Italian-Themed Dinner Party

I grew up with my mother cooking international cuisines from a very young age. I loved her sense of discovery—her wonderment, admiration, and keen interest in trying foreign recipes and flavours. Who remembers the first time they tried French fries, like I do? I was six-years-old, and I remember accompanying a family friend who stopped at a little food truck in downtown Beirut and bought me French fries. My French fries came in a small box, one that resembled an oyster pail. I poured ketchup right in corner –as I was a child who preferred her ketchup on the side rather than splattered across. I distinctively remember figuring out if it was proper for me to use my hands to eat my fries; but nonetheless, I did. And when I finished, I noticed a quaint little plastic fork at the bottom of the box. I remember smiling, almost letting out a giggle, as sharply as though this all occurred yesterday, because the six-year-old me found the situation rather peculiar, and quite funny. As it was.

Growing up in a small village in Lebanon, Western products came with a hefty price to which most humble villagers, like my family, could not afford. So my mother made us home-made hamburgers and my father saved his pennies to buy us one American brand that my brother and I loved so dearly: Kellogg’s Corn Flakes cereal. Having corn flakes was a special occasion to which we often enjoyed some nights, or for dessert.

Perhaps you can get a glimpse of my mother’s inspiration here. She has taught me to expand my knowledge of food outside of our humble little Arabic kitchen. In fact, we often laugh at our barely creating Lebanese dishes in the quest of creating international ones. Of course that is to say, we still maintain an extensive joy in making Arabic and specific Lebanese dishes that we still continuously relish over today.

I am, therefore, fond of many cuisines.

__________________________________________________________________

My friends and I also love trying our hands at different recipes and flavours. We host rotating lunches where we cook Italian, Greek, Indian, Chinese, and French food. I love these little events that we put together because they give us a chance at bonding over food, chit-chat, and laughter. What better?

As my turn was up, I hosted an Italian-themed dinner. I tried many new recipes that were, to my complete surprise, rather a huge success. Apparently my tiramisu (a first for me- both in making it and eating it) was one of the best my friends have had?! And if you’re at all fond of cheese—Italian cuisine is the way to go!

Italian-Themed Dinner-party

No-Noddle Zucchini Lasagna Recipe

Total time: 60 minutes

Serving size: 4-6

Ingredients 

  • 2 large zucchini
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 small green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup tomato paste
  • 1 (16 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • hot water as needed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 (15 ounce) container low-fat ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 (16 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 8 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

Process

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease a deep 9×13 inch baking pan.
  2. Slice zucchini lengthwise into very thin slices. Sprinkle slices lightly with salt; set aside to drain in a colander, on a paper-towel. 
  3. To prepare the meat sauce, cook and stir ground beef and black pepper in a large skillet over medium high heat for 5 minutes. Add in green pepper and onion; cook and stir until meat is no longer pink. Stir in tomato paste, tomato sauce, wine, basil, and oregano, adding a small amount of hot water if sauce is too thick. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer sauce for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Meanwhile, stir egg, ricotta, and parsley together in a bowl until well combined.
  5. To assemble lasagna, spread 1/2 of the meat sauce into the bottom of prepared pan. Then layer 1/2 the zucchini slices, 1/2 the ricotta mixture, all of the spinach, followed by all of the mushrooms, then 1/2 the mozzarella cheese. Repeat by layering the remaining meat sauce, zucchini slices, ricotta mixture, and mozzarella. Spread Parmesan cheese evenly over the top; cover with foil.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil; raise oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and bake an additional 15 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Lessons Learned: I love this recipe so much; it is the only one I have made before, twice. You can’t tell that it is noodle-less (honestly). Like if on April fools you hoped to play a trick and serve it to a noodle-lover, your scheme would fail, miserably. It is that good! You can even omit the meat in the meat sauce and make it completely vegetarian. Prepare more than one if you want any leftovers, take it from me!

Recipe taken from: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/172958/no-noodle-zucchini-lasagna/

Don’t forget your cheese!

