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Monday, July 23, 2007

july birthday party

 the birthday girl.  pic taken off my balcony at sunset..

The notorious birthday celebration.. some food to start at my place.. (not too much as I am always accused of over doing it) then off to the Foundation Room for dancing..

the menu..
Spinach, artichoke & crab dip
Black Bean Hummus w/ plantain chips

Grilled Pizzas (with a variety of topping choices)
Mini Burgers
Orzo w/ Clams in white wine sauce

Brownies with snickers (no recipe.. Ghirardelli Dark choc mix & add chopped up snickers bars.. toss in a T flour before adding so they don’t sink to the bottom)
Chocolate covered almond cookies
Birthday “cake batter” ice cream cake (from coldstone)

Cherry “Mojitos” 
White Sangria w/ peaches

the recipes..

Orzo w/ Clams in white wine sauce                          Serves 6-8
  4 T Olive Oil
  4 garlic cloves, minced
  1 large Red onion, diced
  1 t  crushed red pepper flakes
  1.5 cups tomato, de-pulped & chopped (reserve 3/4 cup for later)
  1 cup white wine
  2 cups organic vegetable or chicken stock (low sodium)
  6 doz. littleneck clams, scrubbed* and soaked
  1 cup arugula, roughly chopped
  handful of chopped fresh parsley & basil
  1 lb orzo pasta

*Tip to clean clams, scrub the outside well and place in a sink full of luke warm water with a 1/2 cup of cornstarch.  Let sit in water for 1/2.  Rinse. (the clams ingest the cs and it causes them to spit out any sand inside.  or so I was told.)

In a pot, bring salted water to boil for orzo.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, skillet.. saute garlic and onion till transparent.  Add pepper, 3/4 c of tomatoes, white wine, stock and clams.  cover.  Clams are done when the shells open.  (at this point, I remove 1/2 of the clams out of their shells and drop into broth.. leave the rest in their open shells for visual appeal.)

Add in arugula, remainder of the tomatoes, herbs and orzo when done.

Drizzle with Extra V Olive oil.  Offer with grated parmesan.  Serve in deep bowls with a crusty baguette drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with parmesan & parsley and toasted.

Grilled Pizzas  (this is so easy to do.. there are so many options which is why this “recipe” is long.  It is more like a “how to” than a recipe. After you make it once, you won’t need to look at this again.)

  1-2 balls of pizza dough  (Ask your fav pizza place for this, they will usually be happy to hand over the raw dough for a buck or 2) 

  Once you bring the dough home.  Place each ball in a generously olive oiled bowl and let rise in the warmth of the kitchen to about double in size.  If it doesn’t completely double, no worries.. the pizza still taste great. 

  Extra V Olive oil, for brushing  (you can warm a bit and set aside with a clove or 2 of garlic for brushing on pizza after grilling)
For toppings..
  fresh buffalo mozzarella, sliced or shredded
    (To shred a soft cheese like fresh mozz, place the ball in the freezer for 20 min.                   then it is much easier to shred!)
  Fresh garlicky tomatoes
    (I always saute finely chopped garlic in a saute pan with a little olive oil... so, it doesn’t have that “bite”.  For the tomatoes, I use plum tomatoes that I halve, scooping out the pulp and then chop and let drain for 20 min in a mesh sieve. Once drained, add the garlic with the olive oil.)
fresh basil 
caramelized onions & mushrooms
grilled chicken, sliced
goat cheese, crumbled
monterey jack
prosciutto di parma
Hot Italian sausage, cooked & chopped
tomato sauce
  (& whatever else you want.. be creative! Just NOTE that the toppings are only on the grill for about 3 minutes.. so, it’s better to use cooked or caramelized items.  Ie., raw mushrooms would just dry out and shrivel.  ew. Not attractive.  Better to semi cook before placing on the pizza)

Heat grill to high.  (make sure it’s brushed clean!) 

