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Dinner on the Porch: A Summertime Supper Club Menu

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The thing I probably enjoy  most about our supper club is that I know I’m in for an amazing night with my friends. We have made a commitment to meet regularly (different than a regular dinner party) in a time in our lives where are all busy with work, children, carpools, and everything else that gets thrown into the mix.   We are all very connected through Twitter, Facebook, and texts, but its the face to face personal conversations that matter most….it is then that we feel truly connected. I love the opportunity to enjoy dinner out, but have to say that the atmosphere of entertaining at home wins hands down over that in a restaurant…and at about half the cost.

And so, when it was our turn to host supper club at our house, I looked forward to planning the menu and envisioning what sort of mood I would set for the evening with my friends.

If you have ever visited Virginia in the summer, you know how hot and humid it can be…definitely not a “dry heat”…on some days its really Africa hot (remember the movie Biloxi Blues?) Knowing that the evening of our supper club dinner could be quite warm, I knew I needed  to come up with a menu that would keep us comfortable.  We also had friends joining us from out  out town as our “mystery guests”, so it was important that I allow plenty of time for catching up. Well, I think I came up with a menu you will really like..

We enjoyed the evening so much, I thought I would share it with you. You will love the fact that most of the menu may be prepared ahead of time.  I’ve even given you my plan ahead guide (check the end of the post), so that you may recreate this menu at home with your supper club.   If your supper club divvies up the recipes to prepare, you are in for an easy night of cooking. I assure you, I spent more time typing the recipes and text for this post than I did prepping the menu! I hope you will share some of your thoughts on your supper club with me here on my blog.

Here’s a look at our menu:

Tomato Tart

Cucumber Gazpacho

Halibut, Scallops, and Proscuitto Wrapped Shrimp Speidini

Lemon Rice with Diced Asparagus Salad

Peach Ice Cream Torte with Coconut Macaroon Crust

What We drank:  Lemontinis

Grgich 2006 Charndonay

Click Here for the Tablescape Design

As our friends arrived, we mixed up a batch of lemontinis– Ice cold and on the tart side; thirst quenching and refreshing.        I usually offer a little something to nibble on with our cocktails, but  in this case, it worked really well just sipping our martinis before sitting down to our appetizer, my Tomato Tart.

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This is one of my all time favorite summer appetizers, no doubt about it. Kind of hard to beat what happens in this dish: the tart shell is flavored with fresh herbs and filled with a base layer of mozzarella   cheese, followed by caramelized onions and peppers, and topped with fresh tomatoes and more fresh herbs.  Baked ahead and served at room temperature, this dish is  ideal for summer entertaining .

Tomato Tart

Crust:

11/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons ice water

For the crust: In the bowl of a food processor combine the flour, thyme, salt, and pepper. Add the butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the mustard and enough ice water for the mixture to hold together. Form the dough into one thin disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Filling:

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced

2 red bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/3 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced

1/4 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

4 garlic cloves, minced

For the filling: Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-low heat. Add the

onions, peppers, thyme, rosemary, and salt and pepper. Cook uncovered, stirring frequently until the vegetables are soft and the mixture resembles marmalade, about 45 minutes. Add the  basil, parsley, and garlic and cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Drain the vegetables well and reserve.

Topping:

1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

4 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons fresh thyme

1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

For the assembly: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Press dough into 9-inch tart pan.

Using a fork, prick the bottom of crust. Place a layer of foil over the crust and add pie weights or dry beans; bake10 minutes; remove from oven and allow crust to cool slightly. Spread mozzarella cheese over the bottom of the tartlet shell. Spread the filling over the cheese. Top with tomatoes, arranging in an overlapping circular pattern. Sprinkle with the pepper, thyme, and basil and drizzle with olive oil and bake for 50 minutes.

8 appetizer servings

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Next, it was on to our Cucumber Gazpacho. After the herby, warm flavors of the Tomato Tart, we were greeted with this chilled soup. Crisp, palate cleansing flavors with a bit of a kick from the jalapeno. I served the soup in these glasses I picked up a while back  from Crate and Barrel. They are inexpensive (I think i paid $1.99 per glass)and very versatile. I use them as cocktail glasses,  serving appetizers, soups,or  desserts.

Cucumber Gazpacho

2 English cucumbers, peeled and chopped (4 cups chopped)

1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, chopped

3 green onions, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, chopped

1/2 cup Italian parsley

1/2 cup mint leaves

3/4 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

Garnish:

1/2 cup finely diced English cucumber

1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper

1/2 tablespoon lemon zest

Place half of all soup ingredients together in a blender and liquefy; transfer mixture to a large bowl .Place remaining soup ingredients in blender, liquefy, and add to bowl with reserved soup. Adjust seasonings with additional salt. Cover and chill at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day ahead. Divide soup among serving dishes and garnish with finely diced cucumber, red bell pepper, and lemon zest.

