Last night I hosted a small dinner party for a few friends who had yet to see my “new” apartment. I moved in 7 months ago, so I’m not sure if I can still call it new, but whatever. I love entertaining and I love my “new” apartment, so I was excited to have them over (read: show off my place and make more recipes for my blog). My menu consisted of cheesy quinoa cakes for an appetizer, Caesar salad with homemade dressing, no-bake zucchini lasagna, and my famous baked nectarines with ice cream for dessert. (I’m going to post the nectarines in a different post. They deserve their own post.)
I had planned to get up early on Sunday morning and hit the farmer’s market for my ingredients, but a few too many glasses of wine the night before robbed me of such ambition. (I think I even planned to ride my bike to the farmer’s market with a perfect stranger while said glasses of wine were being drunk… We all knew that wasn’t happening. Thank God.) Lately, you say the word booze and I have a hangover. Is this what life after your 20s is like?! Anyway, I went to Whole Foods instead, got sushi for breakfast and loaded up on the essentials for the dinner party, including a pretzel roll from the bakery to eat in the car on the way home. Like I said, essentials.
When I got home, I set to work. Despite my wine headache and the fact that Bravo was playing the same Million Dollar Listing marathon that I’d already watched twice, I had a lovely Sunday full of cooking, eating, cooking, napping, eating, and cooking for my dinner party. Not once did I turn into a psychotic ball of stress, which is my typical M.O. for playing hostess. It made for a lovely dinner party. My guests had a great time, learned all about quinoa and tahini, finished off a bottle of Lambrusco, and seemed to really enjoy their food. I would have done a few things differently (which I’ll explain in the recipes below), but overall, I was pleased with how everything turned out and really hope my friends weren’t just being polite when they said everything was delicious.
QUINOA CAKES WITH CHIPOTLE SAUCE
I got the recipe for these cheesey quinoa cakes from Pinterest (where else) and had made them once before. They say practice makes perfect, but these were better the first time. The recipe on Pinterest calls for fontina cheese, which at the time, I had no clue what that was. So, I just bought a bag of already shredded monterey jack cheese. This time I used actual fontina that I grated myself… with a vegetable peeler. (I really need to get a cheese grater). I feel like the consistency of the monterey jack cheese was much better (softer, melted more easily), so it really helped hold the cakes together. They still tasted great with the fontina, but were much more crumbly. I really have no idea if that was the reason or if it was something else I did, but that’s what I’m blaming it on. Oh, and I totally made up the recipe for the dipping sauce, so please excuse the seriously rough measurements.
- 2 cups of cooked quinoa
- 2/3 (ish) cup of shredded monterey jack cheese
- 3 tbsp of all purpose flour
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Salt and pepper to taste (load it up)
- Olive oil (for the pan)
Combine all ingredients (except olive oil) in a mixing bowl and stir until well combined. (I did all of this the night before my dinner party and kept in the fridge over night. That way all I had to do was fry them a few minutes before serving. If making all at once, let the mixture sit for a few minutes so it can “set up.”) Heat a good amount of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Form patties in your hand and place in the pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side, or until browned. Before putting the cakes on your fancy serving platter, set on a plate with a paper towel to soak up any excess oil.
- ¼ cup (ish) of non-fat greek yogurt
- ¼ cup (ish) of Veganaise (feel free to use real but light mayo)
- Lemon juice (I used from a bottle, and just kept squirting it in until I felt like it was good (that’s what she said). Maybe 2-3 tbsps?)
- Cayenne pepper to taste
- A dash or two of garlic powder
Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and stir until well blended. Get it to the taste and consistency that you like and you’re done! Super easy, and can be used for other snacks too! Serve in a cute dish alongside your quinoa cakes with a cute little spreading knife.
Note: Frying the patties is not as easy as it sounds. It helps to really mush them together/press down on them with a spatula while they are in the pan. Flipping them can be tricky and pieces will fall off, but it’s okay! They’ll still taste great. And your guests will be getting protein without even knowing it!
Recipe adapted from: spoonforkbacon.com
CEASAR SALAD WITH HOMEMADE DRESSING AND CROUTONS
This recipe is from Alicia Silverstone’s, the Kind Diet, which if you haven’t read, I highly recommend it. It’s a life changer. I pretty much followed it exactly, but of course, added a little extra of each ingredient as I went so that it was to my preferred taste. I made the dressing and the croutons the night before and have enough dressing leftover to make this salad again tonight. I’m also just guessing at the amounts b/c I don’t have the recipe in front of me. Oh, and Alicia Silverstone would never use cheese, like I did. Shhh. Don’t tell her!
- 3 tbsp tahini
- 2 tbsp soy sauce (shoyu or tamari)
- 2-3 tbsp dijon mustard
- 3 tbsp slivered almonds (she says blanched or roasted. I am lazy and bought slivered almonds in the baking needs aisle)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 garlic clove, minced
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth (or close to smooth. It’s okay if you have a few almond chunks).
- 1-2 cups of old bread, cubed (I used what was left of an olive loaf from the farmer’s market last weekend)
- Olive oil
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the bread in a small mixing bowl and add all other ingredients to taste, so that the bread is well coated. A little o this, a little o that. Lay bread over a baking sheet lined with foil (optional) so that it’s in one layer. Bake for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally, or until the bread is crispy, like a crouton!
- 1 head of romaine lettuce
- Your Caesar dressing (as much as you like)
- Your croutons
- A few handfuls of grated parmesan cheese
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl a few minutes before serving and mix well. Ta-da!
Recipe adapted from: The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone
Every time I said “no-bake,” people got confused and thought I was saying no-boil, since no-boil lasagna noodles are, like, a thing now. So, when you buy your lasagna noodles, make sure you buy the old fashion, boil-in-a-pot-of-water noodles! Again this is a Pinterest recipe, originally adapted from Martha Stewart, who I am sure has sous chefs to help her plate her food. This recipe calls for plating each serving individually, which at first I thought was really cool and felt like I was on an episode of Top Chef, trying to win the quick fire. But I soon realized it’s not that cool when Tom Coliccio isn’t there and your guests are standing around watching you, all waiting for each plate to be done before they can eat. So, I think this dish is better for a smaller group of people (there were only 5 of us, so by smaller, I mean 1-2 people). It also wasn’t cool that I really didn’t have enough for everyone to have seconds and that if anyone did want another plate (like I did), I’d have go back and do the whole process over again. If you can find a way to pre-plate and then heat it up, go for it. I made the sauce and cheese mixture and sliced my zucchini the day before.
- 1/2 sweet onion, diced
- 1 carrot, sliced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cups pearl tomatoes, diced (no clue what pearl tomatoes are. I used small heirlooms)
- 1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a medium skillet on medium-high heat. Saute onion, carrot, and garlic for about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and basil. Cook for another 4 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. In a food processor or blender, lightly pulse sauce. Set aside.
- 10-12 lasagna noodles, broken in half
- 1-2 zucchini, thinly sliced (use a mandolin if you have one)
- 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 3/4 cup ricotta
- 3 tbsp grated Parmesan
- 1-2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
- 1-2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped (this was not in the original recipe I found. But it was an awesome addition.)
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Stir together ricotta, parmesan, basil and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
Cook noodles according to package instructions in a pot of well-salted water. Meanwhile, cook zucchini for about 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Salt and pepper to taste.
To prepare, add a little sauce to each plate. Top with noodle. Add a thin layer of the ricotta mixture followed by a layer of zucchini. Top with a little sauce and repeat two more times. Top with final noodle. Garnish with remaining sauce, fresh parmesan, basil and mint. Serve.
Note: There were just enough ingredients for me to make one more serving of this after my guests had left. I put it all together in a Tupperware container so that I could take it to work for lunch today. It did not stay together neatly when I transferred to my plate and really did not heat evenly in the microwave. Now, our office microwave sucks. But this is something to keep in mind if you decide to pre-plate. This definitely tastes better when served immediately.
Recipe adapted from: http://thefauxmartha.com/