May 20, 2010

The Perfect Get-Together

As you may have gathered from my first post, my old sister Jackie recently graduated from Duke University. To celebrate both her academic achievement and her recent 22nd birthday, momma thought it would be a fantastic idea to invite over our close friends and family for a little get-together. Of course, since both momma and daddy spend their days in the classroom/office, I willingly and enthusiastically volunteered to do all the cooking- and boy, was that a challenge to take on, but I loved every second of it.

Due to the fact that it was a weeknight gathering, we wanted the menu to be simple, elegant, and of course; utterly delicious.

Appetizers sometimes seem daunting- you don't want something too filling or make too much so that your guests won't have enough room for the main course, and more importantly, dessert! So earlier the day I whipped up some of our favorite foccacia bread, full of rosemary, red onion and of course, lots of olive oil. The flakiness of the bread along with the salty top, crusted with rosemary and red onion is simply heaven- the perfect way to start off any meal. Closer to our guests arrival I also assembled some easy caprese bites: fresh mozzarella cheese topped with fresh basil and tomato with olive oil, salt, and pepper drizzled on top. So simple. So delicious.
For the meat we decided on tasty flank steaks, marinated all day in the fridge with just salt, ground pepper, and loads of fresh garlic and grilled outside to perfection. In order to jazz up the steaks, I settled on a creamy Gorgonzola sauce; which, as we all agreed on at the table was heaven- I mean, how could anything with loads of heavy cream, butter, and fresh Gorgonzola cheese not be heaven? Nick, the youngest of our family friend's children, loved the sauce so much he put it on everything, and I mean everything. While daddy was cutting the meat, we were both sneaking pieces and "testing" the sauce numerous times, in order to make sure it was justtt right.

What goes better with a gorgeous piece of grilled steak than roasted vegetables? Exactly, nothing! An oversized bag of mini, tri-colored bell peppers, red onion, and some whole fresh garlic cloves did the trick. Roughly chopped and drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted in the oven makes them tender, soft, and like the other courses, utterly and simply delicious.
In addition to the meat and vegetables, some other substantial course was needed. Now, I was thinking of how momma has all her fresh tomatoes and herbs in her potted garden on the back porch and a dish immediately crossed my mind: orzo salad. The tiny, almost rice shaped, Italian pasta, laden with fresh tomatoes, garbanzo beans, pine nuts, tons of fresh basil and mint and topped with fresh Parmesan cheese and a lemon/red wine vinaigrette makes the fresh flavors pop and leave your mouth, and your tummy, completely satisfied.
If you don't think dinner could get any better...well it did. With dessert that is. Although I wanted to try out a new recipe for a Tiramisu Cake, Jackie wanted our traditional birthday cake with chocolate butter cream, so I couldn't let her down, and the fact that it's my favorite yellow cake. Whether it's all the memories tied to the cake over the years, or the fact that the cup of dry white wine added to the batter makes it so moist and flavorful, I just couldn't resist, and even piped some flowers and swirls around the edges for her.
It was a long day of cooking/baking, but sitting down at our crowded dining room table with 13 people, all in mismatched chairs from other rooms, it was heaven- completely worth it.

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