Yesterday I was lucky enough to spend a fabulous afternoon at the home of some good friends enjoying some beautiful California sunshine. The occasion was a 40th birthday celebration for another good friend and I had the privilege of planning the menu for the day. We settled on a Mediterranean theme and it truly was a feast. It was a group effort and all of the dishes were so good. So good, in fact…that I decided I must do a blog post so that I can remember how simple and delicious this menu was. So much of this menu can be done ahead of time that is perfect for entertaining!
Not only was the food good, but the company was even better. Great friends that I don’t get to see enough. All of this on a beautiful deck in Laguna Beach with a ridiculous view of the ocean. Not a bad way to spend your Sunday afternoon. Thanks Ilana & Mike!
I will give you the run down…try not to drool on your keyboard (or whatever device you happen to be reading this on).
From the grill we had an assortment of gourmet sausages from Whole Food’s Market. They were delicious and cook up so quick and easy. We also had some grilled Lemon Chicken Skewers that we served with Tzatziki Sauce. The chicken is a simple recipe that I love from Ina Garten (AKA: The Barefoot Contessa, and one of my cooking idols). Her recipe is served with a satay dip, which is also delicious.
On the side we had an Orzo Salad with cucumber, roasted red pepper, green olives, artichoke hearts, and lots of fresh herbs in a lemony dressing. (see recipe below)…
And these fabulous little Sweet Peppers Stuffed with Ricotta, Pancetta, and Spinach (see recipe below). These little buggers are serious Juicy Bites!
Everything was delicious and we got to enjoy it all on a deck overlooking the ocean. Here are a few more pictures from my fun afternoon…
- 1 pound orzo pasta – cooked to al dente
- 1 can artichoke hearts – drained and quartered
- 1 red bell pepper – roasted (jarred roasted red pepper is fine too)
- 1 cup of sliced green olives
- 1 hot house cucumber – seeded and chopped
- half of a red onion – chopped small
- 1 cup of crumbled feta cheese
- lemon vinaigrette – see recipe below
- 1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley
- 3 tablespoons of fresh chopped oregano
- 3 tablespoons fresh chopped mint
- kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Combine all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. This salad gets better after a couple of hours in the fridge, and can be made one day in advance.
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup good olive oil
Whisk the lemon juice, mustard, salt and garlic together. Add the olive oil slowly while whisking to blend and emulsify.
Mini Sweet Peppers Stuffed with Ricotta, Spinach, and Pancetta
- Non-Stick cooking spray
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 10 ounces of frozen spinach – thawed and excess water squeezed out
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 24 (2 to 3-inch long) sweet baby peppers
Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray and set aside. *See tip below.
In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until brown and crispy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta and drain on paper towels. Add the onion to the pan and cook until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine the onion, pancetta, cheeses, and spinach. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Using a paring knife, cut 1/2-inch from the stem-end of the peppers. Remove the seeds and veins. Using a small spoon, fill each pepper with the ricotta mixture. Place the filled peppers on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until the peppers begin to soften. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes.
Arrange the peppers on a platter and serve.