This past Saturday, Tawn and I had two couples over for dinner. All four of them are foodies, so I made a special effort to cook an elegant meal but something that wouldn’t require a great deal of last-minute attention. There are few things worse for a dinner party than having to be in the kitchen while your guests are sitting at the table.
Amuse-bouche: To wake up the taste buds, I served a tomato water gelée topped with a tomato coulis. The tomato water, which is a bit cloudy because I rushed it along rather than waiting the twelve hours called for in the recipe, is made by blending fresh tomatoes and then straining them through cheesecloth. What happens is that the water in the tomato slowly drips out, full of tomato flavor but without any color. Of course, by squeezing the cheesecloth, I extracted a bit of the red coloring, clouding the water.
I added some gelatin to the tomato water and let it set in colorful shot glasses. I passed the remaining tomato pulp through a sieve to make coulis, flavoring it with some salt, sugar, and a little bit of balsamic vinegar. Not sure if it was the most exciting amuse-bouche ever, but I was pleased with it.
I made two salads, both of which were based on dishes I had at Orris, a Los Angeles small plates restaurant that I’ve been to a few times. The first dish was thinly sliced roast beets topped with cheese and dressed with balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and dill. The original version of the dish is supposed to have manchego or another similar Spanish cheese. I ran out of time while shopping and had to settle for edam, which wasn’t nearly as good.
Another Orris-inspired dish was an asparagus salad with a tarragon dressing, tomatoes, and pecans. I assembled it a bit differently than the original dish, but it came out very nicely. Visually, it is very appealing, and the taste was nice, too.
To accompany the meal, I prepared a loaf of rosemary and black olive bread. This is one of my favorites and always turns out well.
The pasta course (which I didn’t get a picture of!) was a roasted vegetable lasagna with homemade pesto sauce. If I had had my way, I would have made individual servings of this. In the interest of minimizing time spent in the kitchen, I made a single batch and just served it at the table, family style. This dish was so tasty – the roasted veggies had lots of flavor – and I think I will make it my new standard lasagna recipe.
For the main course, I prepared basil marinated snow fish en papillote. Steaming the fish and vegetables in their own individual parchment paper packets is easy, convenient, fancy, and produces excellent results. In this case, I marinated the snow fish in an olive oil, white wine vinegar, and basil mixture for 30 minutes, then steamed the fish with carrots, turnips, zucchini, and bell peppers. The fish was seasoned with a small bit of butter, a strip of lemon peel, and a kaffir lime leaf.
I was able to cook the packets while we were eating the lasagna, so the fish was hot out of the oven when served. The picture doesn’t really do it justice, but it turned out very nicely. Snow fish has a high oil content, so it stays moist. Next time, I think I would cut the turnips a bit thicker and instead of including zucchini and peppers in the packet, I would serve them on the side.
To celebrate the end of summer, I prepared a duo of cherry desserts. In the larger ramekin is a cherry clafoutis, which is a pancake like batter baked with a dish of fresh cherries. The smaller ramekin has cherries covered with a chilled sabayon, a frothy mixture of egg yolks, sugar, and amaretto liqueur. The sabayon is heated in a bowl placed over a steaming pot of water. It is whipped continuously, cooking the eggs and incorporating air. Once the mixture has cooled, I folded in some whipped cream. Finally, before serving the dessert I used a butane torch to brûlée the top. On the side is some more whipped cream and a cherry reduction sauce.
What I liked about these desserts is that I did not make them too sweet. Instead, they were satisfying without being sickeningly sweet. All in all, a meal well done.
While cleaning the dishes afterwards, I was struck by the pattern the beets had left on the serving plate, so had to take a picture.
This looks like such a fantastic meal! You’re so talented :).
It all looks amazing! You did a great job.
Beautiful food and presentation. I could have stopped with the salad
Very elegant!! The whole meal was so pretty I can imagine there was a danger that it would get cold as all the guests whipped out cameras and snapped photos! I’m betting all the plates looked like the beet salad afterwards – empty!!
