In a worried tone Nonna asks when I go to Manhattan, "Jane you gotta go to New York?" I always find this funny, but then again I myself call it "the city," as if there aren't 4 other boroughs in New York City besides Manhattan. Most of my friends think visiting me in Queens is like traveling to another planet.
So when I proposed an Eyetalian Girls Dinner in my new Queens place, Meredith basically said, "Thanks for the offer, why don't we have it at my place?" (which is in Brooklyn). I held my ground, which is not easy with strong brained crazy Sicilian broads, and everyone made it here without a problem. Enter the new "awesome" phase of our friendships, because anyone willing to visit me in Queens from another borough is automatically an awesome friend.
Markus started off everyone's unique Queens dining experience with some professional Old Fashioned Cocktails he made with the Tuthilltown Manhattan Rye Whiskey we brought back from our "wine" tasting along the Shawangunk Wine Trail. If you haven't gone wine tasting along this trail, go! It was so much fun. But beware, after a few tastings you will get loose with your credit card and come home with an obscene amount of wine.
Markus takes his cocktail making very seriously and even watched an instructional video on how to make a proper Old Fashioned, the cocktail so named because people would ask for a whiskey cocktail made the "old fashioned" way. That day he put me on the hunt for oranges with oily skin, which I thought were appropriate for a greasy Italian dinner party. The cocktails were perfect, strong, enough but not too sweet with a nice citrus hint.
For appetizers I made local Sunchoke Bruschetta and served it alongside some Sicilian cheese, olives and sun dried tomatoes.
For the pasta course, I made a Creamy Mushroom Sage Sauce over Campanelle. This is such an easy sauce, perfect for company and in my opinion there is not a better flavor combination than shallots, mushrooms and sage. I also made an vegan version for my special Sicilian vegan guest that stood up to the creamy version. It had more of a mushroom flavor.
For the main course I served Panelle, which are chick pea fritters, with Italian bread, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Brocolli Rabe. This was my best panelle effort yet.
On our way to Ikea Rocco and I had stopped at Ferdinando's in Red Hook, which is one of the only places in the city where you can find panelle. I asked the panelle guy for some advice. He just said chick pea flour and water, with a little salt and fry them in canola oil. And at Ikea I found this great pan to use as a panelle form for $6. I followed his advice and didn't use lemon juice or parsley, I salted the paste well and I deep fried the panelle in Gemma oil, which is a vegetable oil about 10% olive oil. I was very satisfied with the results.
Melissa Love, of Crema Fatale, our favorite Vegan Pastry Chef brought over an unbelievable Salted Caramel Chocolate Mousse Martini with Almond Praline. It was so delicious we practically licked the salt rimmed martini glasses clean. The almond praline was outstanding, so crunchy and chewy. The chocolate mouse was so smooth and there was a nice soft caramel surprise waiting on the bottom. The sea salt with the sweet was perfection and I don't do justice in this photo of the remarkable presentation. The dessert along with some really nice Cava, a white spanish sparkling wine that Meredith brought over was the perfect ending to our Crazy Eyetalian Girl's Dinner #3.
Thanks for coming to Queens my awesome Eyetalian friends!
Recipes from Eyetalian Girl's Dinner #3:
Old Fashioned Cocktail
To a cocktail glass add:
2 oz. rye whiskey
2-3 spoonfuls of simple syrup (For simple syrup dissolve 1 C. sugar in 1 C. water and cool)
2-3 dashes of Angostura Bitters
oily orange peel, twisted to express the oils and used as garnish
maraschino cherry (optional)
1lb of Sunchokes or Jerusalem Artichokes
Olive Oil and/or butter
Salt and Pepper
1/2 loaf Italian Bread, sliced
1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 whole clove of garlic
Preheat oven to 450.
Wash and peel the sunchokes and chopped into small pieces. Drizzle olive oil and salt and pepper on top and roast for about 15-20 minutes until they are soft.
Chop 1-2 pieces of garlic. Roast the chopped garlic with the sunchokes during the last 5 minutes of roasting.
Remove sunchokes from the oven and melt a few pats of butter on top (optional). Season to taste with salt and pepper and additional olive oil.
Toast sliced Italian bread. Upon removing from the toaster rub each slice with a clove of garlic.
Top each slice of toasted bread with the roasted sunchokes and serve.
Creamy Mushroom Sage Sauce with Campanelle Pasta
2 packages of fresh mushrooms (baby portobello, crimini or shiitaki), sliced
2 shallots, chopped
bunch of fresh sage, chopped
olive oil and butter
salt and pepper
about 1/2 C. cream or regular milk or soy milk
about 1 C. vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 lb. pasta, campanelle or penne
Sautee shallots and sage in butter and olive oil until softened. Add sliced mushrooms.
Once soft, season with salt and pepper. Add vegetable broth. Reduce for 5 minutes. Add cream of soy milk. Reduce until thickened about 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and add a few pats of butter. Serve over campanelle pasta.
1 lb. chick pea flour
4 C. water or 1 Liter of Water
Oil for Frying
Boil the water. Add the chick pea flour slowly stirring constantly. Lower the heat if it starts to boil over. Keep boiling until its thick. Keep stirring. Once it pulls from the side of the pot, season with salt. Pour the paste into a greased mold. Cooking spray works best.
Let the panelle paste cool for a few hours in the fridge. Once its cool remove it from the mold and cut into thin 1/8 in. slices. Fry in canola or gemma oil and season with sea salt. Serve with Italian bread.
1 bunch broccoli rabe
1 clove of garlic
1/2 tsp peperoncino (red pepper flakes)
extra virin olive oil
salt and pepper
In a large pan with a lid, sautee garlic and peperoncino in olive oil. Before the garlic browns add the broccoli rabe season with salt and pepper and put the lid on so it can steam. Stir after a few minutes so the greens on the bottom don't burn. Cook until the greens are softened. Serve with Italian bread.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
1lb. Brussels Sprout
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wash and cut bottoms off the brussels sprouts. Cut each brussels sprout in half. In a baking dish season with a generous amount of olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake about 20 minutes until tender and the outer edges of the leaves are browned and caramelized.