Pink Fire Pointer An Italian Dinner

An Italian Dinner

It was a moment's decision.  I was sitting next to a friend who happens to be a gourmet cook and has traveled extensively throughout Italy.  We were at a fundraising meeting and someone asked if anyone could donate an "experience" to the silent auction.  I whispered to my friend, why don't we cook an Italian dinner for ten.  At my house. Without missing a beat - she is always game for a culinary adventure -- she said, ok...should be fun.  And that is how she and I ended up cooking an Italian dinner for ten on Saturday.

Next came the question, what had we gotten ourselves into?  After the panic subsided, we knew that if we approached the task methodically, it could be done.  The first job was to figure out our menu.  We went through our favorite Italian cookbooks and came up with one that we liked.  Our goal was to make this dinner very special for the couple who bought it.  And, at the same time, to create an evening that would take everyone away to Italy for one night.

The Menu:  

Appetizers:  Bruschettas, Parmesan Crisps (Frico), and Rosemary Cashews

First course: Radicchio, Pear & Arugula Salad with Foccacia

Second Course:  Veal Marsala with mushrooms served with Risotto with asparagus, Roman style artichoke hearts, and Swiss Chard with pancetta

Dessert:  Trio of gelato served with Biscotti and Torta della Nonna

My friend would bring some fabulous Italian wines and her husband would prepare Luce del Sol, an Italian cocktail. Done.

Flowers from Holly Flora

Next was the table.  I asked Holly from Holly Flora to do the flowers.  She arrived with a big container  overflowing with beautiful flowers.

Linens would be from Heather Taylor Home.  This is the White Flower pattern.

Holly began to make the flower arrangements

As she ran them down the table, it began to look like a spring meadow

The table is set

Biscotti dipped in white chocolate

Next was the food.  We each had our own assignments; mine was to make the biscotti.  

Also the risotto, here is the asparagus sauteed for Risotto with Asparagus

Bread toasted and ready for bruschetta toppings

Tomato and basil bruschetta

We picked up freshly baked Foccacia Bread from Osteria Mozza

Luce del Sol, the signature cocktail for the night

Bread sticks, rosemary nuts, and chickpea dip

Menus at each place setting

My friend made the menus, she did such a beautiful job!

First course:  Radicchio, Pear & Arugula Salad with Foccacia Bread

The moment before everyone sat down

The best experiences, like the best recipes, are often made up of new and unexpected ingredients.  That night we made new friends, had some great conversations, and got a chance to cook some exciting Italian food.  Donating an experience like this to a charity event is so rewarding.  For the cooks, we got to do what we love best, cook!  For the guests, they enjoyed a culinary adventure.  On this cold and damp February night, we were transported to the "wisteria and sunshine" of Italy.  And for all of us, it was a night to remember!

Here is the recipe for Luce del Sol, the Italian cocktail that we served.  My friend's husband created this recipe, inspired by a cocktail he had at Oenotri Restaurant in Napa, California.

3-4 parts Vodka
2 parts Aperol
1 part Cherry Brandy
1 part Blood Orange juice
2-3 parts Prosecco
Luxardo Cherries

Muddle 2-3 cherries in the brandy.  Add cherries and brandy to the other ingredients and shake everything together with ice in a martini shaker.  Rub the rims of martini glasses with an orange rind and pour mixture into glasses.