Our October gathering featured Italian recipes by celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis, and took place in Sandy’s beautiful enclosed back patio. We feasted on eleven savory and five sweet dishes, paired with wine and Italian sodas to complete the mood.
As usual, we shared tips and tales about our chosen recipes. Both Jackie and Darla faced the daunting task of removing crust from ciabatta bread while keeping enough of the crumb to work with; Susie used a mandoline, (keeping all her fingers intact!) for her fennel slaw, and Sandy kicked Giada’s spinach & mushroom ravioli up a notch by making homemade pasta rather than using pre-made wontons as the recipe indicates.
Several dishes featured the classic Mediterranean flavor of fennel in different ways: Susie’s slaw was crunchy, with toasted pistachios, while Shelley used fennel along with onions, lemon, tomatoes and capers to braise pork chops. Mary Lou’s fennel upside-down cake took this typically savory ingredient in a different direction, including both candied fennel bulbs and fennel pollen, which we passed around and sampled.
Michele’s turkey tonnato and Mary’s torta di pasta each provided a novel way to use up leftover turkey and pasta, respectively. Kim experimented with a new grain, making a farro salad with tomatoes and herbs, and Mary Lou created a pizza rustica, enrobing classic pizza toppings like prosciutto, Italian sausage and mozzarella in a beautiful egg-washed double crust.
We also enjoyed a delicious variety of desserts. In addition to the above-mentioned fennel cake (served with raspberry sauce), we had lemon offerings from Michele and Susie and chocolate hazelnut biscotti – which are standard cookies, rather than the coffee-house-style “biscotti” we usually associate with the term from Jackie.
The runaway winner this month was Becky’s decadent Zuccotto, aptly described as a “delivery vehicle for whipped cream.” This amazing dessert featured pound cake soaked with brandy and two whipped cream layers, one with bittersweet chocolate and the other with almond, all dusted with cocoa. Becky went the extra mile and baked the pound cake instead of using a commercially-prepared one, with spectacular results!
Second place went to Mary Lou’s pizza rustica, while Sue’s grilled eggplant and goat cheese salad, topped with toasted pine nuts, fresh mint and basil, placed third in popularity. Most of us had difficulty picking out just three favorites for this spectacular spread, so kudos to all our members!
Many thanks to our host, Sandy, and to all the cooks who made our Italian feast such a success!
Click here for photos and recipes.