Fried Ravioli Recipe 

Total time: 10 minutes

Serving size: 24 raviolis

Ingredients 

  • Oil for frying
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1(24 count) boxstore-bought cheese ravioli (about 24 ravioli)
  • 1⁄4cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, fresh
  • store bought marinara sauce, heated, for dipping

Process

  1. Pour enough oil into a large frying pan to reach a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 325 degrees F.
  2. While the oil is heating, put the buttermilk and the bread crumbs in separate shallow bowls.
  3. Working in batches, dip ravioli in buttermilk to coat completely. Allow the excess buttermilk to drip back into the bowl.
  4. Dredge ravioli in the bread crumbs. Place the ravioli on a baking sheet, and continue with the remaining ravioli.
  5. When the oil is hot, fry the ravioli in batches, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 3 minutes.
  6. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried ravioli to paper towels to drain.
  7. Sprinkle the fried ravioli with Parmesan and serve with a bowl of warmed marinara sauce for dipping.

Lessons Learned: Eat these fresh or else they won’t taste as good. I used a variety of ravioli (different kinds of cheeses) and it turned out great, though we did not enjoy them right away- a rookie mistake. However, now I know that you can deep-fry almost anything!

Recipe taken from: http://www.food.com/recipe/the-best-fried-ravioli-161680#activity-feed

Parmesan Crusted Tortellini Bites Recipe

Total time: 10 minutes

Serving size: 1 package of tortellini

Ingredients 

  • 1 (9 oz.) package refrigerated three cheese tortellini*
  • 1 cup oil (varies slightly depending on pan size)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2 Teaspoons of Parsley, chopped well
  • ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • ½ cup marinara sauce

Process

  1. Mix together the panko breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, parsley, and red pepper flakes.
  2. Cook the tortellini until it’s near al-dente. Drain, and coat it generously with flour.
  3. Dip each piece into the beaten eggs, and then into the panko mixture.
  4. Heat oil in a deep skillet, pouring enough oil to cover the tortellini completely, about an inch high.
  5. Heat the oil over medium heat and cook the tortellini for about 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. You may have to do this in batches.
  6. Place on a paper towel, pat dry, and serve with warm marinara sauce!

Lessons Learned: I loved this recipe a lot! Same goes with the lessons learned for the deep-fried ravioli. However, it was a winner, and a recipe I will try in the near future again!

Recipe taken from: http://thecozycook.com/parmesan-crusted-tortellini-bites/

Zucchini Parmesan Crisps Recipe

Total time: 10 minutes

Serving Size: 4-6

Ingredients 

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup Panko*
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 zucchinis, thinly sliced to 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten

Process

  1. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
  2. In a large bowl, combine Panko and Parmesan; set aside.
  3. Working in batches, dredge zucchini rounds in flour, dip into eggs, then dredge in Panko mixture, pressing to coat.
  4. Add zucchini rounds to the skillet, 5 or 6 at a time, and cook until evenly golden and crispy, about 1 minute on each side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
  5. Serve immediately.

Lessons Learned: These were gone within minutes! They were light, crispy, and delicious. I would make them on any other day, and perhaps for a healthier option, I might even bake them for a snack! A must try, truly.

Recipe taken from: http://damndelicious.net/2014/02/24/zucchini-parmesan-crisps/

 

Both the ravioli, tortellini, and deep fried zucchini are photographed here (though it is not a great quality picture)!

Full picture!