Depending on your grill size, halve or quarter the dough.  (I quarter, as my grill is apartment size and oblong.. my pizza’s are never round.. but oblong about 16” long and 4-5 inches wide.  You don’t want the dough to be directly on the hot spot of your grill) 
In a round motion from the center out, start spinning the dough, gently stretching.  Think, pizza makers.  You really can’t mess up.  Try to get it thin, but be careful not to make a hole in it.  If it is too thick, it needs to cook longer and might be burned on the surface to cook completely inside.
Making sure the dough is well olive oiled.. place on grill. Brush the top with oil, so it’s ready to flip.  Once the bottom is the colour you want and there are nice grill marks, flip it over. 
Add toppings quickly.  About 3-7 min. depending on your grill heat, check the bottom & if cheese is melted.. it should be done. 
Brush the edge of the crust with olive oil and sprinkle with parmesan.
Remove and slice up!

My favorite combos...
   Margarita (Fresh tomato, mozzarella & basil)
   Goat cheese, Grilled chicken & sliced pears (add the pears after the grill)
   Prosciutto & Goat cheese w/ arugula (add the arugula after the grill)

Spinach, artichoke & crab dip
 1 bag of organic baby spinach, roughly chopped (wash & remove any hard stems, let dry)

  2 T  Butter
  2 T flour
  1/4 t sea salt
  1 cup half and half
  8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  8 oz. shredded Monterey Jack
2 t garlic powder
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
1 T worcestershire sauce
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t white pepper
2 cans (13 oz) Artichoke Hearts, drained, rinsed & chopped
1 can prepared crab meat, drained and flaked if necessary

In Large saute pan over low heat melt the butter.  Whisk in flour and season with salt.  Whisking quickly until flour turns into a thick paste, then slowly add the half and half.  Whisking constantly till it thickens. 

Add cream cheese, carefully stir till combined then add Monterey Jack.  Stirring constantly till completely melted.  Stir in garlic powder, grated parmesan, W sauce and peppers.
Fold in artichokes and spinach.   Once spinach is wilted, fold in crab meat. 
Note!!Check for seasoning NOW!..  Depending on your ingredients, you may need to add Salt, ground pepper, dash of hot sauce or squeeze of lemon to awaken flavors.  

Place in a shallow baking dish.   Sprinkle with parmesan.  Bake till hot, 10-12 min.

Serve with thinly sliced baguette.

Note: Can be made ahead of time, like the morning of.  Complete all steps and place in baking dish & heat before serving.   Allow time for dish to come to room temperature, if glass and bake at 350 for 20 min. or until hot.

White Sangria w/ peaches
  2 Bottles of good chardonnay
  1 Bottle of Reisling
  1/2 cup peach schnapps
  1 cup of cointreau or triple sec
  juice of one lime
  4-5 freestone peaches, sliced
  1-2 limes sliced
  1-2 cups of blueberries
  1-2 cups of strawberries, cut in 1/2 (optional)
  2 bottles club soda

Add all ingredients, except club soda, in a large, clear pitcher or vase (ladling works best, anyhow)  At this point, taste if sweet enough.  (This depends on the wine you choose.  I like to add reisling, which I don’t care for by itself as it is too sweet, but it works well here as it sweetens the sangria and I usually don’t have to add any extra sugar.)   If it needs sweetening, add some sugar or even apple juice is a good natural sweetener.. just don’t add too much the apple will overpower. 
Refrigerate for at least and hour.
When ready to serve, top with club soda and ladle into balloon wine glasses.

Martha’s Amazing Cherry “Mojitos”   Martha Stewart
  2 cups simple syrup
      juice of 9 limes
      3 pounds dark cherries, such as Bing or Burlat, pitted
      1 cup of plain good quality vodka
     1.25 cups Three Olives Cherry Vodka
     1 (750 ml) bottle sparkling water

To make simple syrup.. (it’s a good idea to make extra & keep in fridge to sweeten iced drinks)  Bring at least 1.25 cups of sugar and equal amount of water (this makes 2 cups) to a boil in small saucepan.  Stir until sugar is completely dissolved.  Set aside to cool.
In a non-reactive bowl, place lime juice and 2/3 of the cherries, halved and the rest whole.  Stir in simple syrup.  Refrigerate at least one hour or up to overnite.
Ready to serve, place in Large clear pitcher or Vase and mix in Vodkas. 
Fill glasses with ice, ladle in a bit of cherry mix and top with sparkling water.  Garnish with mint sprig. 

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