Saturday, August 8, 2009

A lovely company dinner

broc, originally uploaded by Kim De.

Last night some friends came for dinner. It was a great time - I LOVE company!!!!

We did a grilled dinner; simple but full of flavor. I rubbed some chicken with a barbeque rub and marinated it in beer and garlic. A sauce was made to compliment this - smoky and a touch spicy - with beer, vinegar, ketchup and brown sugar as well as some spices. My friend brought her famous tomato tart (PLEASE dont retire this Shannnon ;)) and we had a wonderful broccoli salad.

The broccoli salad is the main reason I am here today, since most of my dinner last night didnt involve a true recipe for blogging. This salad, however, deserves its own blog - in fact it deserves a standing ovation!!

I have been playing with broccoli salads all summer trying to find the right mix of vegetables (is it broccoli crowns or broccoli slaw) and the best sauce (is it mayonnaise, vinegar, yogurt, or a combo). Well last night I found it. This is now the base for every other broccoli salad I will make in the future. Ahhhhh now I can rest easy! Shredded carrots, sharp cheddar and toasted pepitas join the florets and dressing in this version. However, take those out and the choices are endless: raisins with crumbled bacon and sunflower seeds; diced tart apple and dried cranberries; add diced chicken for a full meal - really anything that strikes your fancy.

Now that I have raved and salivated all over your computer about the broccoli, I must make a mention about our pre-dinner snack. I put out fruit and cheese with Pumpkin-Walnut Focaccia with Gruyère. This recipe from Cooking Light has been made by many of my friends from their bulletin boards and I read several reviews before deciding to try it. I agree with what I read: This isnt a true focaccia. The texture is that of a fluffy flatbread and was very nice, but the word "focaccia" is misleading.

The addition of pumpkin added a lovely color and a slightly sweet flavor. Based on reviews, I added more cheese to the dough and I still couldnt taste it. If made again , I would leave out "inner" cheese and just add it to the top. The only other change I made was to leave out the walnuts as it was for company and not everyone appreciates nuts. I think it is a nice bread for soup or a snack, but with so many other recipes to try, I'm not sure I will try it again.

Broccoli-Cheddar Salad with Toasted Pepitas (Adapted from Veg Times)

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs granulated sugar
4 cups broccoli florets cut into 1/2" pieces
3/4 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
4 oz shredded Cheddar
salt and fresh ground pepper
1/3 cup toasted pepitas

In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar and sugar. In a separate bowl toss together broccoli, carrots, onion and Cheddar. To the veggies add the dressing, mixing well to combine. NOTE: I never like the amount of dressing called for in these recipes. I started by adding only 1/2, letting it sit for a couple of hours, then added more as needed. I probably ended up using 2/3 of this.

Season to taste with salt and fresh ground pepper. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator to chill at least 2 to 3 hours, or over night. Scatter the top with the pepitas right before serving.

Pumpkin-Walnut Focaccia with Gruyère(Adapted from CL)

3/4 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
3 1/2 cups bread flour, divided (I used closer to 4 cups as it was too sticky)
3 Tbs butter, melted
1 cup mashed pumpkin
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese, divided
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Combine water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 1 cup flour and butter to yeast mixture; stir just until combined. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 30 minutes.

Add pumpkin, salt, and nutmeg to flour mixture; stir until well combined. Add 2 1/4 cups flour and about 2/3 of cheese; stir until a soft dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (maybe 1/2-3/4 c- dough will feel tacky).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Divide dough in half; shape each half into an 8-inch circle. Place dough circles on a parchment covered baking sheet. Sprinkle remaining cheese and nuts evenly over dough circles; press lightly to adhere. Lightly coat dough circles with cooking spray; cover and let rise 20 minutes (dough will not double in size).

Preheat oven to 350

Uncover dough; bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until loaves are browned on the bottom and cheese melts (shield loaves with foil to prevent overbrowning, if necessary). Cool on a wire rack.

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