Dinner Tonight

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The only thing I love better than a delicious homemade three course meal is the leftovers from a delcious homemade three course meal. It's the same great meal without all of the work. Tonight's gourmet leftovers: Sundried Tomato and Olive Tapenade - the world's easiest appetizer. Creamy Wagon Wheels - ultimate comfort food. And for dessert, Double Chocolate Pudding - rich, silky chocolatey decadence on a spoon. The pudding I shared on Mon Petit Plat, but this recipe is certainly worth re-posting and definitely worth re-making. I have made this pudding probably about a dozen times since I shared it over two years ago. It's easy to make and really easy to eat.

Sundried Tomato and Olive Tapenade

Makes 2 cups

This tapenade recipe is adapted from an Everyday Italian recipe of Giada deLaurentis, yet I make it even easier by using sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil and herbs and have a 1 to 1 ratio of sundried tomatoes and olives. You can certainly use whatever ratio that you prefer. I serve this tapenade, as Giada suggests, with crisp, bitter endive leaves, which pair perfectly with the saltiness of the olives and the sweetness of the sundried tomatoes.

1 cup sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil and herbs (or add a pinch of mixed herbs)
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, rinsed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 heads of Belgium endive, washed and leaves gently removed

In a small food processor, pulse together the sundried tomatoes and their oil with the olives until well combined, but not pureed. Taste for more salt and pepper. Add more olive oil if the mixture is dry. Transfer the spread to a serving bowl and serve with the endive leaves. This dip will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Creamy Wagon Wheels

Serves 6

I first made this macaroni and cheese-like dish about 5 years ago from the ingredients in my fridge. I forgot exactly how I made this dish but remember it being delicious. Good thing I wrote down what all I did. This baked casserole is a milder version of classic macaroni and cheese and is topped with sweet cherry tomatoes. Although regular tomatoes would do, there is something extra special about the pop of cherry or grape tomatoes.

1 pound wagon wheel pasta
3 cups low fat milk
5 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons flour
5 cups grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese
fresh ground pepper
pinch fresh grated nutmeg
6-8 small sweet tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
1/4-1/3 cup cracker crumbs

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Set aside a large casserole dish and preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan until warm. Melt the butter on low heat in a medium saucepan. Add the flour to the butter to make a paste. Slowly stir in the milk to the flour/butter mixture. Continue to stir and cook over low/medium heat until the sauce has thickened, about a minute or two more. Turn the heat off and stir in most of the cheese (reserving a sprinkling for the top), salt, pepper and nutmeg.

When the water has come to a boil add a tablespoon of salt and the pasta and cook the pasta 1 minute less than the package’s cooking instructions call for. (The pasta will finish cooking in the oven.) Drain the pasta and add to the casserole dish, and combine with the cheese sauce. Toss the noodles evenly with the sauce and taste for more salt. Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the cracker crumbs and reserved cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling. Serve warm.

Double Chocolate Pudding with Hand Whipped Cream

Serves 10

This chocolate pudding is rich, creamy and very chocolatey, and not overtly sweet. I very much recommend serving this pudding with sweetened whipped cream, to balance out the richness and flavors of this cold chocolate dessert.

4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 cups whole milk (or 3 cups low fat milk and 1 cup heavy cream)
6 ounces good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish
2 ounces good quality milk chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a heavy-bottom medium-sized saucepan, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, cocoa powder and pinch of salt. While whisking, slowly pour in the milk. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a simmer while whisking constantly, until thickened. It will take about 3-4 minutes, after the pudding has come to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped chocolate and butter. (Strain the pudding through a fine mesh sieve for a smoother pudding.) Transfer the pudding into 10 individual cups or 1 large serving bowl and cover the top surface of the pudding with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving. When ready to serve, top each pudding with a dollop (or two) of the Hand Whipped Cream and top with fresh chocolate shavings. The pudding (without the whipped cream) will last covered in the refrigerator for up 4 days.

Variation: For a less rich chocolate pudding omit the 6 ounces of dark chocolate.

Hand Whipped Cream

Whipping cream by hand is definitely worth the extra effort.

1 cup cold heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or vanilla bean extract
2 heaping tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

Pour the cold heavy cream into a large bowl. Stir in the vanilla bean and confectioner’s sugar until dissolved. Use a large balloon whisk to whip the cream until soft peaks form. Do not over whip. Serve immediately or keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve for no longer than 3 hours.


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