I’m at that stage of my life where I’m either cooking for one, or cooking for 10, and very rarely anything in between. Cooking for a large group is an intimidating prospect, no matter who you are. Recently, I had invited some friends over and realized the day of the dinner party was PACKED. Like, only time to make instant ramen PACKED. So I needed a new strategy, and that’s where the inspiration for today’s episode came from. Everything can be made a day ahead and served at room temp our right out of the fridge! Hopefully this will help take some of the stress out of your next dinner party.
PENNE PASTA SALAD WITH OLIVE TAPENADE, FRESH HERBS + PINE NUTS
8 ounces penne, cooked al dente
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 cup basil, chiffonade
1/4 cup parsley
1/2 cup tapenade
Makes 12 ounces
1/2 pound pitted mixed olives
1 anchovy fillet
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons capers
3 large basil leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon oregano leaves
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
Thoroughly rinse the olives in cool water. Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process to combine, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the mixture becomes a coarse paste, approximately 1 to 2 minutes total. Transfer to a bowl and serve.
SAVORY TART WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS, SPINACH + PROSCIUTTO
Made in a 9-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom
1 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pinch chili flake
1/2 pound spinach
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup gruyere, shredded
salt and pepper
8 slices of prosciutto, cut very thin
1/2 savory pie dough recipe
INGREDIENTS (SAVORY PIE DOUGH)
This is a double crust recipe, so you will only be using one for the tart. Refrigerate or freeze the other one for future use
2 1/2 cups flour
8 ounces (two sticks) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4-1/2 cup ice water
For the pie crust, in a food processor or quickly using your fingertips, combine the flour, sugar, salt and butter until the chunks of butter are broken down to the size of peas and the flour feels like wet sand. Add the first 1/4 cup of water and mix until the dough comes together easily. It’s too dry if it immediately clumps apart. Add two tablespoons of water at a time, you can always add more water but not more flour, so careful not to add too much! Bring the dough into two balls and plop them on top of two sheets of plastic wrap. Loosely wrap up the ball and press down, smooshing the ball into a disc about an inch thick. Pop them in the fridge for 30 minutes while you busy yourself with the other stuff.
Pre heat oven to 425 F. Unwrap and place one of the doughs on a well floured surface. Sprinkle with flour, and roll out with a rolling pin (turning often to get an even thickness) until the dough is about a 1/4 inch thick and about 11 inches wide. Place the dough into a tart pan (with a removable bottom) and press in the sides. Trim off the top of the dough, place a small sheet of parchment paper on top of the bottom of the tart, and fill with pie weights or beans. this will prevent the dough from rising and will keep the sides from shrinking down.
Bake on the center rack for 10 minutes, then turn down the heat to 375 F, remove the parchment and weights/beans and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
Remove the tart from the oven. It doesn’t have to be cool to continue.
Set oven back to 425 F.
In a large sauce pan, coat with olive oil and add onions. Cook for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and tender. Add garlic, chili flake, and rosemary, cooking for 1 minute, then add spinach (might have to do in batches) and butter. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 5-10 minutes, until spinach is wilted. Take off heat and mix in gruyere. Pour into the tart crust and top with a layer of prosciutto (I like having the slices spiral out from the center, as it makes it easier to cut). Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle some salt and pepper on top.
Bake for 15-20 minutes and then broil for one minute, or until golden brown and crispy on top.
BALSAMIC GLAZED GRILLED RADICCHIO WITH GOAT CHEESE
Everyone will be grilling something this weekend for the big game, so if you don’t feel like hot dogs, burgers, or whatever else is typically charred to perfection, go with a little seasonality. And cheese. Always opt for cheese. Radicchio is popping up at the farmer’s market, and with its lovely bitter bite it’s sensational with some earthy goat cheese and sweet, acidic Balsamic. Grill it until it looks overdone, and you’re there. Super simple, kind of sophisticated, and perfectly delicious.
4 heads radicchio, halved
1 small wheel bloomy rind goat cheese
or any bloomy rind cheese, like brie. this is also awesome with blue cheese.
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/4 balsamic vinegar (the more syrupy, aged, and tasty the better)
Drizzle the radicchio with olive oil, some salt and pepper, and grill over high heat until thoroughly browned. Flip, and brown a little on the back. While still warm, cut the grilled halves in half, plate with some slices of the goat cheese, and drizzle the whole thing with balsamic and olive oil. Enjoy!
DARK CHOCOLATE COFFEE ICE BOX CAKE
Only 15 minutes of work, and you have a delicious, eye-catching dessert.
I built mine on a 10 inch cake platter.
4 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
I used Valrhona
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
3 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 ounces semi sweet chocolate
6 tablespoons espresso (or instant espresso mixed with water)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 boxes chocolate wafer cookies (you’ll need 80-90 cookies)
I used Nabisco famous chocolate wafers
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
I used Valrhona
In a medium bowl, add cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla and heavy cream. Beat with electric mixture on medium speed until soft peaks are formed. Gently melt the chocolate, stir in the brown sugar, and cool. Fold in the melted chocolate. It won’t perfectly mix in, but that will give it a tiny bit of crunch that is so delicious. Take a half of the chocolate whipped cream and fold in the espresso and cinnamon.
On a large plate or serving platter, spread 1 tablespoon of chocolate whipped cream on the bottom to anchor cake to plate. Top with 14 wafer cookies in a circular pattern.
Using a spatula, cover wafers evenly with espresso whipped cream, then top with wafer cookies. Top the next layer with chocolate cream. Repeat until you have 7 layers of wafers. Refrigerate overnight.