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A Continental Dinner for a Small Group

by Lou Seibert Pappas

This continental menu offers many delights in a zestful manner. It is a fine choice for a guest dinner as many dishes may be done well in advance. Warm shallots and shiitakes make an appealing first course. Grapes in a wine sauce cloak game hens. New potatoes roast alongside to accompany and prosciutto laces broccoli for an easy vegetable side dish. A flaky fila tart filled with apples completes this feast. A bottle of oak-aged Zinfandel would be nice, such as the 1994 Lambert Bridge Dry Creek Valley, the 1995 Ravenswood Napa or the 1994 Beaulieu Vineyard Napa Valley.

Shallot and Shiitake SautÈ
makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup marble-size whole shallot bulbs, peeled and trimmed
2 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms, about 1/2 pound, stems removed and caps cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons demi-glace or jellied stock
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley

In a large skillet, heat the butter over medium high heat until slightly browned. Reduce heat, add the shallots, and sautÈ 7 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Add the mushrooms and sautÈ until soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vinegar and demi-glace, stirring to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon onto individual serving plates and sprinkle with parsley.

Roast Game Hens with Grapes
makes 4 servings

2 Rock Cornish game hens
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup seedless red or green grapes
3 tablespoons dry sherry or vermouth
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 375ƒF. Season the game hens inside and out with salt and pepper and stuff the cavities with 4 grapes apiece. Place in a roasting pan and roast in the oven for 1 hour, basting occasionally with the sherry, until the drumsticks move easily and the birds are golden brown. If necessary, add a little water to the pan juices to prevent them from getting too dark. Remove the birds to a warm platter. Skim fat from the pan juices and stir in the chicken stock, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and add the remaining grapes; let juices reduce slightly. Cut the hens in half and pass the sauce separately.

Roasted New Potatoes
makes 4 servings

12 small Yukon Gold new potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
2 garlic cloves, minced

Preheat the oven to 375ƒF. Place the potatoes in an oven-proof pan with the oil, salt, thyme, and garlic; stir to coat. Cover pan and bake in the oven for 1 hour or until cooked through. Stir several times.

Walnut and Gorgonzola Salad
makes 4 servings

Assorted small greens: red oak leaf, arugula, butter lettuce
2 ounces Gorgonzola or Campazola cheese
1/4 cup toasted walnut halves, chopped
1/4 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon cassis syrup
1 shallot, chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Prepare the dressing. Toss the greens with vinaigrette and arrange on salad plates. Top with crumbled or sliced cheese and nuts.

Apple Fila Tart
makes 6 to 8 servings

4 sheets fila dough
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
6 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and thinly sliced
Dash cinnamon
6 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour

Cut the fila sheets in half, crosswise. Line a 9-inch pie pan with one half sheet of fila, brush with butter, and repeat, layering the fila and letting the ends hang over the sides. Toss the apples with cinnamon and 2 tablespoons sugar and pile into the pastry-lined pan. Mix together the remaining sugar, butter and flour to make fine crumbs and scatter over all. Fold back the fila, covering the top in a random 1 to 2 inch circle. Preheat the oven to 425ƒF. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes; reduce the heat to 375ƒF and bake 20 to 25 minutes longer or until the apples are tender and the top is browned. Serve warm with frozen vanilla yogurt, if desired.

Lou Seibert Pappas is a former food editor of the Palo Alto Times Tribune and a home economist with Sunset Magazine. She currently writes food, home, and travel-related articles for national magazines and newspapers and is the author of more than 30 books.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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