When summer is ending, I always feel the need to have a dinner party.
The end of summer means that I have just a few short weeks left before fresh produce declines. The corn, the tomatoes, and the peaches will not be with us much longer. I want to make the best use of them I can before they disappear and all I see at the farmer’s markets are apples and potatoes.
Once August hits, I start searching for a guest list and a reason to have a party and make a date. This year Kevin and I kept it to a family party. We wanted to have his mother come over for dinner with her friends as well as my own mother. We had the added bonus of a reason to party since Mom retired in July (she went to Chincoteague for a vacation – and then extended that vacation forever) and we hadn’t made any official observation of it.
It’s still summer on the calendar, even if kids are back in school and the pools and beaches have closed. The days are still warmer than the night for the next couple of weeks. Summer weather still sticks around. A party of late summer foods is the best way to remind us of that. I needed reminding this weekend. This was my “summer day”.
Oh well. Let’s hope the food is still good.
When everyone arrived, I began pouring bellinis. I was inspired by Bellini Valli and her namesake cocktail.
I started with a salad of grilled tomatoes from a recipe I found in Food & Wine. I used a nice variety of heirlooms from the farmer’s market. They go on the grill pan and are lightly dressed with lime juice. In my version I used some grated local pecorino and left out the scallions. It was a delicious salad served with herb foccaccia that also came from the farmer’s market. Unfortunately, I forget to take a photo of it.
Our main course was duck breast, glazed with a fig-balsamic reduction, a recipe mooched from Zen Can Cook. I added a tablespoonful of honey to the glaze though.
Duck breasts were browned well in a pan, 15 minutes on the skin side, and 5 on the other. Periodically I drained out the excess duck fat. Then they were brushed with the glaze and placed in the oven an additional 10 minutes. I would not normally put them in the oven so long but I had people who insisted on no visible pink in their duck.
On the side was creamless creamed corn. This recipe was supposed to be with shitakes, but I used cremini since I don’t like shitakes. The corn I used was just excellent. The fresh corn just make this dish scrumptious.
Dessert was the most fun. Two of my friends gave me this cool cake pan set for my birthday.
They gave me a cake mix to go with it, but I opted for a homemade recipe provided on the box. It’s a rich, brownie-like cake.
Instead of cream filling, I filled it with ice cream. In this case, a hazelnut-vanilla ice cream. I found the recipe in the NY Times. They were doing an article on cream based (rather than custard based) ice creams . This one sounded simple and delicious.
I adapted the recipe to be gluten-free. The cake is made with Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Baking Flour. I decided I didn’t want to mess around with figuring out how to mix my rice and almond and sweet rice and coconut flours. I just wanted one plain substitute.
I was suspicious of Bob’s flour at first. It is a mostly bean-based flour. It had that vegetal, raw-bean smell going. When I mixed up the cake batter, the raw-bean taste was there as well. I really hoped my cake would not taste beany.
The cake ended up tasting quite good. I would use this flour again.
Now what will I make for my fall dinner party (if I have one)?
Hazelnut Ice Cream Cookie Cake (Gluten Free)(Adapted from Williams-Sonoma)
7 oz bittersweet chocolate,chopped
1 3/4 sticks butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose Baking Flour
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 cup cocao powder, plus more for dusting
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 and brush cookie pan well with butter and dust with cocao powder.
Melt chocolate and butter in the microwave or in a double boiler until all is melted and smooth. Allow to cool.
Whisk together flour, cocao powder, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs, and vanilla until well mixed. Add chocolate and whisk until incorporated. Whisk in the flour until well combined.
Pour into prepared pans evenly. Bake about 35 minutes or until tops are shiny and toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached.
For Roasted Hazelnut Vanilla Ice Cream (Adapted from the NY Times)1 cup hazelnuts, shelled, skins on
1 vanilla bean
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar, divided
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Cognac or aged rum
1 tablespoon vanilla extract.
Line a round cake pan with plastic wrap.
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Toast nuts for about 10-12 minutes, or until fragrant. Rub the nuts in a clean kitchen towel to remove skins.
Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into a saucepan. Add milk and cream and the bean pod along with 1/4 cup sugar and salt. Cook over medium low heat for about 8 minutes or until everything has dissolved.
Combine the nuts along with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the rum. Process about 3-5 minutes, until a paste forms. Add to saucepan and cook with milk mixture until it dissolves - about 5-7 minutes. Discard pod and stir in extract.
Chill completely in the refrigerator then transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.
Pour chilled ice cream into the pepared pan. Freeze until set.
Once cake is cool and ice cream is solid, place one cake layer on the plate. Unwrap solid ice cream and place on top. Place top layer on cake so that the cookie inscription shows.