Last Saturday, I took the chance to do what I do best, take care of my people, my friends. I invited a few of those nearest and dearest to my heart; my sister Cristin, Annie my best friend from high school, Loralee, Heidi, Kate, Nicole, Heather and my sister-in-law Stephanie. Heather, Stephanie, Nicole and Kate couldn't come and my Mother-in-law just happened to be in town. It was so much fun.
I planned having a Ladies lunch as a way to celebrate us, relax, eat good food and laugh. We did all of those things.
My theme (yes, I had a theme!) was "A Taste of the Mediterranean". For our appetizer we traveled to Greece and enjoyed 3 different varieties of Sabra Hummus; Roasted Red Pepper, Roasted Garlic and Classic. These were all fantastic. I was impressed at how smooth and creamy they were and the taste was just delicious.
We then headed over to Italy and had tomato, basil and mozzarella salad drizzled with balsamic vinegar. I used tomatoes and basil from my garden and this was OH! so delish!
For our main course, we stayed in Italy for a Baked Risotto Primavera. I don't typically try a new dish on friends, but this just looked too good to pass up! I didn't even take any pictures of it, it was gone that fast! Luckily I made it again last night and was able to catch a picture of it.
For dessert, we headed up to France for Poached Pears with a warm berry sauce and vanilla gelato. Oh.my.gosh. For it not being chocolate, this was DIVINE! Everyone said, "This tastes like Christmas!".
We all had a fabulous time, left with full bellies and even fuller hearts. I hope each of my dear ones felt as uplifted when they left as I did.
***psst! I'm having a FABULOUS giveaway from Sabra Hummus on my Review Blog, go check it out!
Oh, you want recipes?? Here you go!
Baked Risotto Primavera
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 cup short- or medium-grain brown rice (see Ingredient note)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 14-1/2-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth or 3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 8 ounces asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces (2 cups)
- 1 cup sugar snap peas or snow peas, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup diced red bell pepper (1 medium)
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese (3 1/2 ounces)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
- 1-2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven or ovenproof high sided skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in rice and garlic; cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in wine and simmer until it has mostly evaporated. Add broth and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and transfer to the oven. (I don't have a dutch oven, so when it was time to put it in the oven, I transferred everything to a 9x13 pan)
Bake until the rice is just tender, 50 minutes to 1 hour. (this actually took about 1 hr. 20 min. for me)
Shortly before the risotto is done, steam asparagus, peas and bell pepper until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.
Fold the steamed vegetables, Parmesan, parsley, chives, lemon zest and pepper into the risotto. Serve immediately.
Ingredient noteUse short- or medium-grain brown rice, available in natural-foods stores and large supermarkets, to achieve the characteristic creamy risotto texture. Lundberg Family Farms (www.lundberg.com) sells an excellent short-grain brown rice. Another source is dannysorganic.com.Poached Pears with Warm Berry Sauce
6-8 Bosc Pears, peeled.
2-3 C. white grape juice
1 t. nutmeg
3 cinnamon sticks
zest of 1 orange
After peeling the pears, slice off the very bottom and cut the core out. Bring the juice, spices and orange zest to a boil and add the pears. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Allow the pears to cool then transfer to the refrigerator. I found that placing them in a bundt pan worked really well. Leave in the refrigerator until you're ready to use them.
Warm Berry Sauce
3 cups berries -- I used frozen, but you can use any type. Mine had raspberries, blueberries and blackberries in it.
1/2 C. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
2 T. cornstarch
1/4 C. cold water
In a saucepan, combine berries, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg and bring to a boil. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water, stirring until it dissolves. Add the cornstarch slurry to the sauce to thicken. Stir until smooth and simmer slowly for 2 to 3 minutes.
Place your pear in a dish, add a scoop of vanilla gelato and drizzle with the warm berry sauce -- DIVINE!
If you are trying to have less sugar, you could use less juice with the poaching and drizzle the pear with honey. I did this for one of my guests, and she said it was delicious!