"Don't try a new recipe on your guests" is an oft-repeated mantra of entertaining, and a rule that I flout ALL the time. As far as I am concerned, the main incentive for having friends over is the chance to have a bunch of unsuspecting folks to test new recipes on.
About three times a year, I get together with my friends for an evening at the ballet. During the holiday season, it is usually The Nutcracker. Toys coming to life, mice going to battle, trips to the land of sweets and ethereal snow queens- I love the whimsy and sheer nuttiness of the story! I always make a simple supper so we can all enjoy a meal together before heading to the ballet.
Last night, here's what I served my friends: baked pasta, a mixed greens salad with a tangy dressing, mini frittatas and mulled cider. Four new recipes tried in one single evening, and none of them was a disaster, to my relief. All of them had been sitting patiently in my bookmarks; I'm making great headway through my Bookmark Project this month!
The bonus was this whole dinner could be made in a single hour because all the recipes are simple and straightforward, and because the two dishes that had to go in the oven needed the same baking temperature so they could be in there together. I only have horrid night-time pics of the meal but I'll include them in this post anyway.
Recipe #29 is Mulled Apple Cider, adapted from this recipe. We have plunging temperatures in St. Louis this week and it is nice to hold a mug of warm apple cider and inhale the fruity spicy aroma.
My version- Mix the following, boil, then simmer for 30 minutes and serve hot:
½ gallon fresh apple cider
1 orange, cut into 6 slices
2 cinnamon sticks
5-6 whole cloves
½ tsp. ground allspice
This serves 5-6 people.
Next, Recipe #28 is an appetizer: Artichoke-Olive Mini Frittatas, adapted from this recipe . I love it when tasty little appetizers are so incredibly easy to put together.
-Preheat oven to 400F.
-Spray a 12-cup nonstick muffin tin with oil.
-Thaw out 12 frozen artichoke hearts in the microwave.
-Chop a handful of good quality olives.
-Shred a handful of aged cheddar (or use another favorite cheese).
-Beat 6 eggs with salt, pepper, paprika and oregano.
-Place 1 artichoke heart and some olives in each muffin cup.
-Sprinkle some cheese on each.
-Ladle the egg mixture into the cups evenly.
-Bake until puffy and golden brown.
The main course was Recipe #27 is Baked Pasta, inspired by Mark Bittman's recipe.
1. Saute 1 onion, 3-4 cloves garlic, 1 8-oz box cremini mushrooms in extra-virgin olive oil.
2. Season with salt and Italian herbs if desired.
3. Add 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
4. Stir in 1 package veggie sausage if desired.
5. Stir in ½ cup ricotta cheese is desired.
Mix with 1 lb (1 bag) par-boiled whole-wheat penne and ladle into a 9x13 baking dish. Top with mozzarella and bake at 400F until golden.
The pasta was strictly OK- I thought it was a little boring and dry in the end. I won't rush to make this recipe again.
Finally, to round off the meal, I served bagged mixed greens with Recipe #26- Herbed Buttermilk dressing, inspired by this recipe. I have 4 pots of herbs growing in my windowsill and although it is getting colder, I get a modest yield.
For this recipe, I simply blended the following in the food processor, estimating the quantities as I went along:
-salt and pepper
-a handful of herbs: lime basil, Italian basil, mint
The dressing was absolutely delicious! I thought it was a little thinner than I would have liked, and next time I will use thicker yogurt and dry the herbs thoroughly before I throw them in.
And then off we went for our date with the Sugar Plum Fairy. The Joffrey ballet company certainly did not disappoint.
I'll see you on Monday to continue our countdown- have a fantastic weekend!