Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Summer Solstice Supper - With Mint, Berries, Lemons, and the Funnest People on Earth

What better reason for a dinner party than the longest day of the year? Light up the grill and stay outside with a drink and some good friends and enjoy every last minute of extended daylight together. I'm so glad that my party this weekend fell on this date.

Well, to tell the truth, I can't keep dinner guests outside too long. I don't have a grill - or a yard to put one in. At least when they arrived I could serve drinks and nibbles on the balcony.

Flatbreads, pate, and spinach dip courtesdy of Trader Joe's, and chased with a pitcher of white zinfandel sangria . For once I relaxed and didn't insist on doing *everything* myself.

(Well I had to do something with that useless bottle of white zin in the fridge!)

The best part was that our guests were Kevin's friend Bryan and his wife. Kevin has excellent taste in friends. Kevin met Bryan when they were theater majors at Queens College. After graduation, they formed the comedy/music group Black Shabbos along with another friend, also named Brian (at least he spelled it differently). They spent several years touring clubs and campuses around the country, but eventually Bryan married Jenny and they began popping out the young'uns. The act was getting old. Bryan and Brian decided to pursue their show business dreams in L.A. Kevin opted to continue to pursue opportunities in New York (and for my sake I'm glad he did). For many long years Kevin was separated from two of his best friends. I never even got to meet them until our wedding where they served as ushers.

A few years ago Bryan and Jenny decided to return to the east coast. Now they're in New Jersey, a few hops, a few skips, and some big jumps away. It's great because we can get together periodically for dinner. Sometimes it's their place. Sometimes it's ours. Sometimes we meet in the city. No matter what, it's always a great time. I'm so happy that we have Bryan and Jenny to share the solstice with.

So, what was on the menu?

After the balcony started to feel a little crowded, I served the first course of Orechiette with the World's Greatest Pesto Sauce.

Okay. It's actually called Orechiette with Pistachio Pesto, but I'm telling you, the combination of pistachio and pecorino cheese is too good to be believed.

Mint carried over into the next course with a recipe of my own invention: Cornish Hens with Raspberry Mint Glaze.

The method I used was something that was sort of inspired by Emeril. I saw him butterfly a chicken once on his Essence show and he browned it in a pan before putting it in the oven. I decided to try something a little unorthodox and did the same for my hens. I split them (or should I say I - hee hee hee- spatchcocked them?) and browned them in a pan on the stovetop with olive oil and butter. Then I glazed them with a mixture of raspberry preserves, raspberry vinegar, and chopped mint leaves. They were then finished in the oven.

Check out the size of those suckers. Whole Foods, which usually is never in short supply of cornish hens, had none the day I went shopping. I ended up at Stew Leonards, which I know has every cut of meat on earth. Unfortunately, the only kind they had was Perdue and Perdue, besides being that weird yellow color, also breeds mega-hens. I saw whole organic chickens at Whole Foods that were probably smaller than these game hens.

Skin is brown. On with the glaze. Into the oven.

On the side is grilled lemon zucchini (grilled on a grill pan on the stove) which was inspired by a recipe from Proud Italian Cook.

Finally, we carried the berries and lemons into the dessert with Raspberry-Lemon Cake.

Although I didn't technically create this recipe, I did cobble it together from other recipes. This is a nice simple vanilla cake layered with lemon curd and covered with strawberry whipped cream. (I'm a bit of a klutz with the piping bag).


Cornish Hens with Raspberry-Mint Glaze
4 Cornish hens, backbones removed and pressed to flatten
1/2 cup raspberry preserves (no sugar added, fruit-only variety)
2 Tbl raspberry vinegar
2 Tbl chopped fresh mint
2 Tbl butter
2 Tbl olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together preserves, vinegar, and mint leaves.

Heat oil and butter in a large skillet. Sprinkle hens with salt and pepper. Place hens in the skillet skin side down and brown about 10 minutes. You will need to do two hens at a time. Keep the first two warm while you brown the others.

Place browned hens in a baking pan and brush glaze all over them. Place in the oven for another twenty minutes or until they reach 165 degrees.

Method for Strawberry Lemon Cake
Substitute the self-rising flour with 3 cups and 4 tablespoons cake flour, along with 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Make one recipe Ina Garten's Lemon Curd

Whip 1 pint of heavy cream with 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon grand marnier to soft peaks. Fold in 1 cup of pureed fresh strawberries. Whip again to stiff peaks.

Brush the cake layers with a fruity liqueur. Layer lemon curd in between. Frost with the strawberry cream.

Happy Summer Everyone!!!!


Adam said...

I like the idea of berries in just about every course you have. Sangria is a great way to start any party off, and then the raspberry glazed hens totally caught my eye.

How was the pine nut honey ice cream? That seems very intriguing.

Proud Italian Cook said...

What an absolute feast you had there! Looks like you had a perfect Summer Solstice Supper!
I'm so glad you liked the zucchini ribbons, thanks for the mention!!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Adam - the ice cream was to die for. It was even better than I expected it to be. I highly recommend the recipe.

PIC - Thanks for dropping by. I have been using your idea of grilled zucchini in lemon dressing ever since I saw it on your blog. It has become a staple vegetable side for me this summer.

michelle @ TNS said...

can i come over for the solstice next year? because, yum.

Heather said...

What a great meal! Al fresco dining is the best part of this time of year, next to the wonderful fresh produce.

Emiline said...

Wow! You know how to throw a party. I would love to come over. Everything sounds delicious.

Pasta with pistachio pesto? AmAzInG!

And I want that cake! I love strawberry and lemon together.

Happy summer!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Michelle - Maybe I'll do something for the autumnal equinox. You can come over for that.

Heather - I just wish it could have been totally al fresco. *sigh* Someday I'll have a real yard. At least I got that great fresh produce thing happening. The strawberries in the cake were from a farm market.

Em - You'll have to come for that Equinox dinner too.

Lo said...

That's such a fantastic (and lovely) spread!

I'm particularly enthralled by the raspberry glazed hens. Delectable.

Bubbe you may not be -- but she ain't got nothin' on you!! :)

KALVA said...

Wow love your pasta