Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Saturday Night Savor"

I invited our dear friends, Rick and Starla over for dinner last Saturday night as my first attempt at cooking for those other than family for this project!  We had such a fun evening together, filled with many laughs of course!  They are so wonderful, and whether they were telling the truth or not, I am going to believe them when they said it was delicious and "Soooooo good!"  I simultaneously clapped my hands rapidly while stomping my feet as I was hoping that the meal would not be a flop!  How embarrassing that would be...

One of the things that I hope to accomplish with this project in addition to donating money, food and clothing to the homeless and hungry (and have Sophia and Giovanni absorb the essential necessity of doing so), is to learn how to cook for a large group.  I would love to host dinner parties often, but I am intimidated by the strategic "timing" of the recipes, what to do "ahead-of-time", doubling or tripling a recipe, what to do "while" people are comingling, etc., so that the evening would all go smoothly.  For instance, when Rick and Starla were here, I was often engaged in a great conversation with them, only to have to spin around to turn the pork, or stir the sauce, or drain the pasta, etc....a little hectic as I am an amateur at best!  However, I knew it was safe to attempt it all with them because they are my "peeps" -- such amazing friends and our kids just love each other.  I foresee many dinner parties in the future...hoping that I get better at all the timeline necessities in the meantime.

I must say that calories or nutrition were not at the "healthy" forefront of the menu selection, rather "taste" was what I was after.  I settled on "Pork Chops with Marsala and Fennel", and I paired that with a "Linguine with Cream and Gorgonzola Cheese".  I also prepared a field-greens salad with balsamic vinaigrette.  My sweet Madi was also here as a seated guest to this occasion, and she gave a huge thumbs-up too!  I am so grateful for the love I have in my life from both family and friends.  I will never minimize or take that humungous blessing for granted!

Here are the recipes for you all to enjoy...are any of you out there?  I would love to read your comments...

Pork Chops with Marsala and Fennel (Food & Wine magazine recipe)

1 tablespoon olive oil, more if needed
4 pork chops, about 3/4 inch thick (about 2 1/2 pounds in all)
Fresh-ground black pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, cut into thin slices
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry marsala
2/3 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1.In a large frying pan, heat the oil over moderate heat. Season the pork chops with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Put the chops in the pan. Cook, turning once, until browned and done to medium, about 5 minutes per side. Remove and put in a warm place.

2.If necessary, add oil to the pan to make about 2 tablespoons fat. Add the onion, fennel, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Uncover and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, 1 minute longer. Add the marsala. Bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan to dislodge any brown bits. Boil until reduced to approximately 1/4 cup, 1 to 2 minutes.

3.Stir in the broth, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and any accumulated juices from the meat. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, until the sauce thickens and the fennel is tender, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon parsley, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and the pork chops. Cook until just heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.
And from "365 Easy Italian Recipes" by Rick Marzullo O'Connell,

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 ounces gorgonzola or other blue cheese
1 pound fresh fettuccine

1.  In a medium frying pan, toast walnuts 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat until lightly browned, shaking pan frequently.  Set aside.
2.  In a large saucepan, boil cream over medium heat until reduced to about 1 1/4 cups, about 5 minutes; be careful not to let it boil over.  Stir in cheese until melted.
3. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, 2 to 4 minutes; drain.  Pour pasta and sauce into a warmed large bowl and toss together.  Sprinkle with walnuts.

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