I had a dinner party this past Wednesday night that was so much fun. One of my senior designers who worked for me years ago, I think back in the late 80’s, was in town and got in touch. She now lives in Singapore. She connected with another former designer and I got in touch with Carl, who was the second person I ever hired for the firm in the early 80’s. So with other friends, we were 8 people in total and three were past employees of PM+CO! It was just great catching up. Linda is a vegetarian and I wanted to make sure the whole meal was amassed with local farm vegetables from upstate, to bring great country flavors to a NYC dinner party. So I started with a salad of farm lettuce and arugula from my garden, topped with roasted beets, Coach Farms goat cheese, toasted pine nuts and a sherry vinaigrette. I then roasted two huge trays of vegetables – yellow squash, zucchini, Portobello mushrooms, eggplant, Vidalia onions, smashed whole garlic cloves (from Ethel’s garden), red, and orange peppers and baby turnips – with Greek olive oil and French grey salt. I made a mass of steamed Jasmine rice, folded in Goya black beans (for protein) and for the non-vegetarians, I pan roasted 2 whole chickens seasoned with salt, pepper and Garam Masala. It was all really simple. I also had made some basil pesto the night before from basil in my garden, picked on Monday. I decided to put some of that in a bowl and people spooned it on everything and even took some home! I was originally going to fold the pesto into the rice and beans but after taking a survey from everyone during the cocktail hour, we decided this was the way to go. A dollop on top on the vegetables was divine. Barbara asked for a batch as her Christmas present and Mary Beth took a container full home. People just wanted to eat it straight. I really never dreamed of that for pesto. I just wanted to serve it because I had just made a bunch and with our youngest being in Europe, we couldn’t possibly eat it all, although pesto does freeze quite well.
We finished the meal with a rhubarb crisp (really quick and easy to make) topped with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream. Not bad for a weeknight dinner party!
Here is the pesto recipe. Remember, it’s all about the quality of the ingredients for any dish you make, so use the very best you can.
-makes about 3 cups
3 cups of packed basil leaves, thoroughly washed and dried
6 – 7 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups Greek extra virgin olive oil (I like Athena brand)
1 1/2 cups walnuts
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan (Reggiano) cheese
2/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano (Locatelli) cheese
In a large food processor, combine basil, garlic and walnuts. Process to make a near paste. Scrape bowl. With machine on, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Scrape bowl again. Add the cheeses, a big pinch of salt and 20 grinds on fresh pepper. Process again, taste and add more salt, if necessary, to your liking.
A one cup portion is enough to coat 1 lb. of dried pasta, cooked. I like it on fusilli best as it can get in all the little groves for maximum coverage and flavor.
This freezes well.
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