Thursday, July 31, 2008

GARDEN PARTY

My friend Beverly's son is getting married on August 30th and Bev has asked me to help her with the "sit down" dinner following the ceremony. Paige (Bev's son) and Tara ( his beautiful bride) are having a garden wedding and the reception is going to be in the backyard of their new home. They have an acre to play with and a whole bottom floor of their new home for me to set up my kitchen "triage."

Geraldo and I went to check out the new digs last night and it's really going to be nice. It's going to be in the evening and Tara is planning dinner right at sunset. Since Bev and I are both married to musicians (we DO live in Nashville, after all) there will be a band, dance floor, tent ,the works. I have my mission and am now in full dinner planning mode. There will be many hands on deck to pull this off, but I want to help keep Beverly as cool and calm as possible. She's my #1 in the kitchen foxhole, but on this day, she's the Mother of the Groom.
We've settled on Roast Beef /au jus (carving station) and for the umpteenth time I've decided on a chicken dish. I keep waffling on that one. So, today the chicken of choice is "Chicken Marsala." I found a great (sounds great on paper) recipe for "Chicken Marsala For a Crowd." We're expecting around 75 or so, and want to give the guests the option of beef or chicken. We've decided on serving rosemary roasted new potatoes, green bean amandine, and fresh rolls for some of the sides. At this point we are keeping our options open and know that nothing is certain till it hits the plate that night!
While the couple is getting their pictures taken, we are serving light appetizers as the guests arrive. Nothing fancy or difficult here. We need something to tie the folks over and keep them nourished as the bar will be open at that time. Bruschetta, a Caprese platter, cheeses, crudite, Artichoke and Spinach dip, pesto, and an olive tapenade for different toppings will round out that portion of the evening. Of course there will be a beautiful cake and since this is a real family affair, Paige's Aunt Barbara (Bev 's sister) is taking care of that.
So for this post,I'm going to include my very basic recipe for a delicious, bright pesto that is a favorite on our table all throughout the basil-blooming season. I call this "Green Gold." A little pricey to make...really good extra virgin olive oil is key here...pignoli (pine nuts) and "treasure cheese"(that's what I call the $18.00 a pound "real deal" Parmesan cheese) are all expensive, but since there are so little ingredients to this dish, you have to pull out the good stuff. Enjoy!!

HOMEMADE BASIL PESTO

2 Cups young basil leaves packed tightly
2-4 cloves of garlic ( I like mine garlicky)
2 TBS Pine Nuts (pignoli) Toasted lightly
1/4 Cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2-4 TBS (depends on consistency you prefer) Good extra virgin Olive Oil

Add basil, garlic and pine nuts in food processor ( or mince with a crinkle cutter or mezzaluna)
Pulse till basil is just minced. Scrape down the sides and replace lid of food processor.
Drizzle Olive oil into top of processor until desired consistency, stopping and scraping sides as necessary. Keep the mixture a little thick as not too get it too thin. You want a sauce consistency.
Remove all from the processor and stir in the grated Parmesan cheese at the end. Do not pulse at this point! Don't break your cheese. Sprinkle in a little fresh ground black pepper if you want ( I do) but easy with any salt, as the cheese is salty .
So, enjoy a bright taste of summer. Nothing says Italian and/or Green like fresh pesto does!
Use as a spread for crostini or a sauce for cooked pasta. You can thin the pesto with the pasta water if you use it as a sauce.
TIP:
I store mine in the refrigerator up to a week. Add a little extra olive oil to cover the top of the pesto and it will keep it's color and freshness longer. Serve at room temperature

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