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Italian feast for four


pansophia
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Okay, apparently my mother's "only wish" for her sixtieth birthday is to spend it with her children. Since my brother and his very pregnant wife are out in Montana...hubby and I are "the children." Honestly I think it's all a ruse to make us clean our house. Since I'm adopted, she was unable to pass on the Martha neat-freak gene to me! She did manage to pass along her love of good food though.

Anywho, she loves all things Italian so I'm using this as an excuse to try a recipe from Jamie Oliver's Italy that I've been drooling over - "sugo di cinghiale di mercatello." (Also known as wild boar sauce from mercatello.)

We'll be doing a test run of the meal this week as I never serve something to guests for the first time. Since it's just four of us (and one hyper puppy) I'm not planning a huge menu, but I do need to fill in a few blanks.

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Appetizer - The easiest would be some bruschetta with a couple of nice toppings, any ideas other than the standard tomato and basil?

Salad - Panzanella maybe? Too summery? Or some simple greens with a homemade vinaigrette - any ideas for a salad addition to make it pop? She loves caprese but we do it a lot.

Main - Wild boar sauce over homemade pappardelle

Dessert - Leaning towards a vanilla panna cotta with a strawberry/balsamic sauce.

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Does this sound like a well balanced menu? The only thing I'm really dead set on is the boar. I found a great local butcher who gets everything locally and he special ordered a boar shoulder for me. On the big day I hope to use as many local and fresh ingredients as I can find.

While I love to cook, I tend to keep things pretty simple for friends. I have a desire to truly wow my parents on this very special occasion.

Please give me some feedback as this is my first real "dinner party" and I'm nervous!

Thank you thank you!

-Kate

"Vegetables aren't food. Vegetables are what food eats."

--

food.craft.life.

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Don't be nervous, it all sounds great, and most of the menu seems easy. How about a minestrone, an escarole in broth, or some other small soup course? When we do bruschetta, we sometimes also serve small cups of soup alongside. We use coffee cups and saucers, or espresso cups. Everyone seems to really like this, and it is a really festive addition to serve soup in this novel way!

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I agree with Rebecca - no need to be nervous - sounds great! I got the same cookbook from someone for Christmas this year - I think it was so i would cook them something out of it! :smile: In looking through it for ideas, I'm really liking the look at the insalata di radicchio e rughetta - I think the spicy greens would be nice before the boar.

As for the apps, Little Miss Foodie turned me onto a crostini recipe from Food and Wine which is ricotta and radishes and rocket. We made it and I thought it was really good and then I made it again for a cocktail thing and everyone loved it. I never add links to my post, so I'm having a hard time figuring out how to do it, but the recipe is on the Food and Wine magazine site and it's Fresh Ricotta and Radish Crostini. I think the tip to making it good is to dress the radishes and rocket really well before putting them on.

Good luck and have fun!

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It's hard to do a tomato/basil crostini at this time of year. The tomatoes taste worse than cardboard!

What about some salumi's? Does your butcher have any great salumi's? Cheeses?

What about chicken liver crostini? Or a simple garlic, olive oil, sprinkle of salt crostini?

Soups are a great starter in January.

Have fun with your family and the menu! Buon compleano to your mother!! :biggrin:

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A nice crostini is white beans, fresh herbs, and italian canned tuna in oil

very bright and tasty

Tracey

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A favorite Italian salad I make this time of year when tomatoes are at their weakest uses mixed greens or arugula/rocket, olive oil-lemon vinagrette, small cubes of percorino or parmigiano reggiano and sliced pears. A great combination of tart vinaigrette, slightly bitter greens, savory cheese and sweet pears.

I like the other crostini (non-tomato) ideas above as well. If you'r set on tomatoes I'd try a sun-dried tomato topping.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

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Thanks for all the great ideas!

I'm loving the idea of some soup and crostini, it's cold here right now so soup always sounds good. Jamie's Italy has some other topping ideas I will check out as well.

I can't believe I didn't think of a nice salad with some pears, it's one of my favorites!

Tonight we will marinate the boar and make the panna cotta for our trial run tomorrow night (what a great excuse to eat well!) so I will post results.

"Vegetables aren't food. Vegetables are what food eats."

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food.craft.life.

The Lunch Crunch - Our daily struggle to avoid boring lunches

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To me it is strange to put two "primi" dishes in a menu.

Unless it's a very formal meal with many courses I will never put together a soup and a pasta.

After the pasta, I will go the Italian way that would be a roast of meat and vegetable, or it for you is too heavy with a vegetarian dish (like a sformato di spinaci)

Pannacotta is always good.

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To me it is strange to put two "primi" dishes in a menu.

Unless it's a very formal meal with many courses I will never put together  a soup and a pasta...

