Search This Blog

Sunday, September 29, 2013

AN EVENING IN TUSCANY (with Cate and Doug) in October (2013)!

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
My husband and I are up to bat for our October Supper Club get-together. We are hoping for cool(er) weather, and I've been dying to host and Italian themed "Dinner in Tuscany" ever since we returned from our trip to Italy a couple of years ago.  We'll tackle the main course, and I'll ask my fellow Supper Clubbers to fill in with salad, antipasto, bruscetta and tiramisu.  Add some great Italian wines to the mix, and you've got yourself a fabulous feast!

ITALIAN BREAD (served with olive oil dipping sauce)


Selection of Italian wines to pair with the meal

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

(Adapted from HoneyandBrie)
Photo Credit: HoneyandBrie

(serves 2)
2 cups chopped spinach
3 cups chopped baby romaine
1 cup chickpeas (drained)
1/2 cup julienne cut salami
1 cup chopped cooked chicken (Rotisserie would be great)
5-7 leaves of basil, chopped
1/2 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

For the Vinaigrette:
2 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP red wine vinegar
juice of half a lemon
1/4 tsp whole grain mustard
1 TBSP of chopped basil
1 TBSP fresh parmesan cheese
pinch of salt and pepper (to taste)

In a large bowl mix the greens together. Top with chickpeas, salami, chopped chicken, cheese, tomatoes, and basil. In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, basil, and parmesan cheese. Add S and P to taste. Toss salad with vinaigrette right before serving.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
I'm obsessed with authentic Italian lasagna bolognese.  Let me warn you - it does take some TIME, but it is oh so worth it!  This recipe is as close as I've found to what I enjoyed in Tuscany...I'm doubling the recipe to make sure I feed 10 people.

Photo Credit: Smitten Kitchen
Bolognese sauce
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (1-inch pieces are fine)
1 large or 2 slim carrots, coarsely chopped
2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds ground chuck, brisket or round or combination
1 1/4 cups tomato paste (from 2 6-ounce cans)
2 cups red wine, preferably hearty but really, anything you like to drink
Water as needed
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Pasta (or you can cheat and buy Whole Foods' amazing FRESH pasta like I did)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 to 2 tablespoons water, if needed

Béchamel sauce (pronounced Bey-shah-melle")
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon table salt
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
To assemble
1 2/3 cups grated Parmesan cheese

Day 1: Make the BOLOGNESE: In a food processor, pulse onion, carrots, celery, and garlic until finely chopped.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

Heat a moderate-sized Dutch oven (4 to 5 quarts) over medium-high heat. Once hot, coat the bottom of the pan with two to three tablespoons of oil. Once it is hot, add the chopped vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Cook the vegetables until they are evenly brown, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. Don’t shorten the cooking times, as this creates the big flavors.
Add the ground beef and seasoning again with salt and pepper.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Brown the beef well and again, don’t rush this step. Cook for another 15 minutes.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Add the tomato paste and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Add the red wine, using it to scrape up any cooked bits in the pan. Cook the wine until it has reduced by half, about 5 more minutes.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Add water to the pan until the water is about 1 inch above the meat. Toss in the bay leaves and thyme and stir to combine, bringing it to a low simmer.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Then, for the next 3 to 4 hours: You’ll keep water near the stove. You’ll stir the sauce from time to time. As the water in the sauce cooks off, you’ll want to add more (but you don’t want to add more than 1 to 2 cups at a time or you’ll have boiled meat sauce rather than something thick and robust with flavor). Taste it from time to time and add more seasoning if needed. Simmer for 3 to 4 hours.  You’ll have about 8 to 8 1/2 cups of sauce but will only need 4 for the lasagna. Discard the thyme and bay leaves and put half in the fridge for lasagna assembly tomorrow and the other half in the freezer for up to a couple months.  Here's what mine looked like after 3 hours:
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Day 2: Make your pasta (IF you choose to make it yourself): Combine all of the pasta ingredients in a food processor. Run the machine until the mixture begins to form a ball. You’re looking for a dough that is firm but not sticky. If needed, add water a drop at a time until it comes together. Place ball of dough on a lightly floured surface and invert a bowl over it. Let it rest for an hour. (You’ll have about 10 ounces or a little less than 2/3 pound of fresh pasta dough.) Get your work area ready; line a large tray with waxed paper. Dust the waxed paper with flour. Keep more waxed paper and flour nearby. Working with a quarter of the dough at a time, run in through your pasta roller on the widest setting (usually “0″), then repeat this process with the roller set increasingly smaller (1, 2, 3) until the pasta is very thin. If you find your dough sticking, lightly flour it. If it gets too big to handle, cut it in half. If the piece gets too wide for the machine or becomes annoyingly irregularly shaped, I re-”fold” the dough by folding the sides of the dough into the middle, like an envelope, and press it flat. Then, run the piece back through the machine with the open sides up and down on the widest setting again (0) working your way thinner. This allows the machine to “press” any trapped air out. Lay your pasta on the floured waxed paper in a single layer, trying to keep the pieces from touching. Flour the tops of them and place another sheet of floured wax paper on top. Repeat this process with the remaining dough and as many layers of pasta you need.

