Menu: Summer Fête
I created this dinner with its specific menu based on my love of entertaining and gathering good friends at our dining table. Very few things could be more satisfying than good conversation with close friends while sharing an elegant repast. We consider the couple we invited for this evening to be our first mutual friends after my husband and I started dating. We’ll call them N & M. We always love hosting a variety of people, friends and family from all over the world; there is nothing more enjoyable then a delicious, home cooked meal and great company. N & M are also gourmands and true oenophiles who appreciate refined healthy foods paired with the right wines in a cultured setting. The seasonal vegetables and fruit served as inspiration for this elegant yet easy to prepare dinner. If you haven’t tried the white asparagus yet, now is the time to catch this wonderful vegetable at your local markets. The figs now are also in season, ripe, succulent and full of sweet flavor.
As a tasty hors d’oeuvre, serve your guests the Bruschetta with Brie Cheese, Roasted Bell Peppers and Medley of Mushrooms. The crunchy texture of bruschetta contrasts beautifully with the melting softness of the cheese, the sweetness of roasted bell peppers and slightly seared medley of mushrooms. Serve this stylish, flavorsome starter with a glass of bubbly Champagne and enjoy the accolades from your guests.
Asparagi Bianchi, the White Asparagus, is a seasonal vegetable that never sees the light of day while growing and impresses one by its softness and succulent flavor from the very first bite. When cooked, white asparagus absorbs all the flavors of the stock, bay leave and butter. In this appetizer, the spears are paired with a thinly sliced soft Guanciale (pronounced Gwahn-CHA-leh); the cured jowl of the finest pig, a delicate sweet pea purée and slightly marinated crisp endive, radicchio leaves and fresh mâche.
Cherry Tomato and Potato Salad with fresh Burrata cheese is a simple way to bring some color to your table. The virtual rainbow of cherry tomatoes, purple potatoes and snow-white Burrata cheese makes a delectable and visually vibrant appetizer. The sweet and juicy tomatoes play off the slightly salty Burrata and a sprinkle of Hawaiian black lava sea salt spices up the whole dish. Use tiny black Niçoise olives cut in half; their intense salty flavor goes very well with the sweetness of the tomatoes. Boiled purple potatoes not only add some vivid color but also bring different density to the ensemble. Drizzle it with some good quality olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar — that’s all the dressing it needs.
Oven-Baked Halibut on a Purée of Carrot & Vegetables is a simple, yet sophisticated main course, full of wonderful flavors. It is essential that the fillets are as fresh as possible and similar in size. Halibut is a sumptuous fish with great texture and big flavor, leave it in the marinade and bake to perfection while the guests are enjoying their appetizers. All the vegetable components of this dish, mise en place, so to say, can be prepared in advance and kept refrigerated. The earthy flavor of carrot purée goes particularly well with firm-fleshed white fish like halibut. Roasted bell peppers add the sweetness and hazelnuts some crunch. The quenelles of olive tapenade add light salty richness and depth to this otherwise light main course. The result: a terrific main course with a delightful blend of flavor, texture, color and substance.
For dessert, I served Pistachio Cake served with ripe succulent figs, drizzled with Acacia honey and a bowl of Greek yogurt on the side. In every bite of this savory feel-good cake, there is nutritional value from the crunchy pistachios. Alternatively, feel free to substitute figs with your favorite berries and a scoop of ice-cream. I like pairing my desserts with wines. Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois is a dessert wine from France with rich golden yellow color, distinguished by complex aromas of apricots, quince, mandarin and honey. Taste its lusciousness on the palate in combination with a slice of this moist cake.