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Every year on the last Sunday of June, our neighborhood hosts a dinner to underwrite the celebration we stage on the 4th of July. Since most of the hosts are pretty accomplished at the art of entertaining, it goes without saying that the food at the party is a big deal.

The committee who decides what to serve to 100 of our favorite friends is given total autonomy. In other words, we pretty much forge ahead without regard for anyone’s approval.

Last year, a couple of us thought it would be fun to roast a pig. You know, build neighborhood camaraderie in the wee hours of the morning. Unbeknownst to the committee, pigs are controversial. We want to eat our bacon crispy, yet, heaven forbid we see where that slab comes from.

Alright, admittedly not something we see daily…. or weekly…. or sometimes EVER.  The knife is a little gruesome, but boy was it tasty!

Maybe this sentiment has something to do with the beloved story of Charlotte’s Web, or maybe Ms. Piggy, but we caught some serious grief when we hauled in the swine.

And a big swine she was….

He was promptly stored in the Bert Mathews’ wine cellar so he could “chill out” while we figured out our strategy.

Some neighbors declared they would boycott the event, others promised to openly weep for said pig. At the end of the day, everyone showed up and had a grand time.

 

Fast forward to 2011. The committee felt it was prudent to stage an all-vegetarian soirée this year. It was truly a from-the-garden feast indeed, and we all had a marvelous time, sans controversy.

I hope you enjoy the menu.

Appetizers:  Goat Cheese and Pear Ravioli from Lazzaroli’s, Melon Balls and Prosecco cocktails, with syrups, from the Bang Candy Company.

You’ll love the flavors: celery, lavender rose, blueberry and more.

Serve the ravioli with brown butter–that’s it!

The Main Course:  Seasonal Squash with Rich Tomato Sauce, Sauteed Greens with Cannellini Beans and Sage and a Roman Farro Salad.

If you don’t have a good tomato sauce, this one is quick, easy and delicious.

Sugo di pomodoro ricco or Rich Tomato Sauce (makes 3 cups)

  • 3T olive oil
  • 1 carrot peeled
  • 1 celery stalk
  • ½ yellow onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/1 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 5 large basil leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 can ( 28 oz) plum tomatoes with juice, coarsely chopped
  • 1 T unsalted butter ( optional)

In a large pan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the celery, carrot, onion, garlic, parsley and basil, and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until the vegetables are pale gold, about 12 minutes. Add the wine and cook until it evaporates, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, stir well and simmer uncovered until thickened, about 40 minutes. Adjust the seasoning, and pass through a food mill if you want a smooth texture. Stir in butter.

The greens are sauteed in a good olive oil and the beans tossed in olive oil and seasoned with sage, salt and pepper.

Pumpkin Squash* with Mozzarella and Tomato

  • Squash*, about 2 lbs
  • 2 eggs
  • About ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • Extra virgin olive oil for frying
  • 1 ½ cups of tomato sauce
  • ½ cup dried bread crumbs
  • 1 lb caciocavallo, fresh mozzarella, scamorza cheese, thinly sliced
  • ½  c. grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 350 and butter a 2 quart baking dish.  Slice the squash in slices about ½ inch thick.

In a shallow bowl, lightly beat the eggs.  Spread the flour out on a plate and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Heat a sauté pan and film the bottom with olive oil.  One at a time, dip the squash in the flour, coating evenly, and working in batches, fry the squash golden on both sides (about 3 minutes per side). Transfer to a paper towel.

Layer half of the squash in the bottom of dish, top with half of the tomato sauce, then half of the bread crumbs, and finally half of the sliced cheese.  Repeat the layers.  Top with Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 40-50 minutes.  Cheese should be golden on top.

*Substitute zucchini, yellow or any seasonal squash.

Farro is an Italian grain and it works beautifully with olives, basil and tomateos.

Roman Farro Salad

  • 1/2 cup Kalamata Olives
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 2 large minced garlic cloves
  • 3T balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4-1/2 good olive oil
  • 14 oz Montebello Farro Perlato
  • 6 c. water
  • 1c.tomatoes (seeded and chopped)
  • 1/2 cup basil

Soak farro for at least 8 hours in cold water. Drain and combine farro in 6 cups of water in saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce and cook for about 30 minutes until the farro is tender. Drain and transfer to a bowl.  Add all the ingredients except olive oil and vinegar. Mix together and toss in salad.  Refrigerate overnight and serve at room temperature.

(Note: Stay tuned for la dolce. I’ll share the recipe for the Chocolate Bliss Cookies in a future post that I am writing on easy summer desserts.)

Ciao!

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