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Fodor's Foodies, I need your help. I need to show off with an amazing italian meal tomorrow!

Fodor's Foodies, I need your help. I need to show off with an amazing italian meal tomorrow!

Jul 29th, 2005, 02:02 AM
  #1  
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Fodor's Foodies, I need your help. I need to show off with an amazing italian meal tomorrow!

So, my new travel buddies are coming round for dinner tomorrow night. We met on our italian language course, as they have bought a villa in Le Marche, and we're about to buy one in Puglia. We've been round for dinner to their's and the food was so incredible I felt like leaving a large tip. In fact, that would have been better, because instead, I now have to cook for them.

Help!

I'm quite a good cook so I'm prepared to be challenged.

If I can get some nice fresh clams I thought I might to linguine alla vongole for primo - easy to make and always a winner.

I work near the wonderful Borough Market (London), so am going to potter down at lunchtime and see what they've got. If they've got some really good steak, I was thinking about Bistecca alla Fiorentina for secondo, served with a simple rocket salad and fagioli all'olio. What kind of steak would you suggest? T-bone? How would you cook it? Recipe books seem to conflict with each other.

What about antipasti? Crostini would make my life easy but are they too boring?

And dolci? I normally can't be bothered with dessert and just plump for the vin santo, but perhaps I need to disguise my alcoholic tendencies in front of my new friends.

Any wine suggestions?

So, what would you suggest? Got any real winners?

Gratefully yours, Kate
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Jul 29th, 2005, 02:49 AM
  #2  
ira
 
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Hi K,

Your primo is fine, but have you considered a risotto instead of linguini.

For the secondo, how about a veal chop grilled or broiled with rosemary and a side of wild mushrooms.

I would skip the dolce as well and have a salad or cheese plate instead.

For antipasto, a plate of mixed salumi and some crusty bread. Nice olive oil to sprinkle.

>I work near the wonderful Borough Market (London)...

Lucky you. We have to drive 75 mi one way to get to a decent market.



ira is offline  
Jul 29th, 2005, 02:56 AM
  #3  
 
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I'd do something with fruit for pudding.

A cheeseboard is usually too heavy - a nice idea is to get a large glass platter and shave long strips of super quality parmesan on to it. Then one can sit and nibble on them and converse for a quarter of an hour or so.

Steak that's almost "burnt" on the outside, but rare in the middle served with rocket can be quite delicous.
m_kingdom2 is offline  
Jul 29th, 2005, 02:59 AM
  #4  
 
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T-Bone is the traditioanl one to use but I've done it with Porterhouse and boin-in rib steaks too. Don't know if they call those something different in the UK.

One of our favorite EASY desserts after a large Italian meal is MArcella HAzen's Macerated orange slices.

Peel ,carefully removing all the white pith, from 6 large oranges..blood oranges if you can get them, Slice and place on a platter or shallow bowl, grate the peel of 1 lemon over them, sprinkle with 5 TBS caster sugar, and the juice of 1/2 large lemon. Set aside for at least 4 hours or refirgerate overnight. Bring to room temp before serving. You can sprinkle with 2 Tbs of cointreau or Maraschino if you like..I never do!

I like Ira's antipasta suggestion and since you have the grill on anyway maybe a few grilled veggies to go along with the salamis
jody is offline  
Jul 29th, 2005, 03:11 AM
  #5  
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Grilled veggies - what a good idea, nice and simple.

I had thought about risotto, but I'm just not sure I want to be stuck in the kitchen stirring it for ages LOL.

Any thoughts on how to cook the steak? I have conflicting reports - some books suggesting drizzling olive oil before cooking, others say just whack the steak on the grill and drizzle afterwards.

I like the idea of a cheese platter - perhaps I'll be able to get some figs at Borough Market. They have a fantastic number of cheese stalls there too.
Kate is offline  
Jul 29th, 2005, 03:37 AM
  #6  
 
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Hi Kate

I don't think I'd try Bistecca alla Fiorentina unless I was going to barbeque it, as it really should be cooked on an open fire. But if you want to do it; yes, I think T bone is the equivalent - cut at least 3cm thick. If you're doing a primo I wouldn't bother with the beans.

For Italian meals I generally go all fish - how would that go down ?

As an antipasto I've sometimes bought very thinly sliced swordfish & served it as a carpaccio, just drizzled with oil & scattered with capers.

Your primo sounds good. I sometimes cook risotto but prefer not to for a dinner party as it means spending too long away from the guests ! But maybe you have a dining kitchen.

