Tag Archives: cheese

Ricotta and Pomegranate Crostini

Quick and easy snacks are essential this time of the year but that doesn’t mean we should sacrifice taste or presentation!  These crostini are beautiful with their snowy white ricotta and shiny pomegranate jewels dusted on top.  If you want to make life even easier go ahead and buy the seeds.  However, seeding a pomegranate is really fun and its much cheaper.  Make sure to use a really good baguette and high quality ricotta, otherwise this will taste flat since it uses so few ingredients.  I bought some local stuff or you can make your own ricotta.  These are great for holidays drinks with friends after work or even a little snack for Santa when he comes down the chimney!

Ricotta and Pomegranate Crostini (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  those lovely little holiday jewels, pomegranate seeds
Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 baguettes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • XX ounces of ricotta cheese
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • several sprigs of thyme
  • 1 pomegranate or 1 package of pomegranate seeds

Preheat your oven to 340 degrees.  Slice the baguettes on a diagonal into 1/2 inch slices – you should get about 20-25 slices per baguette.  Line them up on baking sheets and then drizzle with olive oil, and season them with salt and pepper.

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Bake until toasty, about 10-15 minutes.  Let cool (these can be made earlier in the day and stored in a container, just make sure they have cooled before putting them into a baggie or they will steam.  In a medium bowl combine the ricotta with salt, pepper and the lemon zest.  Spread about a tablespoon and a half of the ricotta on each crostini.  Seed the pomegranate (instructions here) and sprinkle the seeds over the crostini.  Pull off leaves from the thyme sprigs and sprinkle those on top as well.  These are great served at room temperature and can be left out for several hours.

 

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Ricotta and Pomegranate Crostini

  • Servings: 50 pieces
  • Time: 20 minutes
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Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 baguettes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • XX ounces of ricotta cheese
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • several sprigs of thyme
  • 1 pomegranate

Preheat your oven to 340 degrees.  Slice the baguettes on a diagonal into 1/2 inch slices – you should get about 20-25 slices per baguette.  Line them up on baking sheets and then drizzle with olive oil, and season them with salt and pepper.

Bake until toasty, about 10-15 minutes.  Let cool (these can be made earlier in the day and stored in a container, just make sure they have cooled before putting them into a baggie or they will steam.  In a medium bowl combine the ricotta with salt, pepper and the lemon zest.  Spread about a tablespoon and a half of the ricotta on each crostini.  Seed the pomegranate and sprinkle the seeds over the crostini.  Pull off leaves from the thyme sprigs and sprinkle those on top as well.  These are great served at room temperature and can be left out for several hours.

Classic Cheesecake

A couple weeks ago Patrick and I were having his boss over for dinner on a Friday night and I was trying to figure out a delicious yet special meal that I could serve after a full day of work.  Make ahead was a given, and since she is from New York it hit me – have cheesecake for dessert!  Somehow in the years we have been together I have never made my cheesecake for Patrick and now I have a feeling it will be requested often.  It is the perfect holiday item – the ingredients are super simple, it’s pretty hands off, it actually needs to be made in advance, lasts for days and is almost universally loved!  It is also a great dessert to bring to a family holiday meal or an office party, as transporting it in a springform pan means that it can’t really get crushed.

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What a springform pan looks like in case you don’t have one

This is a pretty simple version with just a few twists thrown in to amp up the flavor.  I put orange zest and juice in the cheese mixture as I think the citrus helps keep the filling from being one note.  Also I like to add bourbon to the sour cream topping but since it’s not cooked off if you want you can just use vanilla extract.  While this cheesecake takes a little while to make and then you have to chill it, the actual hands on time is so minimal you could easily do it when you get home one night and then serve it the upcoming weekend.  Thursday I will post a stuffed shells recipe that can also be make in advance – pair the two and you can feed a huge crowd this season with zero hassle!

Classic Cheesecake (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  everyone’s favorite made easy
Special Equipment:  9 inch springform pan

  • 6 ounces or 1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup, a 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 16 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons bourbon

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.  Spray your springform pan with cooking spray or grease with vegetable oil.  In a medium bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, a 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the melted butter.  The consistency should be like wet sand.

