Company For Dinner

August 14, 2010

I have been out of school since the first week of August, and don’t begin the fall term until the end of the month. These few weeks have been filled with sleeping in and lolling around the house, which has been a welcome break. I am a homebody at heart. My level of energy on any given day directly reflects how much time I was able to relax at home the day before. However, even homebodies, such as myself, can begin to feel isolated as a sort of desperation to socialize creeps into the house. That desperation found me this week.

To comfort my deprived social butterfly, I called up my sister a few days ago. And again the next day. Twice. And once more today. She finally agreed to come over as my dinner guest.

I was so excited that I decided to go all out by making a dessert, as well.

But first, I will tell you about dinner. Sweet Corn Summer Tagliatelle. But oh, that title does not do it justice. There is bacon. There is cream. There is shallot. There is zuchinni. There is roasted red pepper. And basil, too.  Oh, oh, and parmesan cheese. So. good. And surprisingly fresh, to boot!

As proof that I have too much time on my hands, I also chose to make the tagliatelle, rather than pick up a pack of pasta from the store.

For dessert, I stumbled across this Late Summer Plum Cake, which was perfect. The batter is lightly scented with lemon zest and thyme, is mildly sweet, and studded with beautiful Italian plums. I whipped it up first, throwing it in the oven and out of the way so my dear sister and I could work together preparing dinner.

While my sister and I prepped the vegetables, rolled the pasta, and shredded the cheese, we popped in A&E’s “Pride and Prejudice,” and quoted lines to each other: “Oh, fetch my smelling salts, I feel my faintness coming on me again,” then, “Darcy, I would not be as fastidious as you are for a kingdom!” and, “The mode of your declaration merely spared me the grief of refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentleman like manner!”

We are both Jane Austen junkies. I may or may not have mentioned during our phone call today that we could watch the movie. And it may or may not have played a hand in persuading my sister to come down for a visit.  Maybe I can get my hands on “Sense and Sensibility” or “Emma” to bring her down next week.

Here are the recipes. The pasta recipe I did by the books, however, for the cake, I replaced the lemon verbena with lemon zest and thyme. Enjoy!

Summer Sweet Corn Tagliatelle

1 pound tagliatelle (or whatever you prefer)
Olive oil
6 slices bacon, chopped
6 ears corn on the cob, shucked, kernels cut off the ear
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 roasted red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small zucchini, sliced into half-moons
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup cream
1/2 cup chicken stock or dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
A few dashes of hot sauce
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 cup sweet basil leaves, torn

Get your pasta water over a burner and boiling. Make sure you salt it with at least a tablespoon of salt.
Next, in a large saute pan, over medium high heat, with olive oil in the pan, render and crisp the bacon. Once the bacon is crisped, toss in the kernels of corn. Then add the shallots, roasted red peppers, and zucchini. Season well with salt, pepper, and thyme. Cook for 5-6 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
While the vegetables are cooking, throw your pasta into the boiling water, following the packages instructions.
Next, deglaze the pan with your liquid (I used roasted red pepper liquid and white wine in place of chicken stock). Be sure to scrape up all the nibbly bits on the bottom of the pan as the liquid reduces. Once that is accomplished, stir in the cream and shake in the hot sauce to taste.
At this point, the pasta should be ready to be tossed into the sweet corn and bacon mixture. Toss the past very well, coating it with the cream sauce. Then stir in the grated parmesan and sprinkle the torn basil leaves over the top.

Late Summer Plum Cake
adapted from Food 52
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp thyme, chopped
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
12 small prune plums, halved and pitted
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, butter a 9 inch round cake pan, line the bottom with parchment, butter the parchment. Dust pan with flour, tapping out the excess.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt.
Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl with a hand mixer or on a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and incorporate one at a time. Then add the sour cream, vanilla, lemon zest, and chopped thyme.
Set aside the mixer, and fold the flour mixture into the wet ingredients with a spatula just until combined. Do not over mix.
Spread half the batter evenly into the bottom of the prepared cake pan, sprinkle the layer with 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and press half the plums into the batter, cut side down. Dollop and spread the remaining batter over the plums. Arrange the remaining plums, cut side up. Sprinkle the top layer with the last tablespoon of brown sugar.
Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the batter (not a plum) comes out clean, 50-55 minutes.
Cool, and serve with fresh whipped cream, if desired.

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2 Responses to “Company For Dinner”

  1. Kati Hanson said

    I love reading about your delights… my dream is to be able to cook and bake as much as i please, and to have a kitchen full of delicious ingredients… pure potential. You make my heart happy, sister of my heart.

    • Rachel Ward said

      Oh, Kati! These are the happiest of times for me–between semesters when I can do whatever I please. One day you too will have your very own kitchen where you can cook and bake to your hearts content. Maybe sooner than you think! :)

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