A Simple, Italian Dinner Party

12 Aug

When planning a dinner party, I’m always tempted to scour over Gourmet magazine, and find the most complicated dish with which to impress my friends. Usually, I’ll spend two days in the kitchen, preparing and cooking, and by the time the dinner arrives, I’m completely exhausted. However, the last two or three times I’ve had guests over for dinner, I’ve tried a new approach. I cook them something I’ve made a million times before.

Now, I know this doesn’t sound very exciting. Part of the fun of having a dinner party in the first place is that it gives you a chance to expand your culinary skills. Sometimes, however, it’s nice to take a more laid back approach, to not worry about the food, and instead focus on relaxing with your guests. So, in the spirit of this, I made a few of my favorite Italian dishes last night–all things that I’ve made a hundred times, so I knew exactly what to expect.

A Simple, Italian Dinner Party – Menu

Campari Spritz


Artichoke Bruschetta
Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta


Michelle’s Spicy Turkey Meatballs with an heirloom tomato and green, Cerignola olive sauce.


Creamy, Parmesan Polenta


Blueberry and Peach Crumble
Coconut Milk Ice-cream


Campari Spritz

1 part campari to 2 parts soda water
twist of lemon

Artichoke Bruschetta

1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 TBS olive oil
1/2 loaf french bread
1 cup of ricotta
handful of fresh, flat leaf parsley
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

First, slice the bread into small rounds, brush them with olive oil, and toast them in the oven at 350F until they begin to turn crisp. While these are toasting, saute the garlic in the olive oil, then add the artichoke hearts. Saute for 2-3 minutes and then remove from heat. Finally, mix the ricotta with the parsley, red pepper, salt, and pepper. To assemble, spread a layer of ricotta on each slice of bread, then top with one or two artichoke hearts.

Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta

3 large heirloom tomatoes, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
handful of fresh basil, torn
salt and pepper
olive oil
1/2 loaf of french bread

Place the chopped, diced tomatoes in a bowl, and add a few pinches of sea salt. Stir in the salt, and let the tomatoes sit at room temperature for 2-3 hours. Drain off the excess liquid. Next add the red onion, garlic, basil, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Slice the french bread into rounds and brush with a little olive oil. Toast in the oven until they start to turn crisp. Serve the tomato mixture on french bread slices.

bruschetta toppings - ready to be assembled

bruschetta toppings - ready to be assembled

artichoke bruschetta

artichoke bruschetta

heirloom tomato bruschetta

heirloom tomato bruschetta

all together now!

all together now!

Michelle’s Spicy Turkey Meatballs

For recipe and cooking instructions click here.

perfect on their own, over pasta or with polenta!

perfect on their own, over pasta or with polenta!

Creamy, Parmesan Polenta

3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup of whole milk or cream
1 cup of polenta (I use organic cornmeal)
2 TBSP butter
1/2 cup, freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Bring the stock and milk to a gentle, rolling boil. Add the butter and let it melt. Slowly whisk in the polenta, stirring constantly. Whisk the mixture until the polenta begins to thicken a little. Reduce the heat and cover. Every 5 minutes, remove the lid and stir the polenta a few times. Do this for 40 minutes, or until the polenta is thick and starting to pull away from the sides of the pot. Remove from the heat; stir in the parmesan, ricotta, salt and pepper.



Blueberry and Peach Crumble

3 pints of fresh, organic blueberries
3 large, ripe peaches
1 1/4 cups of whole wheat flour (or flour of your choice)
1 1/2 cups Sucanat (or sugar of your choice)
1 cup chopped walnuts (you can also use almonds, pecans or a mixture)
1 stick of unsalted butter, cold, diced
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup of lemon juice
zest of half a lemon

First, assemble the fruit. Peel the peaches–the best way to do this is to immerse them in boiling water for a minute, then immediately immerse them in cold water. When the peaches are peeled, slice them and put them in a baking dish. Add the blueberries to the baking dish. Stir in 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of flour, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Let stand for 5-10 minutes.

summertime goodness.

summertime goodness.

For the crumble, mix together 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of sugar, the chopped walnuts and cinnamon. Rub in the butter until it combines with the flour mixture. It will form into small balls.

Sprinkle the crumble mixture on top of the fruit. Bake in the oven at 350F for 45 minutes untill the mixture starts to bubble. Serve hot with ice-cream!

poor quality photo - it was a little dark.

poor quality photo - it was a little dark.

this guest seemed pleased!

this guest seemed pleased!

To get the house ready for a simple, dinner party, I simply clean and then put fresh flowers everywhere!



Now I’m off to pack for England! We leave tomorrow!


4 Responses to “A Simple, Italian Dinner Party”

  1. pearsandplums August 12, 2009 at 1:04 pm #

    that looks mouth watering delicious! heather looks so pleased. have so much fun in england! love you! be safe! =)

    • Heather Bree August 12, 2009 at 5:39 pm #

      It WAS mouth-watering delicious!!!

  2. Valerie August 12, 2009 at 10:27 pm #

    It was amazing and perfect in the simplicity of it. Having done the cooking school thing, I can totally appreciate a really fancy dish, but my strong preference is for delicious, simple, easy to make things that allow me to spend my time with my guests. It was a fabulous meal and really great company, so win-win. Have a good time in England!

  3. bruschetta August 24, 2009 at 11:31 am #

    The Polenta looks yummy to the core. BTW, are you a buddist? The idol is nice.

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