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Using your fingers press the mixture into the bottom of the springform pan, trying to keep it as consistent as possible.  Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or a hand held mixer, combine the cream cheese and 1 cup of sugar until smooth.  Add the orange juice and zest along with one of the eggs and mix to combine.  Add the last two eggs, and a pinch of salt and combine, making sure to scrape down the sides.  Pour into the pan over the crust and put in the oven (I put the springform pan on a baking sheet to make it easier to take out of the oven.)

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Bake for 1 hour.  When the hour is up turn off the oven but do not remove the cake, instead open the oven door and leave it ajar for 30 more minutes.

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In a small bowl combine the sour cream, the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and the bourbon.  Spread evenly on top of the cheesecake and return it to the cooling down oven for another 30 minutes with the door ajar.

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Take the cheesecake out of the oven and allow to completely cool.  Then cover the pan with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours or up to 2 days before serving.

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Classic Cheesecake

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 5 1/2 hours with chilling time
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Special Equipment:  9 inch springform pan

  • 6 ounces or 1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup, a 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 16 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons bourbon

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.  Spray your springform pan with cooking spray or grease with vegetable oil.  In a medium bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, a 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the melted butter.  The consistency should be like wet sand.  Using your fingers press the mixture into the bottom of the springform pan, trying to keep it as consistent as possible.  Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or a hand held mixer, combine the cream cheese and 1 cup of sugar until smooth.  Add the orange juice and zest along with one of the eggs and mix to combine.  Add the last two eggs, and a pinch of salt and combine, making sure to scrape down the sides.  Pour into the pan over the crust and put in the oven (I put the springform pan on a baking sheet to make it easier to take out of the oven.  Bake for 1 hour.  When the hour is up turn off the oven but do not remove the cake, instead open the oven door and leave it ajar for 30 more minutes.  In a small bowl combine the sour cream, the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and the bourbon.  Spread evenly on top of the cheesecake and return it to the cooling down oven for another 30 minutes with the door ajar.  Take the cheesecake out of the oven and allow to completely cool.  Then cover the pan with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours or up to 2 days before serving.

Blue Cheese Mascarpone Dip

 

If you read my post last week about my favorite items from Trader Joe’s, then you know I am a sucker for everything they make with pumpkin in it.  Last time I was there I saw these Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps (a seasonal cousin to their awesome Raisin Rosemary Crisps).  I grabbed a container of their mascarpone cheese knowing that the rich buttery flavor would make for a great base for a dip.  Once I got home I realized I just so happened to have a small piece of blue cheese that I got as a remnant at Righteous Cheese.  Whip them together with some cream and you have a super rich, unbelievably easy dip.  This is a great one to make if you happen to have a small piece of blue cheese left over – also any other pungent cheese would work, I was thinking Humboldt Fog would be even better.  Add as much or as little of the secondary cheese as you would like.  Since this isn’t a super flavorful dip you want to pair it with these crisps or something else like an everything bagel cracker, that has a lot of flavor.  This would be a great one to set out at Thanksgiving as you can make it several days ahead and will only take about 1 minute of your time to pull together.

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Blue Cheese Mascarpone Dip(printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  a cheesy pairing for my pumpkin crisps
Special Equipment:  none

  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 1 to 2 ounces blue cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • salt and pepper

In a medium size bowl combine the mascarpone and blue cheeses with the cream (I used a hand mixer, a spatula or food processor would work as well).

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Season with salt and pepper.  Can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days – take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving.  Pairs nicely with Trader Joe’s Pumpkin and Cranberry Crisps.

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Blue Cheese Mascarpone Dip

  • Servings: 1 1/2 cups
  • Time: 1 minute
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 1 to 2 ounces blue cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • salt and pepper

In a medium size bowl combine the mascarpone and blue cheeses with the cream (I used a hand mixer, a spatula or food processor would work as well).

ACC’s Kitchen: Favorites from Trader Joes

Hello wall of cheese!  I hope most of you are lucky enough to live near a Trader Joe’s – I can hardly contain myself that one is actually opening in walking distance from my house!  For anyone who has survived a Trader Joe’s parking lot then you know how amazing that is.  The reason those parking garages are like the Hunger Games is that once you get hooked on Trader Joe’s you just want more.  I will admit that it is not the best store for everything – the produce can be iffy, same with the meat selection and you won’t be finding rolls of Bounty or boxes of Lucky Charms here.  However, for life’s important things – cheese, wine, croissants and fresh flowers – TJ’s is the best.  Shopping there can be a bit overwhelming, especially at peak times, so it’s easy to pass right by terrific items if you don’t know what to look for.  I have seen a couple articles on the best TJ items, all which left out some of my favorites and then my dad introduced me to their chocolate croissants which I had been missing for years!  Clearly it was time to share A Capitol Contessa’s Best of TJ’s to hopefully help you get out of there with all your limbs attached and a cart full of goodies.

