Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dinner party!

So our little dinner party of 3 last night turned into 6! I don't think I've ever cooked for that many people, but it was a success. The menu: cheese & salami plate, asparagus & truffle oil bruschetta, scallops, peperonata rustica, roasted cauliflower, and spinach/goat cheese/cranberry/pecan salad.

The asparagus bruschetta comes from one of my favorite restaurants in New York, ino. Actually Peter gets credit for this, he's the one who first tried to replicate it at home. It's very easy to make. This picture is kind of lame because I just served it as a do-it-yourself last night rather than make all the individual toasts.

You'll need:

1 bunch of asparagus (very skinny asparagus makes for better bruschetta than big fat asparagus)
truffle oil
salt & pepper
parmigiano reggiano cheese
1 baguette or loaf of italian bread, cut into small slices and toasted

Cut the asparagus (raw, not cooked) into small pieces, about 1 cm. I used the whole bunch for 6 people. Toss with enough truffle oil to coat. Just keep adding a little and a little more until it tastes right, you don't want to add too much right away because it has a strong taste. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, and finish with freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese. If you're putting the bruschetta on toasts, instead of do-it-yourself like I did, I prefer to wait to add the cheese until I've already made all the toasts.

I'll just post the recipe for the peppers right now. I make scallops and cauliflower a lot so I'll write about those another time. This was the first time I made these peppers. The recipe is from Thomas Keller's newest book ad hoc at home. It's my dream to go to his restaurant French Laundry some day. Anyway...

Peperonata Rustica

6 yellow bell peppers
6 red bell peppers
canola oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces piquillo peppers, drained, peeled, and seeded
about 1/2 cup of Soffritto
1 1/3 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
3/4 teaspoon piment d'Espelette
1 tablespoon minced chives

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cut the bell peppers lengthwise in half and remove the stems and seeds. Toss the peppers with oil to coat and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the peppers cut side down on the baking sheets, red peppers on one, the yellow peppers on the other.
Roast the peppers until the skin is blistering. About 30 to 35 minutes for the red and 35 to 40 minutes for the yellow; do not allow the edges to blacken. Transfer the peppers to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, or put in an airtight container with a lid.
When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel them. Tear them lengthwise into strips about 3/4 inchwide. Tear the piquillos into strips the same way.
Combine all of the peppers, soffritto, stock, and Espelette in a medium saucepan over medium heat, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, to soften peppers completely and meld the flavors.
Transfer to a bowl or platter, sprinkle with chives, and serve.

A couple notes - I had a little trouble finding piquillos, but did end up finding them at Trader Joe's. I could not find the Espelette (I didn't think I would be able to), so I used paprika instead. Upon writing this, I realized I used olive oil instead of canola. Oops. It was fine though. And I could not find sofrito anywhere, it was in every grocery in New York and in none here. So I made it - blend in a food processor until smooth: 1 green bell pepper, 1 sweet red pepper (or bell pepper), 1 white onion, 1 large tomato, 5 or 6 cloves garlic, handful parsley leaves, handful cilantro leaves, salt and pepper. Lastly, as Thomas Keller mentions in the book, the leftovers are great with scrambled eggs and Peter is eating them for breakfast as I write this.