosswise on each of the pieces of chicken. Sprinkle each of the pieces of chicken with fontina cheese (about 2 Tbsp.). Roll up the chicken and seal with one or two toothpicks.
Warm the olive oil and halved garlic clove in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken. Brown the chicken on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and remove and discard the garlic. Add the wine and simmer for 2 minutes while scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes and red pepper flakes in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the tomato mixture to the reduced wine in the pan. Simmer for 5 minutes to let the flavors marry.
Return the chicken to the pan. Simmer the chicken in the tomato sauce for 10 minutes. Turn the chicken over and simmer until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the pan. Season the tomato sauce with salt and pepper. Spoon the tomato sauce onto serving plates or a serving platter. Slice the chicken into 1 inch rounds. Remove the toothpicks. Place the chicken over the sauce and serve immediately.

{Gnocchi with Parmesan and Peas}
1 package pre-made Gnocchi
½ cup whipping cream
½ cup frozen peas, thawed
½ tsp. ground white pepper
4 ounces prosciutto, cut into ¼ inch thick strips
¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 Tbsp. butter
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
For Sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat whipping cream over medium heat. Stir in peas, and pepper. Simmer gently for 3 minutes. Stir in prosciutto and the ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; simmer gently for 1 minute more. Add butter and stir until melted. Remove from heat; cover and keep warm.
For gnocchi: In a large pot, bring 6 quarts salted water to a rapid boil. Add half of the gnocchi; cook for 10 to 15 seconds or until the gnocchi start to float. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cooked gnocchi to a warm serving bowl. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi.
Pour sauce over gnocchi; stir gently to coat. If desired sprinkle with additional cheese.
Makes 6 servings.

{Chocolate Gelato}

½ cup Sugar
2 Tbsp. Cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2 cups whole milk, divided
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Gradually add ¼ cup milk, whisking to dissolve cornstarch. Whisk in remaining milk. Cook over medium heat until mixtures thickens and comes to a boil. Allow to boil for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and allow to sit for 1 minute. Sit until chocolate is melted and smooth. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Mix in the cream and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Makes about 5 cups. **Options: Add chopped peanut butter cups, coarsely crushed toffee candy, toasted nuts, chocolate chips, or other candy during last 2 minutes of churning in ice cream maker.

{Sicilian Tangerines}
6 large tangerines
1 cup powdered sugar
¾ cup blanched almonds, toasted and finely ground
2 Tbsp. orange juice concentrate
Mandarin Oranges (optional)
Using a small knife, cut off the top one-fourth of each tangerine. If necessary, cut off a very thin slice from the bottom of each tangerine so it will stand up without rolling.
Using a grapefruit spoon, carefully remove the pulp from tangerines onto paper towels. Chop enough of the tangerine pulp to make ¾ cup.
In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar and the ground almonds. In a medium bowl, combine whipping cream and orange juice. Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in powdered sugar mixture. Transfer mixture to a large decorating bag fitted with a large open star tip.
Divide the ¾ cup chopped tangerine pulp among the tangerine shells. For visual effect we added mandarin oranges with pulp and juice from tangerines to fill. Pipe whipped cream mixture on tops of tangerines. If desired garnish with slivered almonds, and mint leaves.

1 Cup confectioners’ sugar
1 pint part-skim ricotta cheese
1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/8 tsp. almond extract
12 Cannoli shells (we ordered ours online at www.cannolibymail.com ), we also dipped one end of each shell in chocolate.
In a large bowl, stir ricotta cheese with 1 cup confectioners’ sugar until combined. Add chocolate chips and almond extract. Carefully spoon filling into cannoli shells (or pipe from a pastry bag). If desired add one maraschino cherry to one end of the cannoli.

{The Gifts}
The gals were given a handmade chocolate shaped as the 'Leaning Tower of Pisa' in a gift bag with ornate bow tie pasta. So elegant and delicious! The gals were also given a beautiful bottle filled with herb infused olive oil. A flour sack towel was attached (with Italian printed material) to use with our Ciabatta Bread recipe! Recipe pages were also given. Unbelievable!

{Herb Infused Olive Oil}

2 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. Garlic Powder
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1 sprig dried rosemary
1 sprig thyme
2 Dried Bay leaves
2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Mix garlic powder with balsamic vinegar and pour into each bottle. Then add herbs and pepper flakes. Fill each bottle with Olive oil. Your olive oil should keep up to 1 year.

{The Hostesses}
Thanks to Lisa and Becky for a fabulous Italian evening! The decor was esquisite, the menu absolutely divine, and the ambiance warm and comfy! We were truly in Rome! Bella Cena!
{The Help}
The gals were spoiled! We were served by two adorable helpers and two handsome chefs! Thanks to the husbands for treating us like Italian Royalty!

{The Gals}