Looks like a wonderful evening of good food and good company!
The bread looks delicious 🙂
Wow! Very impressive, attractive and tasty-looking.When I have a party, I make lists and lists–menu, recipe, ingredients, timetable…then I clean, clean, clean; cook, cook, cook…and then tell everyone, “Oh, It wasn’t hard.”
Very nice! Your amuse reminds me of one of Harold McGee’s columns in the New York Times: here.
I’m going to make the fish. I did fish in paper a zillion years ago but even my kids liked it. Don’t know why I haven’t done it again. It all looks DELICIOUS.
I like pecans because they are sweeter than walnuts and have more of the good oil. Unfortunately the price of Pecans will rise as China decides to import more of that stuff.Aparagus is not in season here but it is in the southern Hemisphere.
How does one get invited to your house? That looks incredible!!!
Quite an artistic pattern left on the plate by the beats.I bet everything tasted as good as it looked, and it looks amazing.
this is one dinner party i would’ve loved to have been invited toeverything looks pleasing and appetizing.well done
Fantastic. You are the only one I know who loves beets as much as I do.
Wow, so much food! I missed your party! The beets dish reminded me of “Orris”. FYI, they are no longer serving tapas (and may close the restaurant), which I ‘ll miss very much so!
I trust your guests were as impressed in the eating as I was in the reading.
again the food is to die for yummy yummy
Just beautiful! And I love beets too….just cooked and buttered but also like them pickled and often make them that way Last year my friend Doris gave me a lot of beets from her garden…..sooooo good! Thanks for the beautiful photos. I bet people had a wonderful time and left with appetites satisfied in a most wonderful way!
It all looks fantastic, but that bread looks like something straight out of a magazine or a movie prop department. I hope I have attained that level of baking skill one day (should probably start by getting an oven)
which reminds me…daniel and i have yet to sample your cooking!!!
I too need to sample your cooking. The dishes look amazing – especially the fish. I guess the zucchini was a bit too mushy? Do you need to add any other liquids in the parchment or is there enough moisture in the veggies to steam everything? So if I visit you, I wonder what you’ll cook for me. (I’ll help of course…)
@chronic_masticator – @Inciteful – @Grannys_Place – @KnightInCROATIANarmor – Many thanks for your recommendations!@mizz_chan – @beowulf222 – @Fatcat723 – @bonmots – @grannykaren – Thank you all for your kind words. I hope you enjoyed the food porn.@murisopsis – Oddly, I was the only one taking pictures. Should I be worried?@n_e_i_l – Thanks for that link. Hadn’t read the article but certainly gets me thinking about other possibilities.@slmret – It sure was, and of course it is the company that makes the meal.@ZSA_MD – One of my guests was also a big fan of beets, so the dish was much appreciated. Which I could find the golden beets here.@PPhilip – One really nice thing is that asparagus is grown year-round in Thailand.@ordinarybutloud – Oh, you definitely should do the fish in paper again. It is such an easy way to cook the fish and it turns out so nicely.@whyzat – Without the lists, it would be a lot more work, wouldn’t it?@lonelywanderer2 – Well, visiting Thailand is a first step. LOL@CurryPuffy – A shame to hear they are closing the restaurant!@Gma_Joyce – The beets I buy here often look like they’ve been out of the earth for quite a while. Wish I could get them freshly harvested.@secade – Yes, an oven is an important first step to improving your baking skills. Without it, there are few chances to practice! =D@jace1982 – Oh, that’s right! I’m so sorry I forgot. Next time you are in town, we’ll rectify that.@ElusiveWords – Well, you would have to reveal your identity, wouldn’t you? No masks allowed at my dinner table. As for your questions, yes the problem was uneven cooking. Zucchini was overcooked while turnips were nicely done. No need to add moisture, especially with a fish that has lots of oil in it.