Flowers

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Starting here since they are usually right by the door.  I love having fresh cut flowers in my house especially when it starts to get cold and nasty out but it’s an expensive habit.  TJ’s doesn’t have the biggest selection but the quality is good and the prices cannot be beat.  I like to grab a couple bunches of a single flower so it looks really bountiful – I will usually go with the alstroemeria (also known as Peruvian lilies), roses, tulips or hydrangeas.  If you like a little more variety they have mixed bouquets as well.  Grab some flowers and add them to your cart and they will bring a sense of clam as you enter the breach.

Produce

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As I mentioned, this is certainly not TJ’s strong point.  I have often found a giant pile of avocados just to discover that every single one is almost liquid inside.  Same for pre-washed lettuce – just don’t, the odds are about 99% that once you get home it will already be rotten.  However, there are a couple of notable high points where TJ’s gets it better than most grocery stores.  Jalapenos for instance, TJ’s sells them in plastic clamshell boxes so you get about a dozen or so and they are big, spicy and are always in good shape.  Perfect for making jalapeno chips.  Also terrific (random I know) are their bags of green scallions.

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I find that even in the best grocery stores often green onions are tiny, or totally limp, or half rotten.  The ones at Trader Joe’s are really good and keep for a while in the bag (pro tip – add a paper towel to the inside of that bag before you put it back in the fridge and they will last even longer).  You can sometimes get lucky with other fruits, veggies etc but these are the two that really stand out to me.  I am going to skip the meat section entirely because unless you are in a pinch and just need to grab chicken breasts there is really nothing to recommend there.

Refrigerated Dips and Pastas 

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I have never had a hummus from Trader Joe’s that I didn’t enjoy, and look at all the different varieties they have!  Great for taking into work as a snack (and yes they sell snack size too), their dips are also great for parties.  If you are hosting a ton of people grab their white bean spread or spicy hummus and just keep them in your fridge for back up.  Also delicious their fresh pastas that can be found right next to the hummus.  Don’t skip the Chicken Pot Pie Ravioli.

All the Cheese

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Now we are about to get serious.  If you go into Trader Joe’s for one thing and one thing only, make sure it’s a visit to their cheese wall.  For someone who makes a lot of cheese boards and has what some might qualify as a cheese problem, Trader Joe’s is the solution.  Extremely reasonably priced cheeses and a huge selection.  My favorites are the Dubliner Cheddar (which you will not find cheaper anywhere, ever), St. Andre, a brie like cheese, the Drunken Goat, Trader Joe’s brand Feta Cheese in Brine, their Goat Gouda, their fresh mozzarella…I could go on and on.  It’s a great place to grab cheeses that can get pretty pricey elsewhere like grueyre as they are sold in sealed packages so last for a long time until you have a french onion soup emergency.

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Also right next to the cheese is a deli meat display.  Please skip past all the sad looking pre-sliced turkey and go right for the prosciutto.  I like this brand in the picture better then their own Trader’s Joe brand but either way they are both very inexpensive and another great staple to have in your fridge (grilled cheese with prosciutto emergencies are a real thing too).

Nuts and Dried Fruit

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Make sure to hit the nut aisle before the holidays – the prices are out of this world.  I buy in bulk and then make my famous spiced nuts as gifts for people all season long.  I also make sure to have a bag of roasted and salted cashews on hand for any impromptu happy hour.  TJ’s also has a great selection of dried fruit like cranberries, apple chips and crystallized ginger.

Canned Goods

There is usually one aisle next to produce that has various canned goods, condiments and the like.  I am a snob when it comes to oils and vinegars so I usually skip past those.  The canned beans and coconut milk are good and cheap but not really any better then what you get at a regular store.  What are great are these Yellow and Red Roasted Peppers.  Not only do I like that they use two different color peppers (presentation is everything!) but they are nicely charred, and are a great deal.  Another terrific pantry staple to turn into crostini or pizza topping.

