Monday, February 8, 2010

January at Carol's

After a brief hiatus due to a baby shower, cookies and the holidays, we regrouped at Carol's for our most recent dinner. Everyone was able to make it, including our newest honorary member, Eliana!

Carol's dining room was decorated in a winter theme, all in silver and white. Very elegant!

Janet started us off with a polenta, mushroom and cheese appetizer. (Janet, please e-mail me the recipe when you get a chance, and I'll post it.) I now consider Janet the group's polenta expert.

Mary prepared a black-eyed pea salad. Hmm, I don't have the recipe for this one either! Mary felt it turned out more like a side dish than a salad. Either way, it was delicious!

Carol shared a family favorite with us, Chicken with Creamy Mushrooms. She passed along a cost-saving tip to use mostly button mushrooms; just a few ounces of the more expensive mushrooms (shitake, porcini, etc.) can add plenty of flavor.

Angie brought our side dish, Elegant Orzo with Wilted Spinach and Pine Nuts (see below for the recipe with Angie's modifications.) We all regret that pine nuts are so expensive, but they were perfect in this dish.

Tonya brought bread, mixed in the bread machine and then formed into baguettes for baking, Jo's Rosemary Bread.

Finally, Carol provided THREE desserts. I for one am very glad she was indecisive. At the table she displayed miniature Rasberry White Chocolate Cakes, each in its own domed pedestal. She sent home miniature chocolate pecan tarts with each of us. And fresh from the oven, we ate Meyer Lemon Pudding Cake, which miraculously separates into a moist cake and a creamy custard.

Elegant Orzo with Wilted Spinach and Pine Nuts
1 (16 ounce) package uncooked orzo
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 cloves minced garlic
2 diced shallots
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 cup pine nuts
12 oz baby spinach
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
3 tablespoons sundried tomato pesto
chopped fresh parsley
salt to taste
1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. (Firm or slightly undercooked orzo works best for this dish.) Drain, transfer to a mixing bowl, and set aside.
2. Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat, stirring to blend. Stir in garlic,shallots, basil, and red pepper flakes, and reduce heat to medium. Stir in pine nuts and cook until lightly browned. Add spinach, cover, and cook on low heat for 5 minutes, or until spinach is wilted.
3. Toss spinach mixture with orzo pasta, balsamic vinegar, crumbled feta cheese, pesto, parsley and salt to taste. Enjoy!