Cook the PASTA (Again, these directions are only IF you did not buy FRESH pasta at Whole Foods!): Cut your pasta lengths into square-ish shapes. The fun thing about making fresh pasta for lasagna is that the shape doesn’t much matter; you’re going to tile together whatever you have and nobody will care if it took 9 or 16 bits to patch the layer together. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Have ready a skimmer, a large bowl of ice water and a large tray or platter that you’ve drizzled or spritzed with oil. Boil several of squares of noodle at a time for 1 to 2 minutes each (1 minute if you, indeed, went to the thinnest setting on your machine; 2 if you, like me, stopped one shy of thinnest). Scoop them out with your skimmer, swish them in the ice water and lay them out (still wet is fine) on the oiled platter. Repeat with remaining pasta. It’s okay to have your noodles touch; they shouldn’t stick together in the short period of time until you begin assembling but if you’re nervous, you can drizzle or spritz each layer very lightly with more oil.

Béchamel: Melt the butter in the bottom of a medium-to-large saucepan over medium heat.

Once melted, add flour, and stir it into the butter until smooth.

Cook the mixture together for a minute, stirring constantly. Pour in a small drizzle of your milk, whisking constantly into the butter-flour mixture until smooth. Continue to drizzle a very small amount at a time, whisking constantly. Once you’ve added a little over half of your milk, you’ll find that you have more of a thick sauce or batter, and you can start adding the milk in larger amounts, being sure to keep mixing.

Once all of the milk is added, add the salt, garlic, nutmeg and few grinds of black pepper, and bring the mixture to a lower simmer, and cook it, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes.

Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
At last, assemble your dish: Preheat oven to 400 degrees (unless preparing in advance, and you'll refrigerate once the assembling is done). In a 9×13-inch rectangular baking dish, spread a generous 1/4 cup of the béchamel. Add your first layer of cooked noodles, patching them to form a layer.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Ladle 1 cup bolognese sauce over the noodles, spreading it evenly. Drizzle 1/2 cup béchamel over the bolognese; don’t worry about getting it perfectly smooth or even. Sprinkle the layer with 1/3 cup parmesan cheese.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Repeat this process — pasta + 1 cup bolognese + 1/2 cup béchamel + 1/3 cup parmesan — three more times, then add one more layer of pasta. You’ll use 5 layers of pasta total. Sprinkle the top layer with your remaining parmesan before baking.

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Bake your lasagna for 30 to 45 minutes, until bubbly all over and browned on top. When it comes out of the oven, let it rest for 10 minutes before serving it. Do ahead: Lasagna can be prepared right up until the baking point a day in advance, and kept wrapped in plastic in the fridge.
Here are my two pans worth - wrapped and ready for Supper Club!
e voilà!!!
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Then each portion of lasagna was drizzled with Italian Truffle oil that we brought back from the Tuscan winery we visited (Tenuto Torciano). I also served along side the lasagna a trio of Italian olives as well as extra bolognese sauce and freshly shaved Parmesan. Sooooo good!
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

Great Italian Bread!

Dipping sauce:

(Adapted from All Recipes)
Photo Credit: All
Serves 8
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup hot water
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
1/4 cup coffee liqueur
2 (3-oz.) packages ladyfingers
1/2 cup grated semisweet or dark chocolate

Beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.
Beat whipping cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Fold into cream cheese mixture.
Stir together 1/2 cup hot water and coffee granules until dissolved. Stir in 1/4 cup liqueur.
Arrange ladyfingers evenly around sides of 8 (6-oz.) coffee cups or ramekins. Drizzle ladyfingers with coffee mixture. Spoon or pipe cream cheese mixture into center of ramekins. Sprinkle with grated chocolate. Cover and chill 2 hours.

Note: To serve the tiramisù in a single dish, prepare recipe as directed through Step 3. Arrange half of ladyfingers in bottom and up sides of a 2-qt. serving bowl. Drizzle evenly with half of coffee mixture. Top with half of cream cheese mixture. Repeat layers once. Sprinkle with grated chocolate. Cover and chill 2 hours.
***This tiramisu was so delicious!  Unfortunately I didn't snap a picture (since we all scarfed it up too quickly!), but Sheila served it in individual coffee cups - too too cute!

Photo Credit:
We are also doing a little wine pairing with delicious Italian wines as follows:
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
We are beginning with the lightest wine (a Pinot Grigio), and progressing to the heartiest one (a bold Chiati).

Antipasto course - Santa Margharita Pinot Grigio 2012

Italian Chopped Salad Course - Monte Antico Toscana 2009

Lasagna Bolognese course - we're going to sample two wines here.  The first is a bit lighter and the second a more robust red.
- Santa Cristina Annata 2011
- Castiglioni Chianti 2010

For the Tiramisu, we are sampling a surprise wine that one of our supper club members offered to share.

Can't wait!!!
Wendy pouring a sample of her Chocolate Wine to taste with the Tiramisu

Photo Credit:
The table is set with as close to a Tuscan feel as I can garner - just need the guests to arrive!
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Oh and psst......we have a new Suwanee Supper Club member:

It was a great evening of delicious food and fabulous friends!  For December we've decided to all go out to dinner somewhere fabulous, and then we'll meet up again at Denise and Greg's on February 7th!