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Dinner Party with Arugula Lasagna

My love of a good dinner party is well documented.  As much as I love restaurants, nothing beats eating with friends and/or family in the comfort of your (or their) home.  You can sit and linger and open another bottle of wine long after the meal is finished, without worrying that someone is waiting for the table.

You can laugh loudly at stories without disturbing the awkward second date two tables over.

You open the wine during the cooking, so by the time we get to dinner, everyone is happy and relaxed. Restaurants and good chefs give me new ideas and turn out food that can be just about perfect, but it never feels as good as at home.

Cheese sauce for Arugula Lasagna

Arugula and garlic saute

So if you don’t yet have plans for this weekend, invite a few friends over for dinner.  Good peeps, good food & good tunes – what more could a gal want?

Ahhh … a menu perhaps!

May recommend this arugula lasagna?    Since it can be assembled in advance, it is a perfect when having friends over, as the work is done before they arrive. And unlike a traditional lasagna, this one is light and almost delicate – both from the fresh pasta and the ricotta tempered down with some milk and cream – but still bright and interesting – from the peppery arugula and the gorgonzola in the cheese mixture.

Arugula-Lasagna

To keep it a vegetarian dinner, just serve it with a simple salad or roasted cherry tomatoes (for some color too) – but if you have meat or fish eaters in the crowd, it pairs nicely with mussels or a thinly sliced steak would also be great.

But let’s be honest, this lasagna is best complimented by good wine and friends.  And sitting at the table much longer than planned, enjoying the combination.

But then, that is {likely} why you are at home in the first place!

Dinner with friends - Arugula Lasagna

Arugula Lasagna
adapted ever so slightly from Food 52

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homemade ricotta

I think ricotta may be the new burrata.  It is popping up on menus everywhere as a stunning first course – like the sheep’s milk version at Locande Verde or the slightly spiced version that kicked off our recent experience at The Hunger.  I have really been enjoying its simplicity – just dressed with some herbs, lemon and oil and piled high on crostini – so much that I have been meaning to try and make it at home.

And thankfully, a quick internet search showed that it is deceptively simple to make.  Granted, not traditional ricotta, which is made from the whey that remains in the cheese-making process, but a version made from milk.

making-ricotta

Thoughts of homemade ricotta got even better, when it was decided that Sunday night was going to include a little pizza party with friends.  Toppings from the Farmer’s Market, fresh cheese, lots of laughs and a bit of vino – sign me up.

straining-ricotta

For the ricotta, we used the recipe from 101 Cookbooks, but I think it is fairly standard, as I have seen it other places as well.

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strawberry and orange with ricotta

The Art of Simple Food really is that – an art.  I am constantly delighted and surprised when simple foods, prepared simply become much more than a sum of their parts.

After I made that lasagna, I had a sweet tooth and a basket full of strawberries, so I decided to skim through Alice Water’s book again (since it was out) and see what looked good.  I knew I wanted something easy – no baking or making, just really one step more than eating them plain.  I also wanted more than just letting them macerate in their own juices or tossing them in some balsamic – both great preperations, don’t get me wrong, but they weren’t wowing me that night.

Alice, not surprisingly, had the answer.

strawberry and orange

Marinate sliced strawberries in fresh orange juice.

Thank goodness the woman has been winning awards for years.  So simple and and obvious combination once you read it, but I can’t say I would have ever done it on my own.

I had two blood oranges in the fruit bowl that needed to be used, so I used the juice from those and sliced up some strawberries.  The recipe suggests adding a bit of sugar too, but I didn’t think it was necessary.  After letting it marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, I poured the strawberries and juice over a bit of ricotta that I still had on hand and it was a d.i.v.i.n.e. combination.

It would also be great with greek yogurt, vanilla ice cream, or just plain and served cold. In fact, plain and cold is what the book recommends.

I think now, regardless of the preparation, any time I make things with strawberries, I may have to add a bit of orange.

strawberries in orange juice

strawberries in orange juice with ricotta

lasagnanote

Right now I am heading to California for a few days for work (and then play) and I decided to actually do something I think about doing whenever I travel.

I made B dinner for a few of the nights I will be gone. This is something I have wanted to do before, but as we all know, there is usually more on your list before a trip than can get done, and this one usually ends up getting cut.

Backing up, it not like B can’t feed himself and so I must provide dinner, I just always thought it would be a nice fun little gesture. Plus, to be honest, this way I know that at least a few meals weren’t delivered or poured from a cereal box.

fresh lasagna noodles

I decided on lasagna, figuring it is something he can easily heat up and tastes good after more than one day. And thankfully (and unlike me), B doesn’t bore of the same flavors after a day or two, although I’m really hoping he doesn’t finish the pan.  Maybe I should have rethought this idea.

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ABOUT

Martha Stewart I am not -
I have no intention of
whittling my own table
and can handle a martini
like nobody's business -
but I do have lots of
great ideas on cooking,
entertaining, and living
that I want to share with you.

Together, perhaps we can find
ways to have a bit more fun!

Contact:
info{at}caitlindentino{dot}com

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