A little thought into a menu can go a long way towards making your night as a host(ess) and your guest's night in your home so much more comfortable and relaxed.
This month we read Comfort Food, by Kate Jacobs. We'd read another of Jacob's books before, Friday Night Knitting Club. That one had recipes included. This one, the book about food, does not. We do not have a "Book Club Rule" that states the food has to match the book. In most cases it does not. In most cases it would be too difficult.
Tonight, however, I want comfort food. Perhaps it's our sub-zero weather. Perhaps it's that cozy feeling that comes with curling up to read a good chick lit book. To plan the menu, I started thinking of my favorite comfort foods. Warm soup, hot dips, gooey fruity desserts.
I recently received two Barefoot Contessa Cookbooks. I absolutely love them. And since the main character of Comfort Food, Gus, reminds me of Ina Garten, I turned to these books to search for recipes for my menu. In her cookbooks, Garten offers sage advice for planning and hosting. Choose items you can make ahead of time. Make things that will appeal to all your guests. Keep it simple and good. She is a wise woman.
For a soup, I chose Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup. It's a thick, rich looking soup, without a drop of cream, so it's on the lighter side, right? To balance the sweetness that will be in the soup, I chose a crisp salad with sharp flavors, Endive with Stilton and Walnuts. Rounding out the meal, I am making Rosemary Polenta Triangles. I want to start and finish the meal with something warm. Let's start with the tried and true Hot Artichoke Dip (add some chopped spinach to make it different). And for a finale, this Caramel Pear Cake looks divine.
Hot Artichoke and Spinach Dip
2 kinds of cheese
Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup with Homemade Brioche Croutons
Winter Greens Salad with Stilton and Walnuts
Rosemary Polenta Triangles
Caramel Pear Cake with Homemade Spiced Whipped Cream
What I learned in my reading and planning:
- keep it simple. (I am showing HUGE restraint in only making one appetizer - I tend to follow the "more is better" motto.)
- make as much as you can ahead of time.
- use flavors that appeal to a lot of people.
- cook with what's in season.
- choose flavors that complement the others.
- also incorporate a culinary variety - salty, sweet, creamy, smooth, crunchy, acidic, spicy.
- repeat flavors to create harmony in the menu. But don't go overboard. (I added some rosemary to the croutons to echo the rosemary in the polenta, but I am not also making rosemary artichoke dip, rosemary squash soup and rosemary pear cake.)