Tuesday, March 25, 2008

a weekend of culinary delights (and disasters)

the knitting girls came over on friday night for an evening of good food, wine and chatting (and knitting!). the menu consisted of a shrimp ceviche with a roasted red pepper spread for snacking and then a pork roast with sweet potato gnocchi and sauteed brussel sprouts for dinner, and strawberry jam filled sugar cookies for dessert.

thursday evening i started with the sugar cookies -- they were the easiest for me since i've been using this recipie for years (thanks martha!). the ceviche was next and was fun to make (when is it not fun to chop up pretty ingredients and mix them together). for some reason, i left the gnocchi for last. even with help from my trusty sous chef, i was up until 12:30 being a gnocchi monkey.

on friday i picked up a four pound pork roast from one of my favorite local butchers and some crusty bread for the ceviche and spread along with a pound or so of brussel sprouts from my yuppie grocery store. (note: despite its yuppie-ness i love this store, probably because i've banned myself from its more over-priced counterpart.)

i wasn't thrilled with the gnocchi -- i sauteed them in butter and sage and probably should have let them brown quite a bit more. i blame this on my wine-ing and gossiping while fixing that portion of the dinner. i'm going to work on the recipie, and hopefully will provide it at some point down the road.

the hit of the evening was definitely the red pepper spread, and i loved the ceviche, so below, find the recipies:

Shrimp Ceviche

1 pound shrimp, cooked, shelled, deveined, and chopped
1 medium shallot, finely diced
1/2 fennel bulb, finely diced
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/8 cup fennel fronds, finely chopped
1 and 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
1 and 1/2 lemons, juiced
1/2 medium orange, juiced
1 teaspoon honey
olive oil to bind (probably 1/4 cup, but add it slowly until you're happy)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all above ingredients, let marinate overnight, and serve with any sort of chip or bread! Serves 4-6 people for appetizers.

Roasted Red-Pepper Spread
1 red pepper, roasted, skinned and de-seeded
1 medium shallot, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon fennel fronds
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Chop red pepper into sections. Sautee shallot with fennel fronds. Place pepper, shallot and fennel fronds in food processor, add salt and pepper and roughly chop ingredients. Add olive oil, one tablespoon at a time, to the food processor, chop between additions.

Notes: I liked this roughly chopped and so I didn't over process the mixture. If you want a finer spread or a more dip-like substance then whirl away, and you may want to add more olive oil than I did. Also, this dish was really popular (more so than the ceviche) -- one red pepper doesn't make much, so I recommend doubling the recipie. 4 of us demolished the spread pretty quickly.

One more note, I really think that roasting your own peppers is important. They taste better than the jarred stuff, and its not hard to do at all. If you want to learn how, just email.


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