Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dinner Night 1

Well dinner last night was a complete success. I did make some substitutions to the recipes based on taste and preference, but all of those will be included below.

First off, I must say that Rachael's recipes were all simple and easy for me to prepare. In the past I have cooked from other recipes and had a hard time with the food not turning out quite so well. These recipes will all be repeats in my house as they were enjoyed by all. Even my picky eater, 19 mos old Althea, enjoyed eating them and she ate all of them!

The Salad was a Mozzarella Salad--yummy!! With this one Rachael says that there are 4 servings. We got 8 adult servings and 2 toddler sized ones out of ours.

16 pieces bocconcini, bite sized mozzarella balls (my store was sold out of these so I actually just got a hunk of fresh mozzarella and cut it into bite sized pieces, there were more than the suggested 32 pieces that this recipe calls for but since I love cheese it was fine by me!!)
1 pint multi colored, yellow, or red heirloom cherry tomatos (there was no selection in my store we got red)
4 scallions, whites and greens, thin sliced on an angel (Now here is the biggest substitution of the night. My grocery store had a very sad selection of scallions. Therefore, I was forced to only have two very small scallions for this recipe. I used the two and then added a bunch of green onions sliced thin, lengthwise. I didn't use quite all of the green parts of the green onions as there were so many that it would have been too much for the salad. I used all of the white parts and about 1/2 to 2/3 of the green parts.)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley leaves
1/2 cup thin sliced basil, 10-12 leaves
2 Tbs red wine vinegar (Rachael says to eyeball it, but I chose to measure it.)
1/4 cup EVOO (Again Rachael says to eyeball it, but again I chose to measure it.)
salt and pepper


Have the mozzarella and the tomatos and combine in bowl with scallions and herbs. (Again my mozzarella was chunked and the tomatos were simply halved as stated. My green onions were also added at this stage.) Dress salad with vinegar, EVOO and salt and pepper to taste.

Our main course was the Penne with Vodka Sauce, Pearl Onions and Peas (although since I hate peas we didn't have peas in this one!) Rachael says that this recipe has 4 servings, however we must not eat as much as was recommended as we had five adults and one 19 mos old eating, as well as a care package for a 6th adult and there is enough for two more lunch servings today and a serving for our 19 mos old, so we got 2 baby servings and 8 adult servings from this dish.

1 bag fresh red or white pearl onions (I used red!)
1 Tbs EVOO
2 Tbs butter
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (I used 3!!)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup vodka
1(28 oz) can crushed tomatos (they didn't have these in my grocery store so I used 2 (15 oz) cans, drained (I could not really drain mine as they were too crushed to drain)
1 cup cream
1 box penne rigate
1/2 cup baby peas (again I didn't do this as I am not a fan of peas...I bought them when I was shopping but I ended up not going through with it! :) )
1/4 cup tarragon, chopped
1/2 cup basil leaves, thin sliced
parmigiano reggiano cheese, grated (this was pretty expensive at my grocery store so I substituted with some plain shredded fresh parmasan)


Bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil. Add the pearl onions and boil for 3 minutes. Drain, cool, and trim the root ends. (I chose to trim both ends...personal issue :) ) Pop the onions out of the skin. (This was so easy and it really worked!! Thanks for the best tip ever, Rachael!)

Place a large pot of water over high heat for the pasta.

Heat a deep skillet or saucepan over medium heat with EVOO and butter. Add the onions and garlic to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Add the vodka and reduce for a minute or two. Add the tomatos and stir and heat through, then add the cream and let simmer while the pasta cooks. (During this stage, I tasted the sauce and chose to add a bit more salt and pepper. I am always hesitant in the begining as I do not want to add too much salt and pepper to a dish. So, sometimes my cooking needs a bit as I go along.)

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water to al dente and drain. (I only cook my pasta for about 9 mins rather than the box directions of 10-12 mins as I like mine to be al dente and to have some bite.)

Add the peas and herbs to the pasta sauce and stir to heat through. (Again I did not add the peas.) Add the pasta and toss for 1 minute to combine. Serve pasta with parmigiano regiano cheese at the table. (In my case I added about 1 cup of parmesan cheese to the pasta itself in small batches while just made it easier since we were having company over.)

I also served garlic bread. Unfortunately this was not one of Rachael's recipes. I got this one from the Food Network website and Guy Fieri.

Garlic Bread


2 sticks of butter, softened
2 cloves of garlic, minced (I chose to use 3 as my cloves were very small.)
1 scallion, minced
1 Tbs Parmesean (I used 2 here, I love cheese!!)
1 Tbs fine chopped parsley leaves
hot sauce, to taste (I left this one out, something about hot sauce and garlic bread did not sound good.)
salt and fine cracked black pepper
1 French baguette (I used a large loaf of French bread as there were no baguettes at the store.)

In a small bowl, mix butter together with garlic, scallion, Parmesan, parsley, hot sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Preheat broiler with rack 4 inchese from heat. (I did this but had to move my rack down another row after the first 1/2 of the loaf was too done around the edges and not done enough in the middle. Moving my rack down for the 2nd 1/2 made it perfect!) Slice baguette horizonatally. Spread butter on both halves. Place on a sheet pan and toast under the broiler for 2 minutes.

All in all the dinner got rave reviews. Everyone loved it and everyone ate until they were full. I chose to serve it with a nice glass of pinot noir as that is my wine of choice and the flavors blended well with it. I will definitely cook all of these recipes again. Plus since there was a chance that more people were coming to dinenr, I already have the ingredients for another batch of the pasta. Yummy!! I can't wait and I am so happy that it did not take long, was easy, and I was able to pull it off successfully.

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