Since the main dish has no meat of any kind in it, I felt like I had to do something meaty for the appetizer. Beef Carpaccio is thinly slice raw beef tenderloin. I wanted to give it a bit of a sear on the outsides (for me mostly), and I thought for flavor too. I bought one fillet Mignon steak and and hour before serving I put it in the freezer, to make it easier to slice thinly. I seared the fillet in a very hot skillet with olive oil just to brown the outsides. I removed it from the pan and sliced as thin as possible, then layed the slices over a bed of baby arugula and shavings of Parmesan reggiano drizzled with lemon juice and seasoned with Flore De Sal and fresh ground pepper.
I wanted to do something else for an appetizer and I wanted to do something with duxelles, which is minced shallot and mushrooms cooked down with butter and olive oil to intensify the flavors then port wine, a little flour and heavy cream to finish. This is a recipe that I followed from Julia Child and Jacques Pepin's cookbook. I made this mixture ahead of time and when we were ready to eat I toasted some thin slices of French bread to smear the duxelles over.
Baked Rigatoni with Eggplant and Pine Nut Crunch
This was great, very flavorful, creamy and crunchy at the same time. Something great happens with baked pastas like this, where the tops of the pasta gets a little "burnt" and the pasta that is submerged in the sauce is creamy, and then the cheese and herbs just adds to the excitement! Basically you roast diced eggplant, yellow pepper, grape tomatoes and garlic with olive oil. Then you combine whole canned tomatoes with heavy cream and fresh basil in the food processor. You make a topping of fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and a garlic clove. To bring it together you boil some rigatoni pasta to just cooked, so it's still slightly firm to the bite (because it cooks in the oven you don't want soggy pasta). You combine the pasta with the tomato and cream sauce and the roasted vegetables, mix well and put into a shallow baking dish. Top with the basil and pine nut topping and chunks of mozzarella cheese. You bake it in a 425 degree oven for about 25-35 minutes.
Bread Basket with Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil
I had to go out this Friday morning to the Newton, Wellesly area and I thought there will be some good bakeries where I can get some bread to make a "restaurant style" bread basket to go with our pasta dish. Well it was pouring rain and hard to know what places would be good, so I had planned to go to Whole Foods in Wellesly Hills if I couldn't find anything else. So that's what I did, and it's the smallest Whole Foods I have ever seen. I got a couple choices of rolls, olive and cranberry-walnut, then I got this focaccia from Iggy's which is about 5 inches high and topped with onions. I roasted some whole garlic heads and squeezed them into a plate then drizzled with really good grassy olive oil, salt and pepper.
Sour Cherry Chocolate Torte with Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream
This was the great find of the night, as good as the pasta was, this was my favorite! I was flipping though another new magazine we got in the mail, Wine Spectator (March 2011) and it's mostly about wine but they do some recipes and this was one that they said paired very well with a Lindemans Framboise beer. Well Tony stopped on the way home from work to see if Julio's Liqueur store in Westboro would have that beer and they did. We had a small glass just to see how well it paired and we were very disappointed with it, it was like drinking cherry soda. But getting back to the cherry torte, this was easy to make, the combination of the sour cherry with the sweet chocolate was perfect and the texture of the torte was very satisfying. I got some cherry vanilla ice cream, I just can't resist ice cream, even though this recipe in the magazine is served as is, with just a dusting of powdered sugar on top.
We had this cappuccino machine in the basement that we used when we first got it and then the seasons changed and I put it downstairs for the summer, and it just stayed down there for a couple years. Well I am happy to say it's back in the kitchen where it should be and we are enjoying it once again! By the way...perfect with the cherry torte!