Saturday, April 19, 2008

Birthday Dinner Menu

My dear friend Cheryl (aka "Auntie Bear") had her 50th birthday last week, and we had a birthday dinner celebration over here last night.

I made a really simple and healthy appetizer of roasted chickpeas. If you haven't tried these you're missing out. They're so easy and so good; you just drain a can or two of chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) toss them in olive oil and roast them on a rimmed cookie sheet in a hot oven (450) for 20 minutes or so until they are brown and crispy. Serve them warm, liberally seasoned with sea salt - or for something really delicious try them with smoked paprika. I thought I had invented that idea, but apparently Martha beat me to it - true of so many things . . .

For the entree, I planned a simple, classic menu: broiled tenderloin steaks, served with baked potato and Caesar salad. As a "condiment" for the steak, I made
Braised Leeks and Mushrooms, one of my favorite side dishes from Cooking Light.

I had the dessert recipe in my tickler file for almost a year: Toasted Coconut Refrigerator Cake from Real Simple. I used the vanilla pudding recipe - it was all I could do not to eat it ALL warm, straight from the bowl - but made a loaf cake from scratch with a recipe from my beloved Fannie Farmer cookbook.

It was one of those times when I probably should have followed the recipe . . . that little loaf cake rose and rose and rose while baking; I cooked it almost 30 minutes longer than the suggested time, but it never threatened to over-brown and I wanted to be sure the inside was fully cooked.I wanted to serve the cake in its original shape, on my rectangular ceramic dish, but that was not such a good idea. Trying to assemble the layers of loaf cake and pudding folded together with whipped cream was a challenge, and resulted in the layers slipping and sliding all over the place. Even after some time to set in the fridge, the end result was a large white blobby mound. Sprinkling the toasted coconut on top helped the presentation - a little. However, no one complained that the dessert was homely because it tasted really good! The dense cake and the sweet, soft pudding/whipped cream mixture was heavenly.

We all ate enormous pieces and then spent the rest of the evening moaning about how full we were - a success all around.

Tutti a Tavola!

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