My friend Beth is an artist. I am a cook and food writer. I can’t afford art. At her last open studio event, I was admiring this piece portraying East Oakland. She suggested I cook her an “ultimate dinner” in trade for the piece. I gladly accepted.
The deed went down a few weeks ago and it was a blast. I love cooking for people who love to eat unabashedly and are happy to entrust the menu to me.
I’d been wanting to cook from Jessica Theroux’s lovely new book Cooking with Italian Grandmothers. And since Beth has one Italian grandmother on her mother’s side, I thought she’d appreciate it.
I built the whole thing around the semolina gnocchi. I’m a sucker for savory, cheesy carbs and the photo drew me right in. I wanted something stewy and wintery to go with so I made the stewed pork with juniper berries and porcini mushrooms from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials. Since an ultimate dinner needs multiple courses, we had a simple garlic soup with a poached egg that Haven gave me the recipe for. Couldn’t be easier. Just sauté tons and tons of sliced garlic in olive oil, add some good homemade chicken broth (it’s got to be homemade in a simple soup like this) Poach the eggs right in the broth and serve with croutons fried in olive oil. For dessert I made the panna cotta from Cooking with Italian Grandmothers.
Here’s the entire menu:
Albacore tuna canapés with olives
Garlic soup with poached egg
Stewed pork with juniper berries and porcinis
Fennel and blood orange salad
Panna cotta with plum sauce and blood oranges
stirring the semolina batter
Semolina gnocchi ready to serve
Garlic soup with egg and fried croutons
Softened sheet gelatin ready to go into panna cotta
Cooling the panna cotta in an ice bath
Panna cotta ready to serve