Sunday Supper...Don's Birthday!

Friday afternoon we headed to the lake for a relaxing weekend filled with eating great food, lazing by the fire and staying up late watching movies.

Today is Don's birthday so it was fun to sleep in and enjoy coffee and the paper in bed… just the three of us!

Headed home this afternoon. I have a special dinner celebration with family planned for tonight… We'll start with Tyler Florence's Caesar salad (Don's favorite).

Caesar Salad

1 clove garlic, smashed with a pinch of salt and a little olive oil

4 anchovy fillets

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 lemons, juiced

2 tablespoons water

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish

Freshly ground black pepper

2 heads romaine lettuce

Salad dressing

: Smear the garlic paste over the inside of the salad bowl. Place the anchovies, egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice, and water into a blender and process for 30 seconds until the mixture is smooth. With the blender running, pour the olive oil in slowly for the dressing to emulsify. Stir in the Parmesan, a pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper; set aside. (Refrigerate the dressing if you will not be using it right away.)

Assemble the salad

: Tear the lettuce into a large bowl. Add enough dressing to coat the salad to your liking. Add some extra Parmesan and toss the salad well. Serve immediately.

Next we'll have a simple pasta. It’s another favorite for the birthday boy.

Spaghetti alla Gricia

Here's what you'll need to make this simple pasta:

Diced guanciale (hog jowl) or thickly sliced smoked bacon

Grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Black Pepper

Spoonful of olive oil

Reduced white wine (optional)

Spaghetti

Red Pepper flakes

Grate the pecorino and set it aside. While the pasta boils, brown the guanciale until it’s cooked to your liking.

If you are using white wine:

Add the wine to the rendered fat in the frying pan and heat the mixture so that it thickens. Sprinkle in a few spoonfuls of cheese to the mixture. Once it has thickened, add the pasta to the pan and toss it to coat it well.  If you don’t have a large enough frying pan to toss the pasta in, the step of coating the pasta can also be done in a separate bowl, adding the remaining grated cheese, black pepper, and red pepper flakes.

If you’re not using white wine:

Drain the pasta when it is still al dente, setting aside half a cup of the cooking water.  Add the pasta to a separate bowl, along with the guanciale and rendered fat, grated cheese, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Gradually add a bit of the pasta water until the pasta is well coated and creamy. If the pasta still is too dry for your taste, add a bit more water. Serve immediately, with extra cheese and black pepper on the side.

We'll end with Pumpkin cupcakes with maple frosting. Yum, Yum!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup canned pumpkin purée (8 ounces), not pie filling

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush or spray the top of 10 muffin tins with vegetable oil and line them with 10 paper liners.

Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin purée, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.

Divide the batter among the prepared tins (I use a level 2 1/4-inch ice cream scoop) and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.

Maple Frosting

6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature

3 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 tsp Boyajian Natural Maple Flavor

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup coarsely chopped Heath bars, for serving (2 1.4-ounce bars)

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and butter on low speed until smooth. Stir in the maple flavoring and vanilla extract. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.

Spread the cupcakes with the Maple Frosting and sprinkle with the chopped toffee bits.

The table's all set…

How about you?  Do you have a favorite go to meal for small family celebrations?  I'm always looking for new ideas.  It's your turn.  Let's talk!

Images by French Blue, Dress Design Décor Blog, The Adventures of Tartanscot, Google, This Is Glamorous, Design Sponge, Delishhh, Food Network