Monday, April 18, 2011

Dinner Party Menu

One of my favorite things to do on the weekend is shop at the farmer's market for fresh ingredients for a dinner party! Yesterday, I headed to Eastern Market in Washington, D.C. and the Main Avenue Fish Market for a delicious dinner party menu.
My finds at Eastern Market and the fish market included:
pea shoots
manchego cheese
fresh basil
golden beets
sea scallops
tiger shrimp

Then, I spent the evening preparing for a wonderful dinner! Here's the menu:

shrimp cocktail (just boil the shrimp for 2 minutes in salted water and serve with cocktail sauce)
bread with manchego and brie cheeses
beet, strawberry, and pea shoot salad
balsamic vinaigrette
seared scallops with pesto
creamy polenta
brownies (brought by our guests)
mango sorbet and vanilla ice cream (look for light vanilla bean ice cream-it has a rich flavor with not as much fat)

I managed to take a few photos of the whole meal, but not too many...

Golden Beet, Pea Shoot, and Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette:

5 medium golden beets
3 cups pea shoots*
3 cups baby arugula
1 bulb fennel
1 pound fresh strawberries, sliced
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1 recipe balsamic vinaigrette (below)
cooking spray
salt and pepper

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Slice beets into wedges (about 12 wedges per beet)
2. Place the beets on a silicon mat-lined baking sheet, spray with cooking spray, and season with salt and pepper.
3. Roast the beets for 20-30 minutes, until lightly browned and tender.
4. Slice the fennel bulb, removing the core.
5. To assemble the salad, place the pea shoots and arugula in a  shallow dish, top with sliced fennel, strawberries, roasted beets, and goat cheese.
6. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette.

*If you can't find pea shoots, you can use more arugula of simply sub in some mixed greens

Balsamic Vinaigrette:

4 tablespoons orange olive oil*
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste

1. whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl

*I bought this orange olive oil (and the balsamic vinegar I used in this recipe) at a farmer's market last spring from this vendor. If you can't find it near you, you can substitute the same amount of extra virgin olive oil plus the zest of one orange.

Creamy Polenta:

1 cup cornmeal
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 oz reduced-fat cream cheese
1/3 cup grated cheese (I used manchego, try cheddar, swiss, gruyere, or any other cheese that melts well)
1/2 (or more) cup skim milk
salt and pepper

1. Heat vegetable broth to a boil in a medium saucepan
2. In a small bowl, combine the cornmeal, kosher salt, and water.
3. When the broth is boiling, gradually add in the cornmeal mixture, whisking as you add.
4. Continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth, stir in the cream cheese, then remove from heat.
5. If your polenta has lumps, press the mixture through a mesh strainer.
6. If you plan to serve the polenta later, set aside and stir in the grated cheese and enough milk to get to your desired texture as you are reheating the polenta
7. If you are serving the polenta immediately, simply stir in the cheese and as much milk as you need to get the polenta to your desired texture.
8. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then serve hot.

Seared Scallops with Lemony Pesto:

1 pound large sea scallops
salt and pepper
canola oil
1 recipe lemony pesto (below)

1. Pour enough canola oil into a large saute pan to coat the bottom of the pan. Heat the pan over high heat until the oil glistens and bubbles form when the end of a wooden spoon is placed in the oil.
2. Season the scallops with salt and pepper, then add into the hot pan, making sure to leave about an inch between scallops.
3. Sear the scallops for 2-3 minutes on one side, until they are golden brown, then flip and cook on the other side for 1-2 minutes, until they are just barely firm to the touch.
4. Serve topped with lemony pesto.

Lemony Basil Pesto:

1 cup packed fresh basil
2 tablespoons pine nuts
zest and juice of one lemon
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

1. In a food processor, combine basil, pine nuts, lemon zest and juice, and garlic.
2. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped and starting to get mixed together
3. While running the food processor, gradually pour in the olive oil and then the water, blending until smooth and a little creamy.
4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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