Posted by Laurie
I was laughing as I read Hazel’s post the day before yesterday because it is so true. I spent three days thinking about my menu for this dinner party and ten minutes putting together my table.
I had a dozen cookbooks out as I contemplated my menu. Alan and Carol are vegetarians (not vegan, so cheese and eggs could figure in the menu) and post-holiday penitents, trying to watch their weight. Mel requested polenta.
What would work with those requirements? I narrowed those cookbooks down to Viana La PLace and Evan Kleiman’s Cucina Rustica, Paula Wolfert’s Slow Mediterranean Kitchen and The Joy of Cooking. I ended up using them not so much for recipes as inspiration, though I always go with the Joy of Cooking recipe for making polenta in a double boiler. My life is just not long enough to spend an hour or two of it stirring cornmeal. I did stir some grated parmesan into the polenta as soon it finished cooking.
I broke down and bought an out-of-season eggplant (it’s this warm weather we’ve been having; my thoughts turn to summer dishes), sliced it thick and browned the slices in olive oil. The rest of the menu, however, came from the garden–mine and those supplying our local farmers market.
I unearthed last summer’s tomatoes from the freezer: I had them in two forms, roasted with garlic and basil, and smoked (courtesy Hazel’s sweetie, SmokeMaster Mark). Combined, they became an exceptional sauce. I topped each slice of eggplant with a few tablespoons of sauce and a slice of reduced-fat provolone and baked them until the provolone bubbled and browned a bit. The farmers market yielded a stir-fry mix of greens–gorgeous black kale, red chard, radicchio–which, with slow-simmered fennel and garlic, mushrooms, onions and thyme, made an unusual side dish.
And then we finished with the extravagant Molten Chocolates Cakes–because I don’t cut calories when it comes to dessert. Alas, I had no aliens with which to adorn the ramekins. We had to make do with whipped cream.