Saturday, February 12, 2011

"Family Style" Italian Dinner with Friends

A few days ago, I asked my friend, Pinky, what food theme would she like for her "despedida" get together.  She answered : Italian.  After Greek , Italian is my least favorite kind of cuisine.  But still, I got excited because I was getting bored already with the food I normally cook.

I had a week to research.  Every night, I would go online and google different recipes.  I had to put myself into an Italian frame of mind, I checked out the menu of some restaurants and browsed through Italian cookbooks in bookstores.  I even read about Italian cooking and dining etiquette. In short, I had to immerse myself into the culture, even if it was just for a few days only.

I was already conditioning my  mind that I will like what I'm going to cook.  I chose a very simple menu since it was going to be my first time to prepare Italian food.   The service was "family style" where I placed all the serving platter in the center of the table.

I assigned my friends their contributions.  I asked Pinky to buy from Santi's Salami Milano, Italian Garlic Sausage and Pure Beef Salami for our friend, Tin, who doesn't eat pork.

I was supposed to make Bruschetta, but my classmate Janet ordered two boxes of Pizza from Shakey's, she even added Coke.  I also asked her to buy melon.  I wrapped the melon segments in Salami Milano.  Mona's contribution was the Iced Tea with Orange rind.

Tricia, Jodie, Tin and I shared the cost for the Tomato Espresso Soup, Orange Walnut Salad and Aglio e Olio with Shrimps.

Orange Walnut Salad with Honey Orange Dressing - Pinky's request

For our dessert, I made White Toblerone Panna Cotta and Caramel Cream Puffs, a box for Jodie, it's her birthday on February 15 and a box for Pinky, a going away gift.

The Tomato Espresso soup turned out really good.  I was inspired by the Double Espresso soup I had at Lolo Dad's. I also used espresso cups for the soup.

"Ugly Olie"  hahahaha  my friend Mariger and I just came up with the name. I told her,  would call the Aglio e Olio with Shrimps pasta, Ugly Olie.  I was so apprehensive because I have never eaten that kind of pasta in my entire life! I don't have a point of reference.  Mona was the first to try it and she said it was really good!  I had my misgivings in the beginning because how can something taste good with just Olive Oil and Garlic??? After reading about 30 Aglio e Olio recipes ... I was able to come up with my own recipe!!!  The guests all agreed that the pasta experiment was a success.

Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino con Gamberi - Garlic, Olive Oil & Pepper with Shrimps

1/2 K. shrimps, peeled and deveined


juice of 1/2 lemon
1 t. rock salt
2 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

500 g. Capellini noodles (thicker than angel's hair)
1/2 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 heads garlic, sliced thinly
1 t. pepper flakes
1 t. rock salt
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 pack Italian Flat Parsley, (leaves only, chopped finely = 1/2 C.)

Marinate the shrimps for 20 minutes.

Heat the olive oil but don't let it smoke, add the garlic and lower the heat to medium.
When the garlic turns golden brown not dark brown because it will taste bitter, add pepper flakes.
Add the shrimps and the marinade.  Saute until the shrimps are cooked, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon or tongs and set aside.

Season oil with salt and remaining lemon juice.  Remove from fire if the noodles aren't ready yet.

Cook noodles according to the instruction at the back of the box.

Put pan back to the flame, Add the noodles, 1/2 of the chopped parsley and 1/2 C. of  reserved pasta water.  Transfer onto a serving platter, top with shrimps and parsley.

It is a big NO-NO to add grated Parmesan cheese to pasta with seafood - I don't know why... but ... why not, if it makes it taste better?   I just served the cheese on the side for those who wanted to add a bit since I'm very rigid when it comes to cooking rules.

Tomato Espresso soup

1.2 K. ripe tomatoes, chopped roughly
1/4 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 C. white onion, chopped roughly
5 C. water
2 pcs. Knorr Chicken cube
3 t. rock salt
3 t,. sugar
Skimmed Milk froth

Saute Onions, then garlic in extra virgin olive oil.  Add the roughly chopped tomatoes, saute for a few minutes then add the water and chicken cubes.  When it starts to boil, lower heat and simmer for 1 hour.

Cool the soup for 15 minutes,  use an immersion blender stick or blender to puree the soup.  Strain the soup and return to the pot..  Season with salt and sugar. (Soup can be frozen up to 3 months according to some websites.

Serve in espresso cups and add a dollop of skimmed milk froth.

I really loved my soup!!!!! So did my friends, they had several servings and were making fun of each other while drinking their soup from an espresso cup, they were lifting their "pinkie" as they were sipping.

White Toblerone Panna Cotta

100 grams White Toblerone, broken into segments
1 C. all purpose cream
1 C. fresh milk
1 box Alsa unflavored gelatin

Dissolve gelatin in milk, add the cream and cook until it "almost" boils, stirring continuously.  Add the chocolate pieces and stir gently until melted   Pour immediately into shot glasses or cups.  Chill.

I am very glad my friends enjoyed the dinner.  I enjoyed the process of preparing the dinner, research, research and more research.  Italian is still not my favorite but....I'm beginning to like it.


  1. Wow this is so nice! Your recipes are so awesome and the dishes looks delicious. You now have a follower. ^_^

  2. hi lia, saw your site from gina this afternoon. I checked it out as soon as I got home and found your Orange Walnut Salad with Honey Orange dressing. Can i have the recipe? Like to try it out. thanks

  3. Hi Gigi!!! I used this recipe:

    Just replace the almond with walnuts and for the dressing, replace the calamansi juice with fresh juice.