Monday, October 11, 2010

Black and Orange Dinner

Every year around Halloween I enjoy throwing a Black and Orange dinner. It's nothing over the top, just a simple dinner for a few friends. The only requirement is that food must be mainly orange or black. My traditional dish is a black bean and sweet potato chili (want the recipe? just drop me a line at hostess@host-itnotes.com). This year I branched out thanks to some inspiration from Gimme Some Oven. Oven roasted butternut squash and onions mixed with radiatori pasta, bacon, fresh sage and pine nuts made for a delicious orange meal. We sorted out the orange and white from a few four-color pasta packs to get the Fall-friendly look we desired.

For a bit of black I settled on an olive tapenade. Here's my recipe, adapted from a recipe on Kate's Global Kitchen:

3 cloves of garlic, peeled 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts 
1 and a 1/2 cups pitted nicoise olives 7 anchovy fillets The 
juice from 1 lemon
 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
 chopped parsley for garnish

Process garlic cloves and pine nuts in your food processor until coarsely chopped. Add in olives, anchovies, lemon juice, and olive oil and process until a coarse paste is formed. Serve at room temperature on tasty crackers (I used ak-mak crackers) and garnish with chopped parsley. Feel free to garnish even further by adding bits of shredded carrots, pickled vegetables, or anything that strikes your fancy.

I mixed up a fresh side dish of peeled orange segments, nectarine slices, and shredded carrots (mandarins and peaches would also work well). As a bit of "dressing" I made a mixture of honey and orange juice and sprinkled poppyseeds on top of the dish for a bit of black. One guest lovingly labeled them "Black Widow Eggs." You've got to admire that Halloween spirit!

A quick note about serving up a Halloween dinner—cheesecloth is your friend. I try to always keep cheesecloth on hand in my house. Not only can you use it when you're cooking (I use mine to strain ingredients when I'm making homemade chicken stock), but cheesecloth makes a great shabby tablecloth for an impromptu Halloween dinner. If you want to make it more spooky you can rip it up a bit with your fingers to simulate cobwebs.

Finally, I finished off the meal with chocolate sorbet served with a reduced berry topping—take frozen mixed berries and simmer them over low heat on the stove until the berries break down a bit and the juice thickens. Sprinkled on top are dark chocolate covered pomegranate seeds. Such rich flavors!

What are your favorite black and orange foods?

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