Weekend Rewind: Dinner Party Edition

I fell a little behind yesterday because I hosted my first grown-up dinner party on Sunday, which lasted until well past my normal Sunday bedtime.  One of my best friends is moving from New York City back to Michigan, so I had my girlfriends over to celebrate the end of an era.  Cooking for six was a little more work than I bargained for, but it was worth it to have us all in the same place reminiscing over a great meal and an adorable table, if I may say so myself.  

I surprised the gang with photobooks of our seven years in NYC together.   

After my husband, here are my five favorite people in the whole city.

The menu included a cheese plate, arugula salad with potato, goat cheese and truffle oil, grilled veggies topped with tomato and herb salad and a vanilla sponge cake with salted carmel pears.  Click below for the recipes.

The food all turned out beautifully and tasted delicious.  Sorry I took all the photos before the party and concentrated on playing host during, so unfortunately I don't have any photos to share.

Arugula Salad with Potato, Goat Cheese and Truffle Oil
Taken directly from here

1 bag of fingerling potatoes
1/2 container washed baby arugula
about 1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme leaves
a couple teaspoons of truffle oil
a splash of olive oil
about 4 oz goat cheese
salt & pepper

steam the potatoes and cut them into quarters (or so - bite sized pieces.) sauté them for a bit, to crisp them up, with some olive oil, then just toss it with everything else. ta-da! so simple, so delicious.

Grilled Eggplant, Peppers and Veggies
This was a super simple dish.  Before the friends arrived, we grilled up a ton of veggies from the farmers market, including eggplant, red onion, zucchini, tomato, and peppers on the bbq, then popped them in the oven.  When ready to serve, plated it over a little arugula and topped with a tomato herb salad, recipe from here.  

1/2 pint of baby tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp vinegar
juice from one lemon
cucumber, sliced and quartered
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
handful of fresh herbs, I used oregano and basil 
about 3oz of feta cheese

Vanilla Sponge Cake with Salted Caramel Pears
(adopted from this recipe on raspberri cupcakes)
Note: If you are new to sponge cakes make sure you click through to the Gourmet Traveller link above for extra tips. This sponge cake relies solely on the whipped eggs for leavening and it is important you follow all the steps carefully.
For the sponge cake:
about 3 tbsp butter, melted and cooled plus extra for greasing tins
1 cup plain/all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup) caster/superfine sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350° F (you may need to adjust to 340° F for fan-forced) . Brush an 18-20cm round cake tin with melted butter, line base and sides with baking paper, grease paper with a little extra butter and then dust lightly with flour. Triple-sift flour and set aside. Whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla seeds in an electric mixer until thick, pale and tripled in volume (about 7-8 minutes). Sift over flour in two batches, folding each batch in with a large metal spoon or spatula. Fold in melted butter. Carefully pour into prepared tin and bake until light golden and centre springs back when pressed lightly with your fingertip (20-25 minutes). Pull cake gently away from sides of tin with your fingers or carefully loosen with a knife. Turn onto a wire rack, remove baking paper, turn back over swiftly and cool completely. Best eaten on the day of baking, but you can store it in an airtight container overnight and assemble the rest of the cake the next day.

For the salted caramel apples:
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp) butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1/4 cup pure or thickened (heavy) cream, at room temperature
1 tsp flaky sea salted, adjusted to taste
3 pears peeled cored and chopped into chunks

Place sugar in an even layer on the bottom of a small (preferably heavy-based) saucepan on medium heat, whisking as it begins to melt. It may start to clump, but this is fine. Continue to whisk until the sugar is all melted and then stop whisking, swirling the pan occasionally while the sugar cooks. If you have a sugar thermometer, place it in the sugar at this point and cook it until the mixture is a deep amber colour and reaches 180°C (350° F) and absolutely no higher or it will likely burn. I like to take mine off the heat as it approaches the temperature. Quickly and carefully add all the butter at once, whisking as it bubbles up, melts and combines. Keeping the pan off the heat, add the cream and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Add sea salt to taste (careful not to burn yourself!) and set aside to cool and thicken.  Stir pears into salted caramel sauce.

To assemble cake:
200g creme fraiche (if unavailable you can replace this with another 1/2 cup of thickened cream)
about 1/2 cup thickened (heavy) cream
1/2 cup icing/powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Place ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until it reaches soft peaks. Take care not to overmix. Carefully cut your sponge cake in half using a long serrated knife. Place bottom half on cake stand and spread whipped cream over the top with a spatula. Top with the other half of the cake and then carefully top with apples and caramel sauce. Make sure the sauce has cooled enough to be thicken enough not to run straight off the cake but is still pourable.