I've been getting a bit bored of cooking Indian food daily. I mean, Indian food is awesome and I really do like eating it on a daily basis, but it can get a bit monotonous. Sometimes you don't want that spiciness and flavor, like the other day when I wanted to cook some blander food. That's when I realized, I hadn't cooked Italian food in a while. I also had a guest coming over, so I decided on a simple 4 course meal: Cauliflower with parsley, chives, and tarragon for antipasti, Linguini with pea pesto and a wild rice casserole with broccoli for secondi and chocolate pudding with mint lentils for desert. Here's how the final dishes looked like, served with a side of wild rice.
A four course Italian dinner for 5
Make ahead: The chocolate pudding
The pudding can be made ahead 3 days in advance though I'm pretty sure it won't last in the fridge that long. I made the pudding the first thing in the morning and let it set in the fridge for 3-4 hours. I suggest you start with the pudding first.
Dessert: Chocolate pudding with mint lentils
One of my first memories as a child is eating my mom's home made chocolate pudding. Also finds a mention in my other blogpost here. It's such an easy and always loved dessert to make, yet, I have never attempted to make it myself. This had to change today!
Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips - 1 cup (or any other brand you like) Sugar- 1/2 cup Whole milk- 3 cups Salt- a pinch Cornstarch- 1/4 cup Vanilla extract- 1 tsp
1. Combine the cornstarch, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Pour in the milk and whisk carefully so that no lumps are formed. Put this on medium heat and continue to stir occasionally for 10 minutes. The mixture should begin to thicken.
2. Now add in the chocolate chips and mix thoroughly for 5 minutes.
3. Take the saucepan off the heat and mix in the vanilla extract. Chill this in the fridge for 4-5 hours. Garnish with chocolate chips and chocolate mint lentils before serving.
While the pudding is getting set, let's make the Secondis. We will start with the linguini pea pesto first.
Secondi: Linguine Pea Pesto
My name is amenable to many nicknames. A new nickname coined thanks to some good friends of mine is Linguini, a take on my name and my professional career. I like it because it does justice to the many different avatars I adorn on a daily basis. Again, similar to the chocolate pudding story, I had never made linguini before! So weird, right? I have always been a fan of pesto, basil pesto actually. This recipe however uses pea pesto. The method remains the same if you want to make basil pesto, substitute peas for basil.
Linguini- 16 oz Frozen peas- 10 oz (If you can get fresh peas, use those 1 1/2 cups) Pine nuts- 2 tbsps (toasted and cooled) Garlic- 1 small, minced Olive oil- 1/4 cup Salt- to taste Parmesan cheese - 1/2 cup
1. Cook the peas and keep aside to cool. Set aside half of the peas for later.
2. Cook the linguine al dente. Reserve about 1.5 cups of pasta water and drain out the rest once the linguini is done.
3. In the food processor, mix together the rest of the peas, pine nuts, salt, and 1/3rd cup of the parmesan cheese. Do this for about 2 minutes till the mixture is smooth. Still running the food processor, add in the olive oil. Pea pesto is ready!
4. Put the linguini back on the stovetop and mix in the pesto, reserved peas, and the pasta water. Smoothen out the pesto. Add the remaining parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
Next up, let's make the wild rice casserole with broccoli
Secondi: Wild rice casserole with broccoli
I love making European casseroles. They are amazing one pot dishes and they last a couple of days! You can eat this with a side of bread.
Wild rice blend- 2/3rd cup Broccoli- 1 head White onion- 1 diced Butter- 3 tbsps Garlic- 1 minced Cayenne pepper- a pinch Dijon mustard- 1/2 tsp All purpose flour- 2 tbsps Whole milk- 1 cup Vegetable broth- 2/3 cup Cheddar cheese- 8 oz Salt- to taste Pepper- to taste
1. Wash the wild rice blend. In a skillet, saute onions in 1 tbsp of butter. Add the wild rice and saute for a minute. Add water and cook the wild rice on low heat for about 45 minutes.
2. While the rice is cooking, boil the broccoli florets in salted water for about 5 minutes. Keep aside.
3. Time to make the sauce. Melt the remaining 2 tbsp butter, add the cayenne pepper and garlic. Add the flour and combine for 1-2 minutes. Now add in the milk, whisking constantly, followed by the vegetable broth. Let this mixture thicken by stirring continuously. This should take about 5 minutes. Add the dijon mustard and take the sauce off the fire. Add in 1/3rd of the cheddar cheese and mix till melted. Add salt and pepper.
4. In a 9-inch skillet, combine the wild rice blend with the broccoli and the sauce. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and bake on a preheated oven at 400 F for 15 minutes. Serve hot.
Alright, dessert in the fridge. Secondis all ready. Time to make the antipasti now.
Antipasti: Cauliflower with parsley, chives, and tarragon
Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables. I like making it into soups, curries, salads, casseroles or just roasted with herbs and some almonds and capers, which is how I made them today. And the herbs, they smell heavenly when combined together.
White cauliflower- 1, trimmed of leaves and diced Purple cauliflower- 1, trimmed of leaves and diced Bread crumbs- 6 tbsps Almonds- 6 tbsps Olive oil- 3 tbsps Dark raisins- 4 tbsps White wine vinegar- 2 tbsps Capers- 2 tsps 2 tsps- Parsley, finely chopped 2 tsps- Tarragon, finely chopped 2 tsps- Chives, finely chopped
1. Cut the cauliflower, and lightly saute in 1 tbsp olive oil till they are browned on both the sides. Isn't the purple cauliflower to die for? :)
2. Preheat oven to 400 F. Now, add the sauteed cauliflower into an oven safe pan and roast them for about 12 minutes till they become tender.
3. While the cauliflowers are roasting, in a pan heat up some olive oil and roast the bread crumbs till they are golden brown. Keep aside. In the same pan, roast the almonds for 2-3 minutes. Keep aside.
4. In a small saucepan, heat the remaining olive oil, add raisins, white wine vinegar, a little water and boil till the raisins become plump.
5. In a small bowl, combine almonds, capers, raisins, chives, parsley, tarragon. Season with salt and pepper.
6. When the cauliflowers get done, sprinkle this mixture on top of the cauliflower generously. Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top. Serve hot.
I served this with a side of garlic bread and some roasted rosemary potatoes. To wash it all down, try some Italian Pinot Grigio such as Bella Sera and some good ol' Merlot.