Cheesy Garlic Pull Apart Bread Recipe

Total time: 20 minutes

Serving Size: 6-8

Ingredients 

  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup parsley
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small loaf country or sour dough bread (store-bought)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • salt to taste
  • 4 ounces deli sliced mozzarella cheese (or shredded)

Process

  1. Combine the garlic cloves, parsley, and olive oil in a small food processor until the garlic breaks down into small pieces. If you’re using sliced mozzarella, stack the cheese slices and cut into 1 inch squares.
  2. Heat the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan.
  3. When the butter melts, add the chopped garlic to the butter along with a pinch of salt and allow the mixture to cook for 2 minutes, stirring as necessary so the garlic does not brown. Remove from heat.
  4. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375ºF.
  5. Using a sharp serrated knife, make 1 inch diagonal cuts across the loaf of bread making sure you don’t cut the bread all the way through. Use a spoon to drizzle the garlic butter into the the cuts of the bread.
  6. Stack 3-4 cheese squares and place them in the cuts.
  7. Place the garlic bread on a sheet of foil and fold up the sides. Use a second piece to cover the top (we’ll be removing this later).
  8. Allow the bread to bake for 10 minutes.
  9. Remove the top piece of foil and allow the bread to bake for another 10 minutes or until the cheese melts completely.
  10. Serve warm.

Lessons Learned: I have been meaning to try this out for a long time now! It is one of the easiest and most innovative recipe yet. I love the simplicity of buying a sourdough bread, and just putting together the sauce and the sliced cheese and baking it – then coming out with a wonderfully delicious recipe to serve your friends and family! It is truly a crowd-pleaser. I followed the recipe thoroughly and it was a success.

Recipe taken from: http://littlespicejar.com/cheesy-garlic-pull-apart-bread/

Yum!

Three Cheese Ravioli with Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes and Parmesan Recipe 

Total time: 20 minutes

Serving: 8

Ingredients 

  • 2 (10.5-ounce) containers of cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1 package
  • 1 package of Three cheese Ravioli
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

Process

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. On a rimmed baking sheet, mix the tomatoes, garlic, balsamic vinegar and olive oil together and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, boil a large pot of water on the stove and cook the Three Cheese Ravioli according to the package instructions. Drain and transfer to a large, shallow bowl.
  4. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and mix in the rosemary. Spoon the mixture over the raviolis, including the sauce.
  5. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve.

Lessons Learned: None here. The recipe was simple and easy to follow!

Recipe taken from: http://www.thetomkatstudio.com/2015/10/girls-night-italian-dinner/

Easy Tiramisu Trifle Recipe 

Total time: 15 minutes + 60 minutes chilling time

Serving Size: 4

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups heavy cream (you can use light)
  • 2½ cups coffee, at room temperature
  • 1½ tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 16 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 14 ounces savoiardi lady fingers (about 50 savoirdi)
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Process

  1. Using an electric mixer, or by hand, whip the heavy cream on medium speed until frothy.
  2. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form. Place the bowl with the whipped cream in the refrigerator until needed.
  3. Stir coffee and espresso  in a wide bowl or pie plate until espresso dissolves; set aside.
  4. Beat the mascarpone cheese on medium speed until smooth and light.
  5. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the powdered sugar, and vanilla.
  6. Once combined, increase the speed to medium and beat until thoroughly combined and smooth.
  7. Using a rubber spatula, fold one-third of the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture to lighten, then gently fold in the remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain.
  8. Working one at a time, drop one-third of of the savoirdi into the coffee mixture, quickly roll, and remove and transfer to a trifle bowl.
  9. Arrange the soaked cookies in a single layer on the bottom of the trifle bowl, with the cookies positioned on their sides (see photo above), breaking or trimming them as needed to fit into the dish.
  10. Spread one-third of the mascarpone mixture over the soaked savoirdi, smoothing the top of the layer. Place the cocoa powder in a fine-mesh sieve and sprinkle over the top of the mascarpone layer.
  11. Repeat the dipping and arrangement of the savoirdi, spreading of the mascarpone mixture and dusting of the cocoa powder twice more.
  12. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 60 minutes before serving. Leftovers can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Lessons Learned: Apparently, my friends claimed that this was the best tiramisu they have ever had, both home-made and at a restaurant. Do with that what you will!

P.s. If you are like me, and you have a hard time visualizing steps 8 and 9, take a look at the original link for easy step by step photographs you can follow.

Recipe taken from: https://www.browneyedbaker.com/tiramisu-trifle-recipe/

It was super delicious, if I do say so myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements