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2018 Cervasi Inspired Fall PopUp Dinner
This weekend truly encapsulated the essence of my blog……
My table united friends, acquaintances and strangers together to share a beautiful 5 course dinner. Our farm table, set outside in the cool temps of a Kansas fall, serenaded by Italian music with crickets playing percussion created a space for our diners to come together and enjoy a home cooked meal. Our guests dined together, making friends of strangers and bringing joy and fullness to all.
Our experience moved between spaces in our home. Our grazing began with my riff on a classic Negroni cocktail, seasoned with rosemary from my herb garden (ok, maybe not so classic!). The cured meats were the perfect accompaniment to the fresh figs, clover honey, nutty cheeses and herbed almonds. All this allowed our guests a comfortable moment of introduction.
The second course was Roman Artichokes, with the artichokes also graciously provided by Cervasi. This dish was inspired by an amazing dish my sister and I had in Rome. These very tasty artichokes had a perfectly browned and crispy outer crust created by baking breaded artichokes at a high temperature on a sheet pan coated with olive oil. They were finished off with lemon zest and sea salt and served with a lemon aioli.
The third course was a bit of a challenge between what I really wanted to do and what I realistically could pull off. The third course was entitled, Orzo “Risotto”. I wanted to serve a traditional risotto, but opted out because it was to be a 3rd course of a dinner party. Traditional risotto is made with Arborio rice and takes up to 35-45 minutes and would put me at my stove, carefully stirring in each cup of warm broth. And I didn’t want to use the standard restaurant trick by par-boiling the rice and finishing it later. Although I LOVE risotto done right, I’m not a fan of the thick, sticky par-cooked versions served at restaurants. I really wanted something that had the creamy, cheesy rich flavor risotto is so known for, but needed something more conducive to the live dance of cooking for a dinner party.
I decided to use the same technique but use Cervasi orzo (rice shaped) pasta instead. I was able to cook it in broth and wine just like traditional Risotto but in half the time to achieve the super al dente pasta I was wanting. I then finished it with a generous amount of freshly grated Cervasi parm and fresh thyme. This was so delicious and tender and exactly what I was looking to create. I topped this dish with toasted pine nuts; it was simple and comforting.
The fourth course consisted of grilled herbed shrimp skewers served with a simple squeeze of lemon. I grilled these with fresh herbs, again from my garden (can you tell I’m getting nervous about the cool fall temps taking my beautiful herbs garden away :) and a drizzle of Cervasi fruity extra virgin olive oil and sea salt.
The fifth, but not final course, ‘cause you seriously have to go big or go home – well, I am at home – but people pay to join me at my table and letting them down is simply not an option. Cast Iron Skillet meatballs and marinara. I've long felt that if I could make the best meatball eva, I would be set for life. There's nothing fancy about it, but that's the point. A meatball is about as unassuming as food can get, but when done well, it packs more flavor and more soul per square inch than anything that humble has a right to do. Marinara made with deep red wine and simmered for hours, created a thick tangy smooth sauce that was a perfect contrast from the other courses.
Finally desert, which, as one might imagine, should be relatively light to lay on top of everything else our guests had enjoyed to this point. Affogato & Almond biscotti. This lovely mixture of hot espresso and a scoop of ice cream accompanied by homemade almond olive oil biscotti enjoyed by our outdoor fireplace, rounded out a lengthy dining experience that left guests with new friends, great memories, full bellies and content souls.
A big Thank You to Shawna Johnston & Elizabeth Pascoe for all the help in making this event what it was! I also want to thank Brock Hildebrandt for the beautiful photos that captured the essence of this evening….
I’m full of gratitude for everyone that supports me and encourages me to do what I love to do, may it come back to you 10 fold.….xx, Lauren
Click the button below to learn more about Cervasi, a local Italian speciality food importer bringing Italian deliciousness straight to KC and my very happy belly.
PS Many of the recipes will be posted riiiiiiiight here, very soon!
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Wanna know the one party my friends ask for over and over again??? Well…just scroll on down!
It’s the grilled pizza party…they just LOVE this night. I have so many funny stories and memories surrounding this annual event, but the one that sticks out is the very first pizza party I hosted. Our friends still talk about that night when it started pouring down rain, literally out of nowhere, and everyone ran inside but I was NOT going to leave my grill until my margherita pizza was done. #shocker:) Well, as I was rushing my finished pizza into the house, the pizza peel caught the doorframe and pizza went FLYING across the room. I remember someone shouting, “It’s ok Lauren…we’ll still eat it!” I’m like…ummm, no.(sigh) But everyone was laughing hysterically, and my beautiful dog River saw his chance to swoop in and take part in the gathering as well.
We laughed SO hard, created amazing memories, and enjoyed the food and each other’s company. This party is just so fun and simple, and I’m going to show you how to do it in 10 easy steps! I hope you try it…minus the pizza on the floor disaster:) HA!
I know grilling pizza may seem tricky at first but it’s really easy. And it’s a great party because it’s super easy to prep ahead, EVERYONE loves pizza, and there are endless topping combinations! (Hey…I’ll even give you a ton of ideas for delicious combos:)
HOW TO GRILL PIZZA IN 10 EASY STEPS!
1. Prepare a basic pizza dough.
Tip: Buy the dough from the grocery store or your favorite pizza restaurant to make it even easier.
2. The most important tip for grilled pizzas? Cook, slice, and grate whatever toppings you like ahead of time, and have them at the ready because the cooking goes fast. (See this link below for toppings ideas.)
3 .Take the dough and flatten with your fingertips into a circle. It doesn’t need to be a perfect circle—you want it to look rustic. Stretch the dough to your desired size and thickness and set it on a pan lined with parchment paper and dusted with cornmeal.
Tip: Don’t do what I did my first time: I stacked the crusts on top of each other with a bit of flour in between and when it came time to grill I just had one super-thick hunk of dough. I know, rookie mistake, but I don’t want that to happen to you. (I ran down to the pizza joint, grabbed more dough and we were back in business.)
4. Instead, don’t stack them, just set them on a tray along with the olive oil, brush, tongs, flat cookie sheet and pizza cutter.
5. Preheat the grill to medium-high.
Tip: A gas grill is a little easier to manage the temperature, but a charcoal grill gives even more flavor. Your choice, both are amazing!
6. Brush one side of dough with Cervasi olive oil to prevent sticking
7. Place oiled side down on the grill and brush the top with oil. Close the grill and cook for 2-5 minutes or until grill marks appear. Turn the dough over with tongs and grill the other side.
Tip: If the dough sticks to the grill grate, it’s not ready to turn over. Shut the grill, grab a glass of wine and let it go for a minute or two. It should turn over easily with tongs and have beautiful grill marks.
8. Slide the crust onto a flat cookie sheet or pizza peel and arrange your toppings, starting with sauce, then garlic and then mozzarella.
9. Place the pizza back on the grill over indirect heat and cover until the cheese is melted and delicious!
10, Remove the pizza from the grill with a pizza peel or flat cookie sheet, place it on the cutting board and garnish.
Tip: After the pizza is done, top it with the fresh basil (otherwise the basil will turn brown) and a drizzle of olive oil for that last bit of yumminess.