Friday, June 10, 2011

Weekday French-Italian Dinner

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
We had friends over for dinner last night. Nothing special really (except for those who were invited) but it was a dinner planned as a thank you to Jesse for helping me move my larger furniture into the new place and to have additional friends come over and join us for dinner as well. Being it a weeknight, I had to come up with a menu that was easy to prepare without sacrificing the quality and the flavor. Racking through my recipe sources, I decided to start with a warm soup and Escarole and White Bean soup (I was torn between Lidia and Giada's versions of the dish) seemed like a good idea until I realized that escarole is not available right now in my local grocery store. In the end, I had to settle for Julia Child's Cream of Leek and Potato soup with one major modification where I used scallions and a white onion to replace the leeks. I'm not a big fan of leeks, sadly. A very simple soup, you'll be surprised that the only flavoring was salt and pepper and yet the flavor has a subtle complexity. Vegan sour cream (you'll understand why I used the vegan variety in the next paragraph) was added to finish the soup and we were on our way to a good start.

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
The main course had to serve a dual purpose of serving guests who are meat eaters and a guest who was both vegetarian and lactose intolerant. Browsing through Lidia's recipe collection, I opted for the Tagliatelle with Wild Mushroom Sauce for several reasons. First, the base for the sauce includes olive oil, butter and white wine. The butter was easy to replace with vegan butter sticks and the white wine with vegetable broth since one of the guests is also pregnant. Wild mushrooms are available frozen in my grocery store so that made my life a lot easier. The pasta itself was tagliatelle which I still had extra from the dinner last Sunday so that also saved me some time. To dress the pasta, cheese was needed and once again, rice cheese saved the day. I held off on the pecorino romano that was required and served it alongside the pasta dish for those who didn't have any lactose problems. 

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
For the meat lovers, I went for Lidia's Chicken with Olives and Pine Nuts and I have to say, this dish is very very yummy even I was surprised. The other unusual thing with this dish is how it was prepared.  I have never cooked chicken this way but it was quite effective and makes this dish a one pot dish which is an added bonus. Just be patient with it and it you'll be rewarded with an excellent dish that took only about 10 minutes to prepare and the rest of the time was spent leaving it alone while it cooked gently on the stove.

We finished the dinner with three versions of Sophia Loren's tiramisu. One was the regular version, the other was made with Tofutti - better than cream cheese vegan cream cheese and the last one that was alcohol and caffeine free. It was indeed a good way to end a weeknight dinner while looking forward to the weekend coming up ahead. Everyone was pretty tired and ready for bed after dinner so we skipped the after-dinner coffee or tea option. While we started with Chardonnay for the first course and switched to Pinot Noir for the main course, we decided to finish off the open bottle of red before we called it a night.  Thank you Lidia, Sophia and Julia for the recipes. It was muy delicioso!

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