Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mushroom and Cannellini Paprikas + Chocolate Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

Last night I hosted a small dinner party for three of my favorite girlfriends. Lucky for me, they are all into trying unique vegetarian dishes so I knew planning the menu would be a cinch. I decided to make a dish I had made before, so as to guarantee success. That is one of the most important rules I learned from Ina Garten. NEVER try new dishes out on guests! 

I made the Mushroom and Cannellini Paprikas from 'Appetite for Reduction' by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. It's a super delicious and easy stewy sort of dish consisting of caramelized red onions, cannellini beans, mushrooms and lots of thyme. I served it over brown rice with a side salad of arugula. I wanted the main dishes to be rather healthy as I was serving the most delicious dark chocolate oatmeal cranberry cookies for dessert. I think it's important to balance your entire meal when serving guests. I learned this lesson after I served cheesecake to 20 people after feeding them the most indulgent lasagna ever. Everyone was so stuffed and over-cheