Had the new neighbors over for dinner last night. I REALLY hope I didn't get anyone sick. I'm home sick from church today to try to recover. I had a weekend packed full. Anyway, wanted to share the menu with you all:
Lolla Rosa salad with sweet red onions (I soaked them in apple juice), navel orange segments, cinnamon spice walnuts, pomegranite seeds and an orange dijon vinaigrette
Tomato, Fontina and fresh basil tart (the last of the gardens offerings) on puff pastry
Long grain rice and Acorn squash gratin with fresh shaved parmesan
Pork medallions with honeycrisp apple slices and cranberries
Pumpkin spice cream (homemade), Crystallized ginger cardamom cookies, and pero lattes.
The lattes WERE for the adults, I was going to do hot chocolate for the kids, but they kept asking what I was making, so I let them try some. Nuts. Those boys are now hooked on coffee flavor. I can just imagine at church today "and then we had coffe and ice cream at Sister Bray's house....". On the bright side though, maybe I'll get released from a calling! I usually make the pork with fresh cranberries, and it looks fantastic, but there STILL weren't any at the store. The end of October. What the. So dried DO work, but I felt I had to add some sweetness, and some tartness at the end of the cooking time to get the same intesity of flavor, and it didn't look as pretty.
The pumpkin spice cream recipe I had involved making a custard, and I was a little pressed for time, so I googled a quick recipe that just used cream, and it was OK, but I wasn't crazy about the texture. It seemed kind of like frozen pumkin pie filling. Next time I'll put in the effort for the custard and see if it makes a difference.
LOVED the ginger/cardamom cookie, which I adapted from Lisa John's recipe for big ginger cookies. I finally broke down and bought a GOOD spice grinder yesterday, and that fresh ground cardamom was like heaven in my kitchen. I used to take jogs past this house that had big lavender bushes that I'd steal flower heads from and macerate in my hands as I ran for the intoxication high, and that cardamom was like that while I cooked. Even with the worst sinus infection in the world. I chopped the ginger up really fine, used like a quarter cup or so, and about a 1 1/4 tsp. cardamom. I dropped down the ground ginger in the recipe a little, but still used some. Then I made them huge. I got 2 dozen out of Lisa's whole recipe. Maybe golf ball size dough balls.
The acorn squash gratin was supposed to be a rissotto, it was going to be my cheat dish. I found a great parmesan risotto mix at Good Earth last year, that I threw my own frozen pumpkin puree in for nutrition, and my kids fought over it. That was the plan. Then I went to good earth and they didn't have it any more. Crap. Oh well I thought, I have that arborio rice in the pantry. I'll just have to suck it up and make it from scratch. I also knew I just bought a new parmesan wedge last week. I got home and reallized I'd used the arborio up at my LAST dinner party. So yeah, acorn squash and long grain rice bake. With lots of parmesan. Tia walked into the kitchen and said "it smells like garlic bread in here". Cool. She recognized the toasting parmesan smell. I didn't put any garlic in it. That girl is getting trained. OK, so not as cool a dish, but the neighbor kids all ate it. That was neat. Their mother didn't even hide what it was from them, she called it the squash. I was impressed. Just proves my theory once again. You put enough cheese in anything and people will eat it. I just said "I" like 50 times. Sorry.
I'm always troubled by the formal nature my dinner parties always seem to take. Unless we're bbqing or making our own pizza, it doesn't seem to be much fun for the kids. So Tia and I decided to make a game to play at the table. My original idea was to re-make apples to apples with Halloween decorated cards, until I realized you needed like 500 cards for that. Right. So we went to Robert's, and got different black and white scrapbook paper and pumpkin stickers, chopped them up into cards, and put Halloween words on the back. Then we just played 20 questions with each word. That seemed to be a lot of fun for the kids. I was a little disappointed that we then didn't get as much of a chance to talk with our neighbors to get to know them better, but at least it wasn't a boring silent time for the kids. Any suggestions from anyone on how to get both, or another game you can play at table that is a "get to know you type" (which this turned out not to be), that you don't have to use your hands for --so people can eat too; I'd love to hear them.
That's all, sorry no pictures this time, I was pretty rushed at the end, AND sick and trying not to show it.