Once upon a time there women who lived close together and would see each other from time to time. Eventually, some of the women moved away and it was harder for gatherings to take place. (Dont go away, here comes the exciting climax!) One night their schedules allowed them to all gather for dinner. Dinner was had, and then blogged. The End.
Ok, so you may have guessed I had company for dinner Tuesday night. The result? Lots of recipes and reviews for you!!
The top picture you are seeing belongs to the un-baked Cannelloni with Spinach Goat Cheese, Walnuts and Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce from Field of Greens. I have heard nothing but great things about this recipe, and besides it is from the famed Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, so what could be wrong? Not much! It was pretty good, although I would have liked a but more “umph” in the flavor department. It was a labor intensive dish, but was easily made in sections over a few days, so really didnt seem that difficult!
Next up was Rustic Sourdough Focaccia from Lora Brody. My new obsession with sourdough and bread making led me naturally to this recipe. As written, the dough was very wet (even more because of the rain outside), and it never set up the way it was supposed to (ya know, so you can make dimples in it) The sourdough tang was prominent but it didnt puff up and the crust was chewy, not normal for a focaccia. My guests, however, loved it, so that is what matters to me!
The grand finale was Eating Well's Died and Went to Heaven Cake.
Lemme tell you, the name does not lie. This cake is so dark and moist from the addition of strong brewed coffee. I replaced the frosting in the recipe with a cream cheese frosting, and I think I will continue to do that. This cake was a HUGE hit, as it has been every time I have served it!
Cannelloni with Spinash, Goat Cheese, Walnuts and Roasted Garlic-Tomato Sauce (Adapted From Field of Greens)
NOTE: I doubled the sauce on this recipe. Also, I used manicotti shells instead of pasta sheets
Roasted Garlic-Tomato Sauce:
1 head garlic
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded, about 3 cups, or 3 cups canned tomatoes with juice
1/2 small onion, diced, about 1/2 cup
salt and pepper
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil (cooking spray)
1/2 medium red onion, diced, about 1 cup
salt and pepper
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large bunches of spinach, stems removed and leaves washed, about 16 cups
3/4 teaspoon minced lemon zest
1/3 cup walnut pieces, roasted
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as marjoram, thyme, chives, and parsley
1/2 pound ricotta cheese, about 2/3 cup (2% cottage cheese)
1 egg, beaten
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about 2/3 cup (10 TBSP)
2 ounces Montrachet cheese, or other creamy, mild goat cheese
2 fresh pasta sheets, about 10 ounces
THE SAUCE: Preheat the oven to 375. Rub the garlic with a little olive oil, place it on a baking sheet and roast until very soft, 30 to 35 minutes. When garlic is cool, slice off the top of the bulb and squeeze the cloves out of the skin. Puree them with the tomatoes in a blender or food processor.
Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a saucepan and add the onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of pepper; saute over medium heat for 5 minutes. When the onion is soft, add the sherry and bay leaf and simmer for 1 or 2 minutes, until pan is nearly dry. Add the tomato-garlic puree and 1/4 teaspoon salt and simmer, uncovered, over low heat for 30 minutes. (TIP: Add up to 1 teaspoon sugar after simmering sauce to balance the flavor if the sauce is acidic).
THE FILLING: Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of pepper; saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the onions begin to release their juices. Add half the garlic and saute until the onions are soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer onions to a bowl.
Heat the remaining teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet and quickly wilt the spinach over medium-high heat with 1/2 teaspoon salt, a few pinches of pepper, and the remaining garlic. Remove the spinach from the heat, drain, and cool. Squeeze out the excess moisture a handful at a time, then coarsely chop.
Add the spinach to the onions along with the lemon zest and walnuts. Set aside half the fresh herbs to sprinkle on top after baking and add the rest to the spinach-onion mixture.
Place the ricotta in a bowl and stir in the egg. Set aside half the Parmesan cheese to sprinkle over the cannelloni; add the rest to the ricotta with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Combine the spinach and onions with the ricotta mixture, then crumble in the goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
ASSEMBLING THE CANNELLONI: Cut the pasta sheets into 12 4-inch squares (or comparable size to accomodate the size of the pasta sheets).
Preheat the oven to 350. Lay the pasta squares on a work surface and spread 1/4 cup of the filling along the edge of each square. Roll loosely; the filling will expand during baking.
Ladle 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Place the cannelloni close together in the dish, seam side down, and ladle the remaining sauce over them. Use a pastry brush to spread the sauce evenly, particularly on the ends, making sure the pasta is covered with sauce.
Cover and bake for 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle the cannelloni with the reserved Parmesan and fresh herbs just before serving.
Rustic Sourdough Focaccia (Adapted from (Pizza, Focaccia, Flat and Filled Breads from your Bread Machine - Perfect Every Time)
NOTE: I do not own a bread machine, so this was done by hand
For the dough:
1/2 teaspoon yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour -- plus 1 tablespoon
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 cup sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups water -- plus up to an additional 1/4 cup if necessary to make a very wet dough that does not form a discrete ball
To finish the focaccia:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Place all dough ingredients, except the tablespoon of flour, in the machine, program for Dough or Manual and press Start. After the first 3 to 4 minutes of kneading, add more water if necessary to form a very wet dough that barely holds its shape and does not leave the bottom of the pan.
At the end of the final cycle, remove the pan from the machine or remove the dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Sprinkle the top of the dough with the 1 tablespoon flour, cover the top of the pan or bowl with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator. Refrigerate at least 12 hours and up to 18 hours.
Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Punch it down and form it into an 11-inch disk, then place it on a baking sheet or pizza pan or wooden paddle that has been lightly sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover the dough with a clean towel and place it back in the refrigerator for 4 hours. At the end of that time, take it out of the refrigerator and leave it, still covered, at room temperature until it rises to almost double in bulk. This may take up to 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees with the rack or a pizza stone or tiles in the center position. Just before baking, lightly press your fingertips into the dough to make gentle indentations in the surface. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Slide the pan into the oven, or slide the dough onto the pizza stone and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the top is crusty and a rich golden brown color. Eat hot, warm, or at room temperature. This focaccia is best eaten the day it is made.
Died-and-Went-to-Heaven Chocolate Cake (Eating Well)
1 ¾ cups all-purpose white flour
1 cup white sugar
¾ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup canola oil
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup hot strong black coffee
1 cup confectioners' sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons buttermilk or low-fat milk
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 12-cup Bundt pan or coat it with nonstick cooking spray. Dust the pan with flour, invert and shake out the excess.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, white sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add buttermilk, brown sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Whisk in hot coffee until completely incorporated. (The batter will be quite thin.)
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes; remove from the pan and let cool completely.
To make icing: In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners' sugar, vanilla and enough of the buttermilk or milk to make a thick but pourable icing. Set the cake on a serving plate and drizzle the icing over the top.