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This aisle or perhaps the end of it, is usually where all the seasonal stuff is.  When fall hits I head straight to Trader Joe’s and buy all the pumpkin everything.  That Pancake and Waffle mix is incredible and I will be posting a recipe next week for a dip to go with their Pumpkin and Cranberry Crisps that would be perfect for Thanksgiving.

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Sweets

A lot of the stuff at Trader Joe’s is meant to support a healthy live style, organic, etc etc but they also have some really dangerous treats scattered around the store.  My friends Debbie and Toby introduced us to these Dunkers that are just awesome with coffee.  Usually they are in the frozen food aisle.

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Also in the frozen aisle are their incredible self rising croissants.  On a recent visit to my dad’s house he opened my eyes to these babies and as soon as I came back I had to get them.  They are sold frozen but you have to make sure to plan in advance as they rise over night.  Take them out of the packaging and place them on a baking sheet the night before and viola, the next AM they have tripled in size and are ready to bake off.  20 minutes later it’s like you have a French cafe right in your own kitchen.  They have plain mini ones, my favorite the chocolate ones and my dad’s favorite the almond ones.  They are the perfect thing to make when you have overnight guests.

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Unfortunately they didn’t have any of my favorite sweet treat last time I visited – the Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels.  They usually carry them around Christmas, though this year they also did a pumpkin version for fall.  SO good – make sure to stock up this December to last you through the first nasty snow storm.

Wine and Beer

Now that you have all that cheese you are going to need wine to go with it.  Again low prices and a pretty diverse selection though you can run into some duds here.  The craft beer selection is always solid and usually features whatever is local (in DC is its a good spot to pick up Port City or DC Brau beer).  For wine I usually go with the Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc or the Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles but there are also some nice Italian reds and French roses.  Avoid the 2 buck chuck and go for those with the “staff pick” signs and you should be good.

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I am always on the look out for new great Trader Joe’s products so make sure to leave your favorites in the comments section.  I looked like a total ass taking pictures in the store but I do it all for you dear readers!  Luckily I had a couple nice bottles of wine and a whole cart full of cheese to help get over my embarrassment…

Host a Raclette Night

Melted cheese as the basis for dinner?  Yes please!!  No it’s not fondue, it’s raclette – the Swiss tradition that is becoming all the rage.  Raclette is actually a kind of semi-hard cow’s milk cheese, as well as a method of melting said cheese into a dinner party sensation.  Years ago as a wedding present, my family friend Beverly, gave us an 8 person raclette maker along with a mega waffle iron.  The genius of a large raclette maker is that the top acts as a griddle so she explained it would be great for pancakes etc but if we wanted to it also doubled as this thing called a raclette maker, something very popular up in Canada where she lives.

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The little raclette scoops go under the griddle surface to melt, while the top is left free to heat up anything you want to dip into the cheese.  Genius.

I sort of forgot about its secondary use until one day, low and behold, Crate and Barrel had an entire raclette display set up.  Up until then I didn’t realize it meant melting cheese and pairing it with all of my favorite things!  I ran home, pulled it out and raclette night has been popular in the Costello house ever since.  Friends love raclette night because it’s a fun communal way of eating that encourages sitting around, cracking into some bottles and experimenting with different combinations.  When I first started doing raclette it was hard to find the actual cheese but now I am seeing it everywhere.  If you are in DC, Righteous Cheese  carries an imported raclette from Switzerland (right) as well as one made in Vermont (left).  They also carry it at Trader Joes and Whole Foods.  As you can see it looks like Swiss cheese (duh) but has a much more nutty, rich flavor.

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You can always improvise with another kind of melting cheese if you can’t find raclette – I won’t tell anyone.  The real trick is getting one of the makers.  The 8 person version is the most popular because raclette is meant to be shared but I also found this cute one for 2 people.  I really like this version from Williams Sonoma as you can have a larger “coupelle” at the top to share but it doesn’t have the grill/griddle portion.  If you are going to get one I say go whole hog and get the one with the griddle on top so it’s a multi use item.  Now that you have your maker and your cheese you are going to need to find stuff to dip into that melty goodness.  I like to go classic with a mix of hearty vegetables, cured meats and of course BREAD.  The Swiss are also partial to pickled items with their cheese that gives it a nice tang.

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For this raclette party I served the following:  roasted brussel sprouts, prosciutto, calabrese salami, boiled baby new potatoes, cornichon, baguette slices, crackers, green grapes and grainy mustard.  Also good would be pickled onions, roasted turkey or ham, asparagus spears, chutney, kettle cooked potato chips…the list goes on and on.  That’s what is so fun about this dinner party is that all you really do is assemble.

