Because I knew I’d have very little time to prepare a big, extravagant dinner, I simplified my menu for an after-work dinner party last night. And thank goodness I did–by the time I got back to the house from work, with groceries in hand, I was left with an hour to get everything together.
I enlisted G to make the prosciutto sticks. We had bought some flavorless grissini (breadsticks) a few days before, but rather than toss them, I thought I’d give them a little kick by wrapping prosciutto di parma around them and serving them as appetizers. In the meantime, I got to work on dessert–homemade biscotti di prato, also known as cantucci. Usually, these hard little almond cookies don’t appeal to people, precisely because you often feel as though you might crack your teeth on them. When I was living in Florence a few years ago, however, I picked up a recipe that makes slightly soft, morbido cookies, all the flavor without the crack. It took a good half hour to knead the dough–it’s meant to be very dry, but that often means that the dough doesn’t come together easily. Once it became elastic enough to hold its own shape, I rolled it into little logs, brushed a little egg on top, sprinkled them with sugar, and threw them in the oven.
The rest of dinner was a snap. I washed the lettuce, which G spun (a little too enthusiastically for my little spinner!) I then made the Parmigiano vinaigrette, and once we were all seated at the table, I threw the pecorino romano into the pan. Had the triangles been equally thick, they would have melted evenly, but alas I had to pull some from the pan earlier than others, leaving a slightly gooey mess. Although they weren’t as pretty as I would have liked, once sprinkled with honey and walnuts, they were a big hit. I had visited the wine guys the day before, and two of my guests picked up their suggestions for me–an Orvieto Classico and a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Vallevo, from the Adriatic coast). Both went quite well with the cheese, holding their own structure and flavor, while not overpowering the strong flavors of the sheep’s milk cheese.
As a dessert lover, I was especially pleased with the reaction to my biscotti. I had pulled them out of the oven when they were just golden to cut them on the diagonal. I let them sit for awhile, but when I set them on the table, there was barely enough time to make the espresso before the whole plate was gone (and I had been expecting to take a few to work!) They turned out perfectly–slightly soft, moist center; slightly sweet; perfect with the coffee. Maybe I’ll go into business with those!