A dinner with Pate is always a hilarious "do not repeat what I tell you" affair, so when he was guest of honor, along with Michael, Erik and Carrie, I had to keep things fresh and spicy. Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers and a bottle of champaign to start and we were laughing all night long.
If I ever buy a jalapeno pepper, I just buy one and I'm lucky if I ever use it. So I was at a loss when I got six from the CSA. Sadly, all I could think of were jalapeno poppers. I liked the idea of making spicy little appetizers, especially since Pate loves spice, but I wanted to stay away from the deep frying. So I figured I'd do what I do best, stuff 'em. Normally I would stuff a bell pepper with rice, meat, eggs, tomato sauce and peas. I didn't have any of those things, and I wouldn't have really been able to fit all that into a jalapeno. So I stuffed the jalapeno how I stuff a mushroom, bread crumbs, basil (I normally use parsley), grated cheese and garlic. (I actually forgot the garlic, a true sin.) The Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers were perfect appetizers, cheesy with a nice kick, and you could pop 'em in one bite.
To balance out the spice and just because its delicious I also served Spiced Candied Pecans. I got this recipe from Padma Lakshmi's Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet. Try these and they will become so go-to. They are so easy and addictive. Its just 1 C. whole pecans, 1/4 C. Maple Syrup, and 1/4 tsp. chili powder. She bakes them, but I cook them on the stovetop in a non-stick skillet on low heat and stir them constantly until the syrup dries up. There are a lot of other really amazing recipes in her book.
The last appetizer was Fresh Sliced Avocados, drizzled with olive oil, lime juice, salt, pepper and sprinkled with paprika.
For dinner I served Pasta with Fresh Basil Pesto. My stinking chopper died, so I had to make my pesto by hand with a mortar and pestle. I literally broke a sweat but it was worth it. It came out better than any pesto I ever made in the chopper or blender and the reason is that by grinding everything you better release the natural oils and flavors from the basil, garlic and pine nuts. I also liked how the pesto leaves were still somewhat in tact making a nice texture for the pasta. Pesto means paste in Italian and this paste, originating in Genoa, is traditionally accomplished this way rather than in a food processor, so I am happy the piece of junk broke. And if you are vegan, leave out the cheese and the pesto is just as delicious.
As side dishes I served a Fennel Salad with Oranges and Pine Nuts, and a Bitter Purple Lettuce Salad with Cucumbers and Peppers. Both were dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper.
For dessert I was tempted to make another peach cobbler but we opted to enjoy the Fresh Juicy Peaches in their natural form. They were so sweet and refreshing. I could make you laugh with a few Pate stories, but I promised not to tell...
Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers
1/4 C. bread crumbs
1/4 C. grated cheese
1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4 C. milk
1 TBSP chopped basil or parsley
1 TBSP olive oil
salt and pepper
Cut the jalapenos in half and scoop out the flesh and seeds. Set the seeds aside. Boil the jalapenos in salted water for no more than 3-5 min. Meanwhile, mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl along with the seeds, olive oil and salt and pepper. Adjust the dry and wet ingredients so you have a thick wet mixture thats not watery. Pour a little extra olive oil and salt and pepper in the bottom of each pepper half. Stuff each pepper with the mixture and sprinkle the top with grated cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.
Fresh Basil Pesto
Bunch of Basil
2-3 cloves of garlic
1/4 C. toasted pine nuts
1/4 C. pecorino romano or parmesan cheese (optional)
sea salt and pepper
These measurements are approximations. You must try the pesto as you go and adjust the ingredients accordingly. In a marble mortar, grind the basil leave with sea salt and garlic until creamy. Add the pine nuts and grind into a fine paste. Add the olive oil and cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over hot pasta.