We recently hosted our first dinner party of the year. I love winter dinner parties. They are cozy and twinkly and warm and unrushed.

Here’s the run down on the menu:

Goat Cheese with Pistachios and Cranberries (from Real Simple)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons roasted pistachios, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1 8-10 oz log of fresh goat cheese
  • crackers or bread, for serving

1. On a large plate, combine the pistachios and cranberries.

2. Roll the goat cheese in the fruit-and-nut mixture to coat. Serve with the crackers or bread.

Fresh Rosemary Focaccia Bread (from The Painted Garden cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp unbleached white bread flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (one packet)
  • 1 tbsp castor (superfine) sugar (I use regular sugar and it works fine)
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 large egg
  • 12 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • coarse sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 475. Grease a 12 x 8 baking sheet.

2. Measure the flour into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center of the flour; add the yeast, sugar and salt in the well. Gradually pour the water into the well, stirring until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead for 2-3 minutes, until it feels smooth and elastic and does not stick to the board, adding more flour as necessary. The more you knead the lighter the texture of the bread will be. Return the dough to the large mixing bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1-2 hours, depending on the humidity.

3. Turn the risen dough onto a well floured board, making a well in the center, and crack the egg into the hollow. Bring the edges of the dough into the center, gradually kneading in the egg. This is meant to be a sticky job; egg will ooze everywhere. Don’t be tempted to add more flour, as this will make the bread denser. Wash and flour hands halfway through, if necessary. Eventually, when the egg is fully incorporated, the dough should be very soft and smooth. Once you have a smooth, almost manageable bulk, shape it to cover the base of the greased baking sheet. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place to rise a second time, for 30 to 40 minutes until doubled in bulk.

4. When it looks nicely puffed up, press the rosemary into the dough, covering the surface evenly. Don’t  be too gentle in pressing in the topping; you want to create small hollows to collect puddles of the olive oil. Drizzle the oil over the top followed by a generous sprinkling of coarse sea salt crystals. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the focaccia is golden brown. Remove from the baking sheet as soon as it’s cool enough to handle, and cool on a wire rack.

Roasted Root Vegetable Salad (from Southern Living)


Total: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Yield: Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2  large sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 lb.)
  • 4  large parsnips (about 1 lb.)
  • 6  medium beets (about 1 1/2 lb.)
  • 3  tablespoons  olive oil, divided
  • 1 3/4  teaspoons  salt, divided
  • 1  teaspoon  pepper, divided
  • 1/2  cup  bottled olive oil-and-vinegar dressing
  • 1  tablespoon  chopped fresh parsley
  • 1  tablespoon  horseradish
  • 1  teaspoon  Dijon mustard
  • Fresh arugula

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Peel sweet potatoes, and cut into 3/4-inch cubes. Peel parsnips, and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Peel beets, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges.

2. Toss sweet potatoes and parsnips with 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large bowl; place in a single layer in a lightly greased 15- x 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Sprinkle with 1 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper.

3. Toss beets with remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil; arrange beets in a single layer on a separate aluminum foil-lined 15- x 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper.

4. Bake at 400° for 40 to 45 minutes or just until tender. Let cool completely (about 20 minutes).

5. Meanwhile, whisk together dressing and next 3 ingredients. Place vegetables in a large bowl, and drizzle with desired amount of dressing; toss gently to coat. Serve at room temperature or chilled over arugula with any remaining dressing.

I felt a close kinship to Dwight Schrute as I chopped my beets.

Potato Gratin with Rosemary Crust (from Southern Living)


Total: 2 hours, 20 minutes
Yield: Makes 10 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1  (14.1-oz.) package refrigerated piecrusts
  • 1  tablespoon  chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground pepper
  • 2  cups  (8 oz.) shredded Gruyère cheese, divided
  • 1 1/2  pounds  Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 1/2  pounds  sweet potatoes
  • 1  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 2/3  cup  heavy cream
  • 1  garlic clove, minced
  • Garnish: fresh rosemary sprigs

1. Preheat oven to 450°. Unroll piecrusts on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle rosemary, pepper, and 1/2 cup cheese over 1 piecrust; top with remaining piecrust. Roll into a 13-inch circle. Press on bottom and up sides of a 9-inch springform pan; fold edges under. Chill.

2. Meanwhile, peel and thinly slice Yukon gold and sweet potatoes.

3. Layer one-third each of Yukon gold potatoes, sweet potatoes, and salt in prepared crust. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese. Repeat layers twice, pressing layers down slightly to fit.

4. Microwave cream and garlic in a 1-cup microwave-safe measuring cup at HIGH 45 seconds; pour over potato layers in pan. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Cover pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet.

5. Bake at 450° for 1 hour. Uncover and bake 25 minutes or until potatoes are done and crust is richly browned. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully transfer to a serving plate, and remove sides of pan. If desired, carefully slide gratin off bottom of pan using a long knife or narrow spatula. Garnish, if desired.

Bev’s Pork Tenderloin

Credit to the lovely Beverly Bendall for this delicious recipe — our favorite way to eat pork tenderloin.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ready in: 6.5 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp sherry
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried minced onions
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pinch garlic powder
  • 2 (3/4 pound) pork tenderloins (we usually get 2 1.5 pound tenderloins)

1. Place above ingredients, except pork, in a large ziploc bag. Seal, and shake to mix. Place tenderloins in bag, seal, and refrigerate for 6-12 hours.

2. Preheat grill for high heat.

3. Lightly oil grate. Place tenderloins on grill, and discard marinade. Cook 20 minutes, or to desired doneness. Slice into medallions and serve.

and… Ice Cream Sprinkle Creations for dessert

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