Tuesday, October 25, 2011

it runs in the family

My family likes food. A lot. My mom, sister, and I like to make it, and my dad and brother-in-law like to eat it (okay, they occasionally help in the kitchen, too). Every Christmas and birthday we exchange various cooking gadgets, try out new recipes on each other, and eat more than we should. And when we manage to get together on a normal weekend, we devote a good chunk of our time to food then, too.

My sister Emily and brother-in-law Jon just moved to Atlanta, which works out quite nicely for the rest of our family, as Atlanta marks the halfway point between Nashville and the town where my parents live. So, we had some family time this weekend that included house hunting, furniture shopping, and lots of delicious food. We tried a couple of great restaurants, JCT Kitchen for dinner on Friday and Rosebud for Sunday brunch, but Saturday's dinner, prepared by Emily and Jon, topped them both. Something about cooking a meal yourself (or, at least, watching as it's cooked!) just makes every dish taste better.

The great thing about this menu is you can make it as easy or labor-intensive as you'd like. It's also endlessly modifiable and completely carbtastic--two features of most of my favorite meals. Feel free to tweak the recipes, but they're pretty delicious as-is.

As for timing everything, cocktails first, of course. Then I would recommend starting the pasta sauce, boiling the pasta, making the pizza, and tossing the salad last. For dessert, we had vanilla ice cream with granola (both homemade!), and that's a great ending if you're feeling ambitious (and easy to buy if you're not).

I'm calling this menu a "new Italian family feast" because, well, I have to call it something, right?

new italian family feast
serves 4-6
kir royales a la emily
tossed salad with fig-balsamic vinaigrette
pear, brie, & arugula flatbread
pasta and tomato sauce with onion and butter

kir royales a la emily (makes 5 cocktails)
1 bottle prosecco
3 oz brandy
3 oz creme de cassis
5 lemon twists, for garnish

Divide prosecco, brandy, and creme de cassis evenly among five champagne flutes. Rub rims of flutes with lemon twists and drop in the drinks to serve. (If you don't make anything else on the menu, make these!)

tossed salad with fig-balsamic vinaigrette

   2 tbsp olive oil
   2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
   2 tbsp fig preserves
   5 c mixed greens
   1 small bell pepper, sliced
   1 small cucumber, sliced
   1/4 c kalamata olives
   1/4 c chopped toasted nuts

Whisk together first three ingredients; toss with salad ingredients and serve.

pear, brie, & arugula flatbread


1 ball store-bought pizza dough (try Whole Foods), or homemade version
1 pear, sliced thinly
4 oz. brie, chilled and sliced thinly
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 c arugula

Preheat oven to 500 degrees, or as high as your oven will go. Sprinkle flour on baking surface (a cookie sheet will do just fine), and stretch dough into a thin round--or whatever shape you can make it! Place round on cookie sheet and top with pear and brie, and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake until edges are brown and brie is bubbling, about 10 minutes. Top with arugula and serve.

pasta and tomato sauce with onion and butter

simple & delicious.
28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
5 tbsp butter 
1 medium yellow onion, peeled 
   and halved
16 oz dried or 24 oz fresh pasta 
   (Jon made our pasta from 
   scratch...no big deal)
salt, shaved parmesan and red 
   pepper flakes, to taste (optional)

Place tomatoes, butter, and onion in heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring to simmer and reduce heat to low. Stir occasionally, breaking up the tomatoes, and cook for about 45 minutes or until you're ready to eat. In the meantime, prepare pasta and other dishes. Salt to taste, and top with parmesan and red pepper flakes.

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