Sunday, October 22, 2006

Cena di addio per Gisela

Gisela will leave Raleigh next week to go to Columbia, and then Cesar will join her and they'll have their honeymoon in Brasil, before moving to New Castle, UK, where Cesar was hired as a professor.. congratulations! This is really nice, and makes me hope that Lucas and I will sometime be able to find something in Europe.
Anyway, so we decided to have them for dinner one last time, to say goodbye. It was a really nice evening. We stayed up talking until 1.30 am, and we had a lot of extremely interesting discussions, ranging from the history of guerrilla movements in Columbia to the minorities in the US, to movies..
People liked the food, and the wines that our guests brought were awesome.
Here are Cesar, Vlasta, Filipe and Gisela before leaving. I'll put below pictures of food and recipes, if someone is interested in them.

I prepared two appetizers:

Insalata autunnale (Fall salad)
This is one of the infinite variations of my typical salads: the basis is cabbage, finely cut, then I added slices of apple, almonds in pieces, and olives. I seasoned it with a sauce made by mixing approximatively 6 tbsp yogurt and 1 tbsp olive oil, plus I added a bit of oregano and celery salt.

Antipasto caldo autunnale (Fall warm appetizer)
I took the idea for this recipe from (Italian wonderful cooking website), but added my touch to it (the gorgonzola sauce). So here is my version of it. Slice 5 red potatoes and grill the slices on an anti-sticking pan (no oil was necessary), until tender and slightly colored on both sides. Add salt to them. Then slice a packet of fresh mushrooms and sautee them in olive oil with some garlic and salt. Cut into small pieces three red onions. Cook them in a pot with 1 tbsp vinegar and 4 tbsp water (you can increase the vinegar/water ratio, but I didn't want to in this case), and 2 tbsp sugar. Taste it after a while and keep checking on them. You need to cook them until they're almost completely mushy.
Prepare a salsa di gorgonzola (gorgonzola sauce) by mixing in a pot ~ 2 tbsps flour and ~1 1/2 cup milk and ~ 1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese into pieces. In particular, first put the flour in the pot and add the milk a little at a time so that it incorporates the flour without making clumps. Start the heat once the flour is mixed with part of the milk. After you heat up for a few minutes you can add the cheese. Add salt to taste. Mix occasionally to break clumps that may form. You will have to start mixing all the time once it starts boiling, or it will stick to the pan. Stop heating once it's thickened enough (not too much or you won't be able to spread it). You can use this sauce for a variety of purposes, including good pasta dishes.
For the antipasto: layer the grilled potato slices, the onions, the mushrooms and the cheese sauce, and keep layering until you run out of ingredients or space in the pan. Before serving it, warm in the oven for ~10 minutes at 350F.
I forgot to take a picture of the layered serving dish, unfortunately, so you see only what was in my plate :) . I was very happy of this appetizer and it's good also a few days after. You can serve more of it and have it as part of an entree if you want.

Then I made a pasta:
Linguine con pesto di peperoni e pesce (Linguine with pepper pesto and fish)
I forgot to take a picture of the main dish, so again you see only what was in my plate :) )
I took the idea for this pasta reading a few recipes from, again. I wanted a sauce a bit different from the usual, again using fall ingredients, and which did not contain tomatoes. So I chose to use peppers and fish. I roasted 5 sweet banana peppers (red and green) in the oven at 350F for ~1/2 hour, turning them occasionally.
Then I removed the seeds and peeled them (only what was easy to peel got removed :) ). Then I cut them and blended them with 2 garlic cloves, a handful of walnuts and 3 chunks of parmesan cheese, as if I wanted to make pesto, but using peppers instead of basil. I also added some salt.
In a pan slightly greased with olive oil I cooked a Mackarel fillet (~5 min per side). I removed the skin after cooking it and cut it into pieces. When we were almost ready to eat the pasta, I cooked the linguine al dente (for my American readers who may not know: please remember to add at least 1.5 tbsp of coarse salt in the pan where you cook the pasta, and have a large pan with a large amount of water in it, which must be boiling before you throw the pasta in!!!!). Then I drained them and stir them in the pan where I had the fish, and added the pepper pesto sauce. I mixed everything up and the fish was tender enough to get divided into tiny pieces during this operation. Serve hot.

The dessert was a cake that had been suggested to me by my aunt Carla.
Torta Milano (Milano cake)
Ingredients for the dough:
300 g flour (2.5 cups)
50 g sugar (1/4 cup)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract in 1 tbsp of water
1 pinch of salt
grated zest of 1 lime or lemon
110 g butter, melted (1 stick)
1 egg
Mix the flour, the sugar, the salt and the lemon. Add the butter and the egg, beaten. Mix with your hands quickly and shape into a ball. Cover and let rest in the refrigerator for 1.2 hour. This is very similar to the dough we make for 'crostata' cakes, that I described in earlier posts.
Ingredients for the filling:
200 g ground almonds (~ 1.5 cups)
50 g sugar (1/4 cup)
50 g corn starch or potato starch (1/3 cup)
strawberry or raspberry or orange jam
4 eggs
1 pinch of salt
50 g sliced almonds (1/3 cup)
Mix the almonds, sugar and starch and salt. Beat the yolks in a bowl and add the almond mixture to it. Beat the eggwhites until firm. Add them to the other ingredients (this actually obliged me to kind of destroy the firmness of the eggwhites, because the egg/nut mixture was sturdy).
To assemble: spread the dough on a buttered and floured pan, covering the bottom and the borders of the pan. Spread a good amount of jam on it, until completely covered. Add the filling on top. Bake at 400F for ~20 min then take out, add the sliced almonds and finish cooking (~10 min). Check on it, because in my oven it was quicker than in the original recipe.
It's a very nice cake, very good to eat with a glass of Port wine or a cup of coffee. :)

During the whole meal, we enjoyed a new type of bread that I prepared. I was happy of it and I will make a separate post to describe this recipe.

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