8 servings

And now on to our entree:

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Assembling the halibut, scallop and prosciutto wrapped shrimp speidini ahead of time, meant they just needed a few minutes on the grill.  I finished the lemon rice about 30 minutes before my guests arrived, which stayed warm in the heavy covered pot it was cooked in until ready to serve. I had the asparagus salad prepared ahead and ready for topping  the rice. My husband Jeff did an admirable job as grill master. The seafood was cooked perfectly..a nice crisp on the prosciutto wrapped shrimp, and the halibut and scallops were tender and delicious.

When it came time to plating, I recruited a few people to help me serve and we were ready for dinner without a lot of effort.

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Halibut, Scallop, and Prosciutto Wrapped Shrimp Speidini

Marinade:

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice from 1 lemon

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl.

For Speidini:

2 1/2 pounds halibut fillets, skin removed, cut into 1 1/2-inch thick cubes

16 (U-10 count) dry pack scallops

16 large shrimp, peeled, deveined

8  very  thin slices prosciutto

2 lemons, cut into fourths

4 large sprigs fresh rosemary

8 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 1 hour

Thread alternating pieces of seafood and lemon wedges onto skewers: Begin with a cube of halibut, followed by a prosciutto wrapped shrimp, a lemon wedge, and then a scallop. Repeat threading process to fill the skewer. Place skewer on a large baking sheet. Repeat with remaining seafood and skewers. Brush both sides of  the speidini with some of the marinade. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator 30 minutes.

Heat grill to medium high. Place skewers on grill and cook 2-3 minutes per side until seafood is cooked through.

8 servings

Lemon Rice with Asparagus Salad

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup chopped Vidalia onion

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cups Basmati rice

3 cups chicken stock

Zest and Juice from 1 lemon

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium ; add onions and salt,  and cook until onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Increase the heat to medium high, add rice and stir to coat grains of rice with the olive oil mixture. Add chicken stock and lemon juice and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook over low heat 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

To serve: Fill a 6 ounce ramekin with rice, patting to help mold the shape of the dish. Invert onto dinner plate and top with 2 tablespoons of asparagus salad (recipe follows).

8 servings

Asparagus Salad

Dressing:

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon finely minced shallots

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Whisk lemon juice and next 4 ingredients together in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil.

Salad:

1 1/4 pounds asparagus, trimmed, cut into  1/2-inch- thick pieces

3 large plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch-thick pieces

Bring  a small saucepan of  salted water to a boil. Fill a medium bowl filled with ice water and set aside. Add asparagus to boiling water and cook 2 minutes. Remove asparagus from boiling water with a slotted spoon and immediately transfer to bowl ice water (to stop the cooking process and preserve the vibrant green color).

Drain cooled asparagus and place in a medium bowl. Add tomatoes and dressing, tossing well to combine.

Makes about 2 cups

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Okay, here’s the really easy part…dessert. For this Peach Ice Cream Torte with Coconut Macaroon Crust, I purchased the ingredients and assembled them before freezing in a springform pan. Sometimes an easy dessert that is light and refreshing is just what you need on a warm summer evening. Which by the way turned out to be a beautiful night…nice enough to eat out on on the porch.

Peach Ice Cream Torte with Coconut Macaroon Crust

10.5 ounces (about 20 small) coconut macaroon cookies
½ gallon peach ice cream (I used Breyers), softened
2 cups bourbon pecans (or sugared walnuts), roughly chopped (Tader Joe’s and The Fresh Market carry these)

Place coconut macaroons in the bowl of a food processor and process into  small crumbs. Transfer crumbs to a 9-inch spring form pan and press into the bottom. Transfer softened ice cream to a large bowl, and stir together. Transfer softened ice cream to prepared pan. Top with bourbon pecans. Cover with aluminum foil and freeze at least 6 hours, and up to 1 week ahead. When ready to serve, remove torte from spring form pan and cut into servings.
12 servings

Plan Ahead Guide:

1 week ahead:

Prepare and freeze Peach Ice Cream Torte

Shop for wine, cocktail ingredients, and any other non perishable ingredients needed.

Select your music

3 days ahead: shop for remaining grocery ingredients (except seafood)

2 days ahead: Make dough for tart; refrigerate

1 day ahead:  Cook peppers and onions for tart; refrigerate.

Make gazpacho; refrigerate

Set your table

The morning of: purchase seafood. Prep seafood: wrap shrimp, cut halibut, and thread onto skewers with lemon (place on baking sheet and refrigerate until 30 minutes before you are ready to grill—then brush with the marinade)

Prepare garnish for soup.

5 hours ahead: Fill glasses (or serving bowls) with gazpacho; place on tray;cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

2 hours ahead: make Tomato Tart; reserve at room temperature.

Take a shower, put on some music, have a drink—and relax…when your doorbell rings you will be ready.

Cheers!






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