My mother was Italian(a Serina-Romanetta), and one of our cooks was as well. Growing up we often had soup before ANYTHING else at the meal, and then pasta, then meat with vegetables. Sometimes we would have a fish course! I don't think this was considered formal at all. But, then, perhaps you are considering those immense portions one sees served in some American restaurants, and not the smaller courses that are usually served at home. I mean, I've ordered soup, a pasta, vegetables and a meat course, and had enough soup for 2 people, enough pasta for 4 people, and enough meat for 3, in some places! How do you get to the dessert if you eat it all? It's why we are having trouble staying at a healthy weight, I think! At least, that's MY excuse! :laugh:

We had soup more often than anything, my mother's mother had taught her that soup was an excellent digestive aid, and it always showed up at the table. To this day, I offer soups of some sort with the other items at the beginnings of meals. As I said before, we serve small amounts. It's charming to serve this way, too.

So, although, really, limitations don't exist anyway, it is just fine to include soup, pasta, vegetables, meat, or anything you'd care to, in your menu. Or not, if you don't care to. It's a meal, a labor of love, not an exam in formailty.

Also, many of us are used to many small courses for a meal, instead of the country tradition of just a couple of platters at the table. Serving in courses is a bit more festive, to me. Your mother is going to feel very pampered and special by your attentions, I think that you are wonderful to go to such efforts in her honor. :smile:

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I always like to start an Italian meal with an antipasta, served with bread that could be bruschetta and also plain or garlic. (Maybe put the brushetta topping on the side?) I always include a platter of homemade roasted peppers, marinaded artichoke hearts and mushrooms, capers and anchovies, black and green olives, all on one big platter with extra juice poured over. Then probably dish of caponata or similar on the side, along with sliced salami and provolone. Of course if you pig out on this, you won't eat much dinner: I always count on leftovers to pick on the next day!

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Well, we did our test run last week but I haven't had a chance to post pics.

Boar sauce over homemade pasta

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Vanilla bean panna cotta with a strawberry-balsamic topping

SANY0118.JPG

Next time I'll do a slightly different pasta shape and probably toss it all together instead of just topping it. We played around with the leftovers and tossed worked better.

I still have tried my crostini toppings but I'm less worried about those.

Yum!

"Vegetables aren't food. Vegetables are what food eats."

--

food.craft.life.

The Lunch Crunch - Our daily struggle to avoid boring lunches

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Well, the big dinner is over and went off without a hitch. I ended up not doing as many different things as planned due to time, but I think that was good. I may have been trying to overstretch a bit.

Either way, Mom said it was the best birthday present ever so apparently she approved!

Here are some photos of the prep and the dinner:

When we did our test run, I forgot to read the whole recipe carefully and we cut the boar in to nice sauce sized pieces before we marinated it with wine and veggies. The next night I noticed that the veggies all got discarded...which meant I had to pick out all the bits of boar. Fun.

This time we cut the meat into strips to marinate:

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I took any stress out on the sage and juniper berries. I'd never used our pestle and mortar before, was kinda fun!:

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Homemade fettucini hanging over blue cheese and walnut stuffed figs wrapped in prosciutto (waiting to go in the oven):

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The boar, second installment of veggies, pancetta, and peppers all cooking away. This was just before adding the second half of the bottle of white wine and pureed tomatos. Of course, I started feeling rushed and forgot to photograph the final stage:

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Mmm...vanilla bean panna cotta with a strawberry-balsamic sauce. Mom said my panna cotta is better thand hers and she and dad had never tried balsamic with fruit:

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Here's my "tablescape" - not very Italian but I just fell in love with that tablecloth:

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Oh, and here's my garbage disposal, reporting for duty!

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So yeah, I'm missing a photo of the actual finished dinner but it was darn good! It was a fun evening and I think we finally impressed my folks by being able to have a clean, comfortable house AND put together a great meal from scratch.

"Vegetables aren't food. Vegetables are what food eats."

--

food.craft.life.

The Lunch Crunch - Our daily struggle to avoid boring lunches

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Wow! You did an amazing job. Your mom must have been so happy that you went to such efforts for her, really! Oh, and you shoul get yourself over to the dinner thread, and post. Your cooking AND plating skills are terrific.

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Congratulations. It all looks lovely, and its wonderful that your mom is pleased. You wont serve anything to guests you havent done a test run on? Are you sure your mom didnt find a way to pass on a little Martha to you? :wink:

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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You wont serve anything to guests you havent done a test run on?

Oh, maybe if it's something basic, but not if I'm at all nervous about it! And hey, it means hubby and I got to eat VERY well two weeks in a row! ;)

Thanks for all the compliments. I love impressing and surprising people with food, especially my parents. I lived off Spaghettios and fast food for several years so this new love of real food is a major turn around.

Being able to list and pronounce every ingredient in a meal, well, it's priceless really. :)

"Vegetables aren't food. Vegetables are what food eats."

--

food.craft.life.

The Lunch Crunch - Our daily struggle to avoid boring lunches

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