I made dinner last year for a handful of people at Matt‘s place, including Nick, who’d just been promoted! Nick asked for the recipes from that night. The food I made that night is my standard favorite meal, and as such, I don’t have written recipes or fixed quantities, but figured I’d at least jot down the ingredients, order, etc. This is an Italianish/Greekish meal with lots of feta cheese. Almost everyone who’s come to my house for dinner in the last 15 years has had some version of this meal.
Salad: Kind of Greek
Chop up a cucumber (I usually score the skins rather than peeling), a couple of roma tomatoes (this kind for texture, but if they’re no good at your store, get some cherry tomatoes or campari tomatoes instead), half a red onion, 3 handfuls of spinach, a handful of olives (pitted and chopped or smashed), and three cloves of garlic. It all goes in the bowl. Dressing: red wine vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, basil, oregano, cracked pepper, thyme, rosemary. I tend to be heavier on the vinegar than the oil. Whisk dressing and toss with salad. Crumble a block of feta over the whole thing. Yum!
Entree: Penne Mediterranean
This is based on a dish they used to make at the Italian restaurant I waitressed at in Portland, OR while I was attending massage school.
Boil however much of a decent quality penne until al dente, drain.
While your water is boiling, chop up and sauté all this stuff in extra-virgin olive oil in a large sauté/frying pan:
- Garlic (3-4 cloves, maybe?)
- 4 or 5 shallots
When the shallots turn translucent, chop/add:
- Handful of sun-dried tomatoes
- Handful of kalamata olives (pitted and chopped)
- Two handfuls of artichoke hearts (canned are easier, though fresh is something special if you can wing it)
- Two handfuls of roasted red peppers (a jar is easier, but roasting them yourself is awesome)
- Handful of capers, rinsed
- Black pepper
Pour in some red wine (preferably cabernet sauvignon), and simmer simmer simmer on low heat. Add more wine as needed.
Sometimes I throw in some fresh spinach near the end so it has just enough time to wilt. Sometimes I don’t. I can’t remember if I did that time or not, but it’s a good way to stretch the other ingredients if you have a last-minute addition.
When almost time to serve because pasta is done, crumble feta cheese into the pan and gently stir. Take off heat as feta starts to soften.
You can dish up the penne and put the other stuff on top, but I usually just dump the stuff from the sauté pan into the pasta pot (after the pasta has been drained) and stir it all together like a peasant dish. Yum!
Dessert: Balsamic Strawberries
My favorite place to get this dessert is at Bar Veloce around the corner from my old apartment in the East Village in New York City.
De-stem and chop a bunch of fresh strawberries. Quarter them, slice them, whatever floats your boat. Thin slices provide the most surface area for the balsamic sauce. You could do this the fancy way, and cook up a syrup. If you want to do that, use google. There are plenty of recipes. If you want to do it the Jane way (read: less effort), skip the cooking. In a large measuring cup, pour in some high-quality balsamic vinegar. How much depends on how many strawberries, but I usually start with a cup or two. Now pour in an equal amount of sugar. I tend to use raw sugar, though at some point I’m going to experiment with agave syrup instead. Mix together (just stir it briskly with a fork or something until it is blended). Pour over the strawberries, cover the whole thing and stick it in the fridge. Let the berries marinate in the vinegar for a while. If you were doing it fancy-like, you’d have them soaking overnight. If you’re doing Jane-like, you probably procrastinated and find yourself getting them soaking right before serving dinner. That’s okay. Even an hour (though if it’s that little time, don’t bother refrigerating) is enough to make your taste buds explode. Dish up some vanilla gelato (or ice cream if you can’t get gelato), and ladle the berries and sauce on top. Yum!