Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dinner and A Movie- Italian Night with Letters To Juliet

We thought it would be fun to host a Dinner/Movie night so we threw one together at the last minute on Friday.  For our first movie, we picked Letters To Juliet (see our review at Friday Flick- Letters To Juliet) and since it's about being in Italy, we picked Italian menu items of course.  

Our Italian Menu
  • Hostess Dawn served Brushetta, coffee, and a Caesar salad
  • Stephanie made Florentine Ravioli
  • Alisa and her mom Pat did an Italian Wedding Soup from the crock-pot
  • Moira brought a bottle of 14 Hands Hot To Trot (yeah- another cork for my collection!)
  • Laura had some lemon/liquor drinks but since I already had a few glasses of wine, I'm not sure what they were LOL
Since we did last minute, a couple of gals couldn't come so you could add: Italian Sodas, Caprese and Tiramusu

Brushetta with Tomato and Basil 
6 or 7 ripe plum tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
6-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 baguette French bread or similar Italian bread
1/4 cup olive oil

  1. Prepare the tomatoes first. Parboil the tomatoes for one minute in boiling water that has just been removed from the burner. Drain. Using a sharp small knife, remove the skins of the tomatoes. (If the tomatoes are too hot, you can protect your finger tips by rubbing them with an ice cube between tomatoes.) Once the tomatoes are peeled, cut them in halves or quarters and remove the seeds and juice from their centers. Also cut out and discard the stem area. Why use plum tomatoes instead of regular tomatoes? The skins are much thicker and there are fewer seeds and less juice.
  2. Make sure there is a top rack in place in your oven. Turn on the oven to 450°F to preheat.
  3. While the oven is heating, chop up the tomatoes finely. Put tomatoes, garlic, 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, vinegar in a bowl and mix. Add the chopped basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Slice the baguette on a diagonal about 1/2 inch thick slices. Coat one side of each slice with olive oil using a pastry brush. Place on a cooking sheet, olive oil side down. You will want to toast them in the top rack in your oven, so you may need to do these in batches depending on the size of your oven. Once the oven has reached 450°F, place a tray of bread slices in the oven on the top rack. Toast for 5-6 minutes, until the bread just begins to turn golden brown.  Alternatively, you can toast the bread without coating it in olive oil first. Toast on a griddle for 1 minute on each side. Take a sharp knife and score each slice 3 times. Rub some garlic in the slices and drizzle half a teaspoon of olive oil on each slice. This is the more traditional method of making bruschetta.
  5. Align the bread on a serving platter, olive oil side up. Either place the tomato topping in a bowl separately with a spoon for people to serve themselves over the bread, or place some topping on each slice of bread and serve. If you top each slice with the tomatoes, do it right before serving or the bread may get soggy.

Makes 24 small slices. Serves 6-10 as an appetizer. Or 3-4 for lunch (delicious served with cottage cheese on the side.)

Casear Salad
Romaine lettuce
Maria Calender's Caesar Dressing
Fresh Parmesan cheese

Toss the salad with the dressing and then let your guests sprinkle the cheese and squeeze their lemon.  The lemon was a nice touch- I actually went back for seconds and that is HUGE for me (not the getting seconds part but that it was for SALAD!)

Florentine Ravioli 
2-3 TBS Extra Virgin Oil
4 cloves of garlic chopped (saute for about 40 seconds until "aromatic")
1/4-1/2 chopped red onion
2 handfuls of spinach
2 chopped Roma tomatoes 
1 can of sauce- we used Constandina Alfredo from the refrigerated section at Safeway
Opt- grilled chicken
  1. Start your water to boiling (this goes fast) and follow the directions for your pasta.
  2. Saute your garlic in about 2-3 TBS EVO for about 40 seconds until it's "aromatic.  ADD the red onion and spinach- stir a couple of times until the spinach is wilted.
  3. In the meanwhile, saute a container of chopped fresh mushrooms with 1 TBS butter then add the mushrooms and tomatoes to the spinach mixture.
  4. Warm up the sauce and add all the completed pasta.  Sprinkle generously with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and viola! Opt:  you can add grilled chicken to the top

Italian Wedding Soup (crock pot)
1 pound small meatballs
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup cooked chicken, chopped (slightly under cook this to avoid over-drying)
1 cup carrots, diced or cut into matchsticks
1 cup celery, diced
1 head escarole, chopped OR 1 package (8 oz. size) chopped spinach (I did Endive cause Safeway didn't have Escarole and I didn't want to do spinach since Steph had it in her dish)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup acini di pepe pasta (or other tiny pasta)
1/4 cup romano cheese (had a hard time finding this- can sub Parmesan) 
To save time in the morning, we pre-cut everything and put in the fridge overnight
  1. Saute meatballs until browned.  If using larger pre-made meatballs you can quarter them.   We bought pre-cooked ones so skipped this step and then cut the meatballs smaller after it was cooked.
  2. Combine all ingredients except pasta & cheese in crockpot and cook for 8-10 hours on low. 
  3. Add the pasta during the last hour of cooking.
  4. Top with cheese when serving.
Looks a little green in the pic but it WAS yummy!

We had a wonderful evening visiting, eating, and watching the movie together.  Thank you Dawn for hosting and to everybody who was able to come!  Can't wait for the next one...

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