Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dorothy's Birthday Bash

There is no greater honor than hosting a birthday party for a parent. Last weekend was my mother’s birthday and I tried to make it as special as possible. I invited a few of her close friends over for an evening of dinner and drinks with yours truly serving as chef. My father was also present which gave the whole evening a nostalgic familial air as we pleasantly sat together and ate a wonderful meal. I started us out with a platter of bruschetta which I love serving to larger groups because you can just plop it down and let people serve themselves. These bruschetta were made of Pugliese loaf and wheat miche topped with three bean puree and grilled radicchio. I like to start my dinners off with a bang and this tasty app was a big hit; they were eaten up so quickly that I almost did not get to enjoy one myself. Just puree any assortment of canned beans, drained and well rinsed, with a few cloves of garlic and a liberal drizzle of quality olive oil. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper and it is ready to eat. I smeared a generous helping of the puree onto some toasted breads and then grilled individual radicchio leaves on a grill pan until they wilted. It is that easy and that delicious.

The second course I served to my mother and her friends in honor of her birthday was my take on pasta primavera, the classic Italian spring dish. Pasta primavera basically refers to any type of noodle dressed with spring vegetables, olive oil, and garlic. This pasta dish consisted of the finest looking vegetables that my local gourmet grocer had on offer last Monday, mainly tight asparagus spears, chard, and an assortment of fresh herbs. I boiled some cavelli, a festive curly noodle, and tossed it with sautéed vegetables in a bacon-cream sauce. I topped the smoky and rich concoction with minced tarragon, parsley, thyme, and dill to give it a radiant burst of freshness. Overall the dish was very well received and our dinner guests were thrilled by the luscious pasta primavera set before them. My mother was happy too, especially the bacon and asparagus aspect which are two of her favorite ingredients.

My favorite desserts are all fruit based and I rarely eat chocolate or baked goods after meals, content to sip on a bitter espresso or digestif. My mother bought a couple baskets of beautiful California strawberries and a slightly unripe mango which we threw together with orange juice and a little sugar. Fresh fruit, seasonal of course, is a great way to end a meal and provide a sweet sensation without excessive preparation or calories. This ambrosial fruit salad was both refreshing and tasty, the perfect way to end a decadent meal lovingly prepared by a son for his mother. Here’s to many more. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

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