For a secondo, Signor Carluccio has a nice dish of baked sea bream which can be prepared in advance, then just bunged in the oven for 20 mins. Further details available on request.

My old standby for dessert is tiramisu, and it contains alcohol I've sometimes rung the changes by using a different type of alcohol, e.g. Ameretto or an orange liqueur.

If I'm going for the whole works I'd have cheese too - maybe just a lovely slab of oozing Gorgonzola, perhaps with some fresh peaches at this time of year. Maybe some pecorino too.

Mm, drooling now...
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Jul 29th, 2005, 03:45 AM
  #7  
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I like the fish thought - particularly as it means just slamming it in the oven. Very impressed by your swordfish carpaccio.

I think I'm settled on cheese and fruit for 'afters'. I do make a mean tiramisu, but perhaps it's a bit comedy now - it's starting to get like black forest gateau!
Kate is offline  
Jul 29th, 2005, 03:45 AM
  #8  
 
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Would second the suggestion for a selection of antipasti to begin with - some salamis and hams, olives, maybe some artichoke hearts and some crusty bread.

Also like the idea for some fruit with some cheese to finish.

I adore figs but also love pears and both go well with cheese so you could do fruit and cheese and make that course quite casual.

I think pasta vongole would be my choice above risotto as risotto seems a touch heavy for this time of year and more filling too for just a primo...

No thoughts on the steak I'm afraid but I'd serve it with something simple such as spinach or roast vegetables (peppers, courgettes, aubergines etc).
Kavey is offline  
Jul 29th, 2005, 03:46 AM
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I'll come and try your tiramisu anytime - it's one of my favourites and that won't change whether the glitterati consider it in or out of foodie fashion!
Kavey is offline  
Jul 29th, 2005, 03:56 AM
  #10  
 
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Whoops..I forgot in the UK when you say grill you mean what we in the US call broil..inside ,in the stove..Whe we in the US say grill we mean barbecue!

You definitely need to cook it over a charcoal or wood fire!
jody is offline  
Jul 29th, 2005, 04:07 AM
  #11  
 
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I don't have much experience of dinner parties but I have entertained a few women who seemed to enjoy my Italian flavoured evenings, with the following:

Background music: Joe Dolce's Greatest Hits, especially Shaddup your face

Aperitif: Bottle of Asti Spumante

Starter: Minestrone Soup (Heinz preferably, microwave for 3 minutes)

Bottle of Asti Spumante

Mains: Spaghetti Bolognese (ditto)

Bottle of Asti Spumante

Dessert: Ice Cream (Magnum, not especially Italian, but women seem to like them)

Bottle of Asti Spumante

I hope I've given you some ideas to be getting on with.

Geordieni
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Jul 29th, 2005, 04:16 AM
  #12  
 
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For the sea bream you just oil a roasting tin, put in a layer of large tomato slices and put the fish on top, oiled & seaoned & stuffed with herbs - I think it's meant to be fennel & flat leaf parsley. You're then supposed to add some white wine - I've done it with & without.

My favourite fish cook book is Sophie Grigson who I find infalliable - how about you ?
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Jul 29th, 2005, 04:39 AM
  #13  
cmt
 
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I would definitely NOT do bistecca alla fiorentina, because getting it right depends so much on the quality of the meat, what it was fed on, etc. If it is not the right texture of steak, you can't make it right just by having a good recipe.

I agree with Kavey that risotto is too heavy. Linguine with clams is ideal if you can get the clams. I realizse you want to make a complete multi-course meal, but for myself, since the clams are protein, I would NOT be up for a "main course" after that, but I would want some vegetable. There are so many ways to prepare vegetables in the south that I think you can see what summer vegetables look good in the market and then decide how to make them. You might even have several different vegetable dishes since it's summer.

Since they're buying a property in Puglia, I think you should make something Pugliese, or at least southern rather than northern. You can find lots of recipes in a regional cookbok. If you just want to wing it and make something up, in the southern spirit, at least avoid using butter or cream, but use olive oil, have more vegetables than meat, etc.

For dessert: fresh fruit. If you want to by fancy, you can cut up a mixture of fresh fruits nd whole very small fruits (small berries), add a touch of brandy or liqueur and maybe a tiny bit of sugar if needed, let it sit a little while, and serve that.

Alcohol: no before-dinner drinks, a little wine with dinner, maybe a tiny taste of various liqueurs for dessert
cmt is offline  
Jul 29th, 2005, 04:44 AM
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"Alcohol: no before-dinner drinks, a little wine with dinner, maybe a tiny taste of various liqueurs for dessert"

?!?

