My friend, Terri, belongs to a neighborhood dinner club and for the past two years, she has asked me to help her develop a menu for her turn at hosting the club. Developing menus is one of my favorite things to do – I love to have someone ask me to create a menu around a particular dish or cuisine. This year, Terri wanted to have a Black & White theme, and she wanted not only the decor and everyone’s attire to be black and white, but each dish also had to represent the theme in some way. Here is the invitation:
And here is the menu we created:
This might be a good time to apologize for my photography skills. I promise to get better as this blog grows, but for now, at least you get the picture, right? My other apology is that I forgot to continue taking pictures through the night, so I only have a picture of the appetizer course. Again – I promise to get better!
Here are some additional pictures of the evening:
See the Stuffed Black Mushrooms in the above picture? The only photo taken of the actual food served that night. Lucky for me, I was invited to stay for dinner! I think my favorite menu item was the sea bass with black olive tapenade. Here are some of the recipes from the menu.
- ½ c pitted black olives (kalamata)
- ½ c pitted green olives (Castelvetrano – the bright green olives at the deli)
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tbsp capers
- 2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse just enough to chop finely – don’t let it turn to mush.
So, to use the tapenade to “crust” sea bass – I like to use 5-6 oz. portions of fresh sea bass, preferably with no skin for this prep. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, drizzle olive oil over the fish and rub into all sides, sprinkle kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and set aside. Once oven is preheated, place empty baking sheet in oven for 8-10 minutes. After heating the baking sheet, place sea bass portions, evenly spaced, on the hot baking sheet. Spoon a layer of the olive tapenade on the top of each fish portion and press to cover the entire top surface of each portion. Place in the top portion of the oven, and bake. Figure 5-7 minutes per inch of fish, with a 6 oz. portion this usually takes about 10 minutes. Bake until the fish is opaque in the center, keep an eye on the fish – you don’t want to overcook the sea bass. Remove from oven and serve. Yum! I love the saltiness of the olives with the creamy, soft texture of the sea bass. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Good olive oil
- ½ pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced ½-inch
- ½ pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced ½-inch
- 3 tablespoons cream sherry
- Kosher salt
- 1 pound pasta such as cavatappi
- 3 ounces white truffle butter, such as D’Artagnan
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 quart whole milk, scalded
- 12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (4 cups)
- 8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2½ to 3 cups)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1½ cups fresh white bread crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Heat the butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan, add the mushrooms, and cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender. Add the sherry and continue to saute for a few more minutes, until the sherry is absorbed. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until al dente. Drain well.
- Meanwhile, melt the truffle butter in a large saucepan and whisk in the flour. Cook for 2 min. over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and cook for 2 min., stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the white sauce is thickened and creamy. Off the heat, add the cheeses, 1½ tablespoons salt, the pepper, and nutmeg.
- Combine the pasta, sauce, and mushrooms in a large bowl and pour them into a baking dish.
- Place the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until they’re minced. Add the bread crumbs and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the crumbs over the pasta and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown. Serve hot