August 1, 2008

Bookclub Dinner

by Shelly

Last night was my turn to host our monthly bookclub meeting. This time only three girls were able to come which made my job easier, as I didn’t have to cook as much food. These days entertaining is a bit of a challenge trying to juggle cooking, setting up, and keeping in step with the baby’s routine for the day.

I chose to go with a mix of recipes from the Barefoot Contessa. In my humble opinion I think her recipes are some of the easiest, most elegant ones to make. Everything I have ever attempted from her, comes out so expert looking and tasting I have to tell myself, “Yes, you did make that Shelly!”.

Here was my menu for the evening:

Endive and Avocado Salad
1 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 cup good olive oil 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 heads endive
3 ripe Haas avocados, peeled and seeded

Whisk together the mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper to make a vinaigrette. Remove a 1/2-inch from the stem end of each endive, discard the core, and cut the rest across into 1-inch chunks. Cut the avocados into large dice or wedges. Toss the avocados and endive with the vinaigrette. Season, to taste, and serve at room temperature.
Note: Haas avocados are the brown ones from California. The green ones don’t have nearly as much flavor.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

Grilled Herb Shrimp
2 pounds large shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), peeled and deveined (see note)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, small-diced
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced fresh basil
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup good olive oil 1 lemon, juiced

Combine all the ingredients and allow them to marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Skewer the shrimp. I use 3 or 4 shrimp on a 12-inch skewer for dinner. Heat a grill with coals and brush the grill with oil to prevent the shrimp from sticking. Grill the shrimp for only 1 1/2 minutes on each side.
Note: I leave the tails on when I’m peeling the shrimp.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

Spaghettoni Al Pesto
Good olive oil
Kosher salt
1 pound spaghettoni, bucatini, or spaghetti
1 to 1 1/2 cups pesto

Splast some oil in a large pot of salted boiling water and add pasta. Cook the spaghettoni for 10 to 12 minutes, until al dente but cooked through. Drain the pasta in a colander and toss it in a large bowl with enough pesto to coat each strand. Taste for seasoning and servec hot or at room temperature.

Serves 6

Oven Roasted Fruit with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
6 peaches, pitted and cut into quarters or eighths
6 plums or Italian prune plums, pitted and quartered or halved
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons orange juice

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Place the peaches and plums snugly in a single layer, cut side up, in 2 glass or porcelain oven-proof baking dishes. Sprinkle with the sugar, and then top with the raspberries. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until tender.
Heat the broiler and place the fruit about 5 inches below the heat and broil for 5 to 8 minutes, until the berries release some of their juices.
Remove from the broiler and sprinkle with orange juice. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled. Add a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream to each serving.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

I served the meal with a nice Pinot Noir and sparkling water. It was YUMMY!!!! Easy to make also.

All recipes are from Ina Garten’s book, Barefoot Contessa Parties.

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