Good friends are like happy pills. No matter what kind of mood you're in, they always manage to make you smile and laugh and remember how much fun life can be. I happen to have a few really good friends like this. And two of my closest friends from high school are Dora (who you've already met here and here and here) and Zach. I had the distinct pleasure of having them over for dinner the other night and just seeing them put me in such a good mood (that lasted for days!). Ahh, bless you friends, bless you!
The main event of our dinner is totally top secret because it's this month's Daring Cooks Challenge (check back on Jan 14, readers), but as side dishes and snacks I made sauteed spinach, stuffed mushrooms, and soba noodle salad (devoured before it could be photographed, sorry!).
I love spinach in all it's forms, but this recipe from the New York Times is awesome because it includes some unexpected spices. I know... cinnamon? With spinach? Trust me. It's good. The pine nuts are also an excellent addition, which coupled with the garlic yogurt on top, make this dish an explosion of flavors and textures. Mmm, I want to make it again just thinking about it!
I just made up this recipe for stuffed mushrooms, based on some equally delicious stuffed mushrooms I had at my friend David's house one time. Filling them with the sour cream mixture instead of just cheese (which, don't get me wrong, is also oh so delicious) makes them super creamy and just a bit tangy. My one warning about these is that you might want to make a lot because each person can probably eat like 10. And trust me, they probably will. I would have liked to show you them all done, but they were devoured literally minutes after coming out of the oven.
"Middle Eastern" Sauteed Spinach with Pine Nuts and Garlic Yogurtserves 3
1 clove (1/8 teaspoon ground)
2 allspice berries (1/8 teaspoon ground)
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds or cumin seeds
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 garlic clove, cut in half, green shoots removed (more to taste)
1 cup drained yogurt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 12-ounce bag baby spinach, washed
Heat a small dry skillet over medium heat, and add the clove, allspice berries, and coriander seeds or cumin seeds. Heat, shaking the pan, until the spices begin to smell toasty, about three minutes. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool for a few minutes, then grind in a spice mill. Add the cinnamon, and set aside.
In a mortar and pestle (I just used the back of a butter knife on a cutting board), mash the garlic with 1/4 teaspoon salt to a paste, and stir into the yogurt. Set aside.
Place the baby spinach in a bowl, and add just enough boiling water to cover. Let sit for a couple of minutes, then drain, rinse with cold water, squeeze out excess water, and chop coarsely.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a wide, heavy skillet, and add the pine nuts. Stir until they begin color (two to three minutes), then remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the spices to the oil. When they begin to sizzle, cook for about 30 seconds and add the spinach, toasted pine nuts, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, until the spinach is heated through and coated with the oil and spices, two to three minutes. Transfer to a serving dish, and spoon the yogurt over the top.
Sour Cream Stuffed Mushrooms
24 crimini mushrooms
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon bread crumbs
1 tsp grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Use the tip of a spoon (or whatever utinsil seems logical to you) to pop out the stems of the mushrooms. Set them aside to use for something else.
Mix the sour cream, breadcrumbs, and cheese. Use a teaspoon to scoop the sour cream mixture into the mushrooms. It's up to you how full or empty you'd like to leave them.
Put the mushrooms on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until the tops are browned.