Seems like you're missing out on the meaning of one of the components of the word "dinner party"

I enjoyed a recent restaurant review here, where the writer complained that American 'ladies who lunch' had removed most of the enjoyable ingredients from lunch; i.e. all of the wine and most of the food
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Jul 29th, 2005, 05:01 AM
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Hi Kate, What time do you want us to arrive?!
We made this an entire lunch but it could be cut down for starters: squares of foccacia drizzled lightly with olive oil then presented as mini-pizzas with the following poss. coverings: tomato and basil; peas and soft white cheese (no kidding!); artichokes and mozzarella; prosciutto and cheese; or any other combo you choose. Serve warmed. I'd skip the fagioli also. For the steak, we broil (inside) rib eyes covered to taste with pepper, lemon and garlic on a pan which was brushed with olive oil. We serve lemons with the meat. How about almond cookies with vin santo for dessert? Enjoy!
donco is offline  
Jul 29th, 2005, 05:03 AM
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That should of course have been the *phrase* 'dinner party'.
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Jul 29th, 2005, 05:13 AM
  #17  
cmt
 
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Caroline Edinburgh: The alcohol suggestions were in keeeping with my suggestions to make this a rustic SOUTHERN (since they're buying property in Puglia) rather than northern meal. (Many of the suggestions had been for distinctly northern italian foods.) Many traditional southern Italians find the whole alcohol-before-dinner thing a little weird, but routinely drink wine with meals--not to the point of getting drunk--and enjoy a little strong stuff after dinner--often numerous tastes if they're showing off for visitors, but in tiny amounts of each (often home-made liqueurs). Drinking to the point where the alcohol alters personality is not "normal" in the south of Italy (and alcohol isn't the "point" of a party), though possibly it may be becoming normal, due to the influence of people from other cultures.
cmt is offline  
Jul 29th, 2005, 05:17 AM
  #18  
 
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Kate, you have a plethora of great suggestions to choose from so far.

However, when the weather is warm (in fact positively hot this year) and brings with it an abundance of good fruit and vegetables, my preference is to keep it simple and seasonal, fresh and tasty. Cold or warm foods (prepared, not necessairly raw) are ideal for a hot summer's night or day.

I'm reminded of a fantastic dish I ate in New York a few years ago. It was simply oversized rigatoni in a sauce of butter and white wine in which whole sage and basil leaves and the largest shrimps (prawns) had been sauteed, with black pepper and sliced garlic. Serve that with a crisp chilled white wine.

Another favourite is Aubergines, peeled or not, cut into thick 1 inch rounds, dipped generously in olive oil, sprinkled with coarse salt and roasted in the oven. When they're browned and have cooled, sprinkle with a little more of your best olive oil and top with crumbled gorgonzola (or feta) and finely chopped parsley. A one dish course. You can also serve this on thin toasts as a crostini starter if you wish.

I agree with any grilled fish, and fruit for pudding. Raspberries served in chilled prosecco, or cold peaches poached in chianti, both of the above served with a foamy mixture of cream and marscapone and roasted almond slivers works well.

Finally an after dinner platter of mild cheeses and nuts for you guests to pick at, and a bottle of frozen aquavit (or prosecco) served in tiny cordial glasses.

All the above are tried and true.
Whatever you end up doing, have fun.
Mathieu is offline  
Jul 29th, 2005, 05:18 AM
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cmt: I accept you're right that Italians don't generally drink very much. But hey, we don't want to take this authenticity thing too far, do we ?
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Jul 29th, 2005, 05:33 AM
  #20  
cmt
 
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I personally HATE having alcohol before dinner, on an empty stomach, and I'm irritated when I'm in a situation where it's the thing to do. When young, I used to force myself to do it by running home before an outing and stuffing myself with bread and oil so I'd be able to drink, even though I didn't want to. I also have little patience with people who need to drink up in order to become friendly and talkative, and I'm not comforable around people who actually get drunk. I was brought up having dinners with traditional Italian grandparents, so began having a sip of wine with nice meals when I was a toddler, and there are some foods, e.g. olives, strong cheeses, that make me crave wine, but not in huge quantities. so I actually find the alcohol routine I suggested (wine with dinner, but not to excess, and various tatses of strong stuff after dinner) much much more enjoyable than the whole routine of cocktails and drinking way more than the food calls for and getting high or drunk. I love the tradition of taking out liqueur bottles after dinner and sampling lots of different flavors, and I love that so many people in Sicily and mainland south have so many nice home-made ones. So I guess the routine that you would find enjoyable would make me itch to leave the party soon, and the routine I'd find enjoayble might do the smae for you.
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