Posted by Bonita
It's not everyday where you're in a university class and you get to know everyone. Luckily, with my Italian classes, I've been lucky. What I love about my Italian classes, besides giving my brain a break from English literature, and analyzing texts, and trying to decipher what that metaphor/analogy/allegory means, is the fact that they're small, intimate classes. I'm not an extrovert to begin with; I'm pretty shy and will stay inside my shell around people I'm not familiar with. But the friends I've made in both my 2nd and 3rd year Italian classes are really special to me. What's more, being immersed in Italian culture, you're bound to have a love for good food as well, which makes these friends the perfect guests to have over for dinner.
I know this may sound corny, but I've wanted to throw a dinner party for years. Most people my age will probably be thinking of a wild bar-crawl, or a kegger, but I've always wanted to host my own dinner party. Some of my Italian friends and I have been meaning to get together for a reunion, since only two of us have stuck by and decided to take 4th year Italian. After weeks of busy schedules and conflicts, we were finally able to settle on a date that worked for everyone, and thus began the menu-planning stage. I toiled over the many for a few days, playing with different dish combinations. After much thought and consideration, I was finally able to pull together a menu that I thought would not only be pretty easier to make, but would also be great to entertain my friends with.
Besides prepping dinner, I had to do a big clean-up of the apartment, as well as make my place look more "homey" and welcoming for guests. There really is so much you can do with a university-student apartment, with the mismatched, hand-me-down furniture and what not, but I picked up some decent placemats to cover up the rather ugly tabletop. Luckily, I also picked up some glasses during Thanksgiving weekend. The scented candles ("Citrus Cilantro" from Pier 1 Imports) and the baby pumpkin centerpieces also added a nice touch what would otherwise be a bland and boring table.
I started off the evening with some antipasti, which consisted of some ACE Rosemary-Foccaccia with the classic olive oil and balsamic vinegar dip, and Marinated Bocconcini, which I simply marinated in some chopped fresh basil, salt, pepper and olive oil. Lastly were the Prosciutto Parmesan Sticks, which I made using store-bought, pre-rolled puff pastry. I simply brushed the surface of the pastry sheet with some whole-grain mustard, cut them into 1-inch slices, and then lay a 1-inch slice of prosciutto over 1 slice of pastry before twisting them. Sprinkled some freshly grated Parmesan cheese over the twisted pastry sticks before popping them in the oven.
The first course was a Spinach Salad in a Parmesan Frico Cup, courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis. The parmesan cups were actually really easy to make, even though I was worrying a lot about the cheese sticking to the pan, etc. when I was making them. I ended up baking them on parchment paper, taking each round and overturning them on a bowl before peeling away the paper. Definitely made handling the baked cheese a lot easier, without having to worry about tearing or stretching it. The baby spinach was finished with a citrus vinaigrette, segmented orange pieces and toasted flaked almonds.
I usually like to be out of the kitchen and with my guests as much as possible when I have company over for dinner, but since I opted to do risotto, there was nothing much I can do. I can't just make risotto ahead of time and reheat it; it'll just turn into a congealed mess. Risotto is just not fabulous unless it is made just before serving; otherwise, you're bound to lose that creaminess that is so important in any risotto dish. Back to the kitchen I went, which thankfully was right beside the dining room. Both the chicken and the risotto would take 20 minutes, which would be perfect timing. I actually precooked my butternut squash in advance, so that all I had to do was heat it up again before adding in my rice and start cooking the risotto. Twenty minutes later, risotto was done, chicken was done, and I was ready to serve. And what did I end up serving? Pesto-Stuffed Chicken Wrapped in Prosciutto served with Butternut Squash, Sage and Hazelnut Risotto.
Between four of us, we went three almost three bottles of wine (perhaps a bit TOO much wine!). I'm usually not a big red drinker, but two of my friends brought over a bottle of Tuscan red. They were such such nice wines. Very smooth with a very nice finish. The Centine in particular is really smooth, and went well with the main course. The Toscana has an interesting flavour when it first hits your palate, but then it mellows out and has a really nice finish as well. Both very nice wines, so I thank my friends for bringing them! And honestly, you really can't go wrong with a Tuscan red!
What meal is complete without some dolci? I pulled some cookies from the freezer to start them off, but the main dessert was Tiramisu. I've actually been talking about this tiramisu for two years now, telling them how I'd have to have them over at some point and I'd make them tiramisu. It really is one of the lightest tiramisus I've ever had, and one of the easiest desserts you can possible make, consisting of merely 6 simple ingredients. Alas, it was a lovely evening, not just with good food, but more importantly, good wine (maybe a bit TOO much wine), good conversation, and definitely good friends. I couldn't ask for better friends in them, who allow me to indulge my passion for cooking. Grazie mille i miei amici!!!