My album campaign has many cool perks available for our supporters. One of them is “The Foodie” and is a 4 course Italian meal to be home cooked by yours truly with a mini-concert and photo session to follow.
To develop the menu and give the dinner a trial run I called on my friend Rachael White, an internationally known food blogger. She wrote for Tokyo Terrace while in Japan and is launching a new project now that she’s back in the states.
Rachael and I had a great time, and since she and Jenn, my wife, are such close friends they had a chance to visit over a few glasses of wine while I was working the pasta dough and making the fresh mozzarella.
Course #1: Winter Caprese Salad
In the summer there’s nothing better than a nice caprese with freshly picked heirloom tomatoes, sweet balsamic, creamy mozzarella and basil still warm from the sun in the garden. However, that seems far away in the middle of a Minnesota winter so I concocted a way to repackage those flavors in a more “weather independent” package. It takes a bit of work, but it’s worth it.
- Romaine lettuce, 1/2 stalk per guest
- Balsamic Vinegar Reduction (1 cup of vinegar heated slowly and reduced by half)
- Pesto (1 cup fresh chopped basil, 1/2 cup EVOO, 3 cloves minced garlic, 1/4 cup grated parmesan, 1/3 cup pine nuts, blend it all together. pinch of salt)
- 1 cup Sun dried tomatoes (the ones in oil, not dry)
- 1 Red bell pepper
Cheese: (you can buy the kit here http://www.cheesemaking.com/)
- 1 gallon whole milk
- 1/4 tablet of rennet
- 1 1/2 tsp citric acid granules
- 1 1/2 tsp. of salt.
Make the cheese. Really…it’s easy. Dissolve the citric acid in 1/2 cup of water. Stir milk and citric acid together in a pot and bring temp to about 90 degrees. Take it off the heat, stir in the rennet solution, cover and let sit for 7 minutes. Slip a long knife through the curds and cut them into squares. Heat up to 110 degrees. Take off the heat and stir slowly for 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the curds to a colander (with a paper towel or cheesecloth in it). After the curds are drained, add the salt and microwave for 1 minute. Fold the cheese and knead like dough. Heat 30 more seconds and pull the cheese like taffy. Keep reheating and pulling until the cheese is stringy and shiny. Form the cheese into a ball or log and dump it in an ice water bath for 20 minutes. Boom. Cheese. Nothin’ to it.
Make the dressings. Pesto is the easy one. Take all the stuff and put in in a food processor. Blend until it looks like pesto. Done.
After reducing the balsamic put some EVOO in a frying pan and saute the sun-dried tomatoes and red pepper with some salt and pepper. When they’re soft add the balsamic reduction and reduce further until it’s kind of syrupy. Wait until it’s cool and blend it .
Cut the romaine stalks in half, cut the mozzarella and plate them with a spoonful of pesto and a spoonful of the tomatoes and balsamic drizzled over them. Serve. If you want to get fancy you can grill the romaine (get the grill really hot and put them on there for just a few seconds. long enough to get grill marks but no longer)
Course #2 Homemade Garlic Pasta with Gorgonzola and Hazelnuts
For this recipe you’ll need to see Rachael’s wonderful post on her blog.
Course#3 Anchovy and Rosemary Encrusted Lambchops
- Anchovy fillets (packed in oil)
- Rosemary (dried)
- Garlic (fresh minced)
- EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
- Black Pepper (ground)
- Lamb Chops (2-3 per guest)
Some of you may have a gut reaction to the word “anchovy” but they really have an undeserved bad rap. This traditional Roman dish uses the salt and glutamates in the anchovy to boost the meatiness and juciness of the lamb. Start by mashing the anchovy fillets into a paste with the flat of your knife blade. Then add them to a bowl with some EVOO, black pepper, rosemary and minced garlic. Let that mixture stew for a bit, then brush it on the lamp chops (which should look like mini-porterhouse steaks and be about 2″ thick. Brush both sides and then sear them in a hot cast iron pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. After they have a nice sear, brush them with the mixture again and put them on a pan in the oven for 15-20 minutes (this will give you a medium done-ness while retaining a juicy texture provided that you didn’t over-sear them.)
Course #4 Chocolate Marscapone filled Pizzelles
Pizzelles: You need a pizzelle maker for this part.
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups of flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
Cream eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add butter and vanilla extract. Stir in flour and baking powder. Set aside until ready. Bake one tablespoon per mold in pizzelle maker until golden brown, about 45 seconds in mine, then remove and while they’re still hot, quickly bend them into a cone shape and cool on rack.
- 2 cups Marscapone cheese
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup cream
- pinch of salt
- sweetened coconut flakes
Melt chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl with cream until just melted…don’t burn the chocolate. Add the cheese and pinch of salt. You’re done.
After the pizzelles have cooled, fill each with a generous scoop of filling and sprinkle with sweetened coconut flakes. If you’re feeling really adventurous you can take the rest of the cream, add some powdered sugar and whisk the crap out of it until you’ve got some fresh whipped cream, then add cinnamon or espresso powder and top your dish with a dollop of flavored whipped cream.
There you have it folks…a delicious dinner. You could have it cooked for you in the comfort of my home, with music, a mini-photo session, and lots of fun and conversation to follow for yourself and 3 friends while supporting my music by contributing to my album crowdfunding campaign at the “Foodie” level. http://igg.me/at/homeintheheartland It will be a great time!
Thank you Rachael for cooking with me and thanks Jenn for putting up with my eccentricities and business while getting this together.