Busy week, lots of guests: Menu

It’s time to organize a small dinner for a nice international group (US, Venzuela, Germany, France at the table; love it :-)) of people visiting the Siena division of the company Iris is working for.

For 6 p- for sure really tired from the hard work of the last 10 days and ready to go back home tomorrow- I try to prepare a vegetarian meal, Italian style.

Marinated olives (cfr blog post 22/9/17) and small filled mushrooms are a nice starter. Remove the stems from the mushrooms (do not  throw them away, they can always be used in a little soup). Mix 100 grams of ricotta, 2 table spoons of chopped parsley, a few mint leaves, 3 chopped garlic cloves, a chopped small chili pepper, zeste of 1 lime, 1 tea spoon of parmigiano, pepper and salt. Fill the mushrooms with the filling and finish with a pine nut. Put on baking paper. Bake 20 mins at 180° and serve hot.

CROSTINI and MOZZARELLA with marinated chopped FENNEL, black olives and a creamy anchovies sauce is always a succesful appetizer. Chop 1 fennel in small cubes and marinate in the juice of 1 lemon. Slice 20 black olives (without pit). Prepare 3 slices of older ciabatti bread for each person. Bake in the oven at 180° for 5-10 mins. Remove the crostini and put a thin slice of mozzarella on each slice. Prepare the creamy anchovies sauce (cfr blog, sauce of bagna cauda 3/4/2017). Put the crostini back in the oven until the mozzarella melts. Spread the fennel, the black olives on the crostini. Finish with the lovely sauce. Eat  with your hands!

To compensate for the richness of restaurant food of the last days a BEETROOT SOUP will be an excellent in-between. Boil or prebake (oven) 500 grams of beetroot. Chop 2 red onions, 4 garlic cloves and 1 small chili pepper. Fry in a drizzle of olive oil. Add  1 chopped green apple, the beetroot, 3 table spoons of balsamic vinegar, 1 table spoons of dried basil, 1 table spoon of dried thyme. Bake shortly and add 1,5 liter of chicken or vegetable stock. Cook for approx 20 mins. Mix the soup, taste again. Serve with a bit of cream.

A PUMPKIN RISOTTO with CHESTNUTS and CARAMELIZED GARLIC is ideal comfortfood for this season. Cut 1 kg of butternut in cubes and bake in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil (this can easily be done a day before). To peel the chestnuts (amount = 2 handful) easier make a few incisions in the skin and boil  for 10 mins. Drain and try to peel them when they are still wet (this is much easier). A tip : chop the chestnuts in smaller pieces before adding to the risotto. Make some fresh pesto (cfr blog 18/9/2017 ). Peel 16 garlic cloves and boil in a chicken stock until they are really soft and the stock is almost caramelized.

I prepare the risotto in advance until a certain point. Fry  2 chopped onions, 1 chopped chili pepper and fry in a mixture of olive oil and butter. Add 60 grams of good risotto rice pp. Bake and stir. If the rice becomes glazy add 200 ml of white wine. Stir until the wine is completely gone. Add 2 table spoons of dried basil and the pumpkin. Mix everything carefully and stop here.

After serving the crostini, mix the risotto with warm chicken or vegetal stock (3/4-1l). Put the covered oven dish in the oven at 180°. You probably have to stir twice (which is much less than the normal cooking process. When the stock is almost gone ( !! dry risotto is not tasty) add the caramelized garlic and  the chestnuts and put back in the oven for another 5-10 mins. Mix 200 grams of cubes of mozzarella in the risotto. Serve with pesto and a rucola salad. Make a dressing with 1/3 oil, 1/3 balsamic vinegar, 1/3 water, 1 teaspoon of mustard and 1 teaspoon of chestnut honey).

Desserts are not really my thing and it is always difficult to find ideal closures. Often everybody already had enough. But…  no dessert is not a great alternative. Smaller portions are  better and tonight a light trifle with fruit is a friendly sweet closure. Make a fruit sauce of 600 grams of frozen forest fruit. Add lemon juice, sugar or honey until you find the (your taste!) ideal balance. Cook until you obtain a thicker consistency. Cool down if you prefer to prepare the dessert in advance. Mix 250 grams of mascarpone, 150 grams of sour cream and 400 grams of Greek low fat yoghurt. Add zeste of 1 lemon, 2 teaspoons of powder sugar and some vanilla. The balance between the fruit and the cheesy mixture has to be right (I will definitily go for a low grade of sweetness). For the cookie layer use full fibre pure cookies (Digestives 1 pp). Grind the cookies. Use a transparent recipient to serve. Start with a layer of cookies, a layer of cheese and follow with fruit and continue. Keep in the fridge until serving time. Serve with some fresh forest fruit ( sorry I forgot ;-)).

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