January 19, 80° — eat your heart out!
January 19, 2014 | The usual suspects came for brunch today, and it was so nice out we dined al fresco.
I wanted to try out some recipes I saw on Food Network, so I told people to bring nibbles for the cocktail hour, and I demanded to be reminded if I forgot to serve the bloody Marys. Lo and behold, everybody showed up with a starter, so before the main courses even started we had a ton of food to eat: chips and guacamole, banana bread and strawberry cream cheese, roasted tomatoes, fruit with dip.
As a result of all this bounty, when I went indoors to finish the lunch, everyone was well on their way to being stuffed. But then, it's what we do.
The three recipes I wanted to try were all from a Giada De Laurentiis show:
As it turned out, the penne and the portobello each would have made a terrific meal in itself with a small green salad on the side. The two dishes were wonderful together, but each was very filling in itself.
Portobellos. They're very thirsty and soak up the olive oil very quickly. I think it would be better to oil and season them and immediately pop them on the grill rather than wait and grill them all at once. By the time I finished oiling the last one, the first ones were already dry. I grilled and stuffed them earlier in the morning, then put them on a tray in the refrigerator. I put them under the broiler to reheat at the same time I started the cream sauce for the pasta, and that was about the right timing.
Penne. The recipe looks more complicated than it is. It's very quick, and I was able to prepare the dish in the time it took the pasta to cook. My only concern was that the sauce didn't thicken up the way I expected it to. I ended up cooking it harder (near boil, instead of simmer) and longer (about 10 minutes) instead of the 7 or 8 minutes in the recipe. I've often found that the timing in FoodNetwork.com recipes is "off" — I think the chefs on the network use hotter stoves than most of us have in our homes.
Cake. I really liked the cake. I did cut down the amount of sugar that I put in, so it wasn't cloyingly sweet. The cranberries add a bit of sweetness and interest. The caramel-walnut sauce was absolutely delicious, but it overpowered the cake. Next time I will forgo the sauce entirely and just serve the cake with a dollop of sweetened whip cream. The sauce, on the other hand, would be irresistibly delicious over vanilla ice cream.
Last updated on May 12, 2016