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To go with the raclette I suggest getting some nice Belgian beer like these Chimays I picked up.  The beer makes a great foil to the cheese – we also had some nice artisanal cider from Millstone, which was particularly great with the Vermont raclette.

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Lest you think people will go away hungry, don’t – eating this much cheese really fills you up.  But just in case it is a good idea to end the night with something sweet.  I made this amazing blood orange tart with salted caramel on top.

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I have seen lots of local wine bars and cheese shops doing raclette nights so check out your local ones and see if you can get on the bandwagon.  I am sure once you have done it you will want to get a raclette maker for yourself!

A Make Ahead Dinner Party

When my friends Stefanie and Ari got engaged I knew I wanted to throw them a celebratory dinner party.  Of course coordinating the schedules of 4 busy people meant we had to wait a couple of months and do it on a Friday.  I didn’t want to sacrifice a delicious and special occasion meal just because I didn’t have all day to cook.  I do a lot of make ahead meals (just check out all the tags to that effect) but for this dinner to work EVERYTHING had to be made ahead or make in 3 minutes flat.  I did creep out of work a little early to make sure everything was perfect but it turned out to be unessecary.  If I didn’t have such curious kitties I would have even set the table the night before but no one really wants cat fur in their polenta so I just made sure everything was clean and set aside so it was easy to throw together.

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Since the theme was Italian I used this fun olive themed tablecloth and napkins (shhh, they are French!).  I love the graphic nature of these large olive oil containers I get at A Litteri so once they are empty I use a can opener to take off the top, rinse them out and repurpose as a vase.  This also works really well with large cans of tomatoes.  My little mini Chianti bottles as salt and pepper shakers from our trip to Italy made another appearance as well.  We opened a bottle of Brunello we had brought back from that trip to make it extra special.  It turned out to be a wonderful stress free night celebrating great friends with lots of wine and laughter – exactly what I wish for Stef and Ari in their lives together!

A Make Ahead Dinner Party Menu

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The easiest and most delicious way to start any meal hands down.  Buy the best ingredients ahead of time and then all you have to do is put them out.  I decided against a typical cheese board and instead took two types of cheeses and jazzed them up myself.  First I took some beautiful ricotta I bought at Righteous Cheese (who now ship nationwide!) and mixed it with meyer lemon zest, salt and pepper.  That was all it took to make store bought cheese a totally delicious spread, served with RC’s awesome rosemary crackers.

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Next I drained little bocchini mozzarella (those balls of mozzarella cheese you can find at the supermarket stored in brine) and tossed them with high quality olive oil, salt, fennel seeds and crushed red pepper flakes.  To round everything out I bought some mixed olives, pistachios and sliced some Olli calabrese salamini.  They are little baby salamis made by this amazing place in VA (you can find them lots of places in the DC area but I have also seen them in other areas at Whole Foods and even Costco – check their website for the place closest to you).  Plunk some grapes in the middle and you have a nice selection for your guests to pick on before the big meal – all in less than 10 minutes.

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Osso Bucco

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The star of the night was for sure this osso bucco that I posted last month.  A special occasion dish perfect for this dinner party – I made it several days before and just popped the whole pot into the fridge once it had cooled.  The night of the party I just reheated it over low heat, covered, for about 30 minutes.  Stefanie told me Ari was crazy for bone marrow so of course I also bought some rosemary dinner rolls from Lyon Bakery in Union Market so he had bread to slather the marrow on.  I just tossed them in a 350 degree oven as we ate the antipasto and served them warm.

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Sauteed Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

For some green on the table I opted for the super quick sauteed spinach.  Takes no more than five minutes to wilt the several mountains of spinach you will need and then tossed with raisins and pine nuts they are supremely Italian.  There are many versions of this dish, I used one from an old cookbook but this one by Martha is pretty much the same.

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I make the spinach while the bread was warming but you could also sautee it all in advance and then just warm over low heat right before eating if you cannot spare that 5 minutes!

Make Ahead Polenta

You think you can’t make polenta ahead of time?  You think you need to stand over it and stir and stir while your guests look on???  No longer – I have this great tip gleaned from Cooks Illustrated,  cook the polenta with extra liquid and you can make it ahead.  Basically for every ounce of dried polenta you use, cook it in a cup of water (ie I cooked 4 ounces of polenta in 4 cups of milk and water.  Cook for about 20 minutes just as you would normal polenta until it’s no longer raw and pour it into a baking pan.  It will be pretty soupy but that’s fine.  Chill it overnight, top with parmesan cheese and bake in a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes you get a creamy cheesey polenta with zero hassle.

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I used this amazing truffle polenta we still had on hand from our Italy trip but you could flavor it with herbs or garlic or just leave it plain.  Either way it will be delicious and creamy and the perfect accompaniment to the osso bucco with all that delicious sauce.

Tiramisu

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This dessert actually MUST be made in advance so all the booze and marscapone can meld with the lady fingers to create a decadent dessert.  Unfortunately, the version that I made for this dinner party was a bit of a bust so I won’t be recommending that recipe but there are only about a zillion out there.  This one from Epicurious has very good reviews and really any decent Italian cookbook should have one.  Or better yet – just buy one!  Serve with some espresso and maybe an after dinner drink and the party will be complete.  By my estimation you will spend about 30 minutes reheating things and 5 minutes with actual hands on cooking which will give you lots of time to enjoy your guests any night of the week.

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Sources:  Table linens from Creme de La Creme; water glasses by Duralex; Aspen Dinner plates by Crate and Barrel; Tour wine glasses by Crate and Barrel; Ceramic Woven Bread Basket by William Sonoma; polenta and tiramisu baking dishes by Le Creuset; antipasti items from Righteous Cheese in Union Market; bread from Lyon Bakery in Union Market.

Happy Hour for Two

DC is a pretty over-scheduled town.  I am as guilty as the next with every weekend jam packed with plans, usually with several groups of friends at a time.  However, every once and a while it’s nice to be able to sit down and just spend time one on one.  It had been way too long since I had some quality time with my friend Ali so I had her over for a happy hour for two.  By hosting at home you can really hear each other and not have to worry about hovering waiters or people trying to get your stools at the bar.  We got together on a Friday night so I wasn’t going to have time to cook anything.  This is what I like to call an assembled menu, where you just have to pick the best products, display them nicely and dive in!

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First thing is first – wine.  I picked a white and a red so we had options.  You don’t need to be a wine expert to pick a good bottle.  Easiest way is to pick your own house wine (feel free to steal mine from that post!) and have them on hand.  Here since I bought a French baguette and French tarts I picked a nice Bordeaux and a light French white to compliment the spread.  I wanted to have a little more than just a cheese board for this happy hour because there was a lot of gossip to catch up on – just wine plus cheese usually makes for a terrible next morning!  I got a nice chunk of aged English cheddar and paired it with wheat biscuits, fig jam, sliced apples and green grapes.

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I simply cannot ignore my love of goat cheese so I crumbled it up and put it in lovely, tender endive leaves.  Drizzled with honey and sprinkled with crushed pink peppercorns these are the perfect one bite.  Endive leaves is a nice way to keep your carbs in check and they make a lovely presentation.

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Since I was saving calories with the endive I decided to grab a mini baguette and serve it with high quality olive oil for dipping.  Don’t get too precious here – I just tore the baguette in half and then Ali and I could rip off what we wanted and dip away.  To round out the selection I got some green marinated olives, peppadews and marcona almonds.

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I always like to add a little something special to make my guests feel really pampered and these tiny adorable fruit tarts are just the ticket.  I got these from Whole Foods but check your local bakery and grab what looks good.  This was a great way to cap off the week and connect with my dear friend – I have included a shopping list below to make it even easier for you to have a little happy hour for two.  Cheers!

Happy Hour For Two

  • Servings: 2
  • Time: 10 minutes
  • Print

  • 1 bottle red wine and 1 bottle white wine
  • large piece of cheddar or other hard cheese
  • granny smith apples, thinly sliced
  • large bunch of grapes
  • crackers (I love these Bretons or Carr’s Water Crackers)
  • fruit jam to pair with cheese (my fave is this fig jam)
  • bread and olive oil for dipping
  • 1 head of endive
  • 2 to 3 ounces goat cheese
  • honey and pepper (I used pink peppercorns but regular ground pepper is fine)
  • olives and pickled peppers like Peppadews
  • nuts – I used Spanish marcona almonds
  • 2 single serve desserts like these fruit tarts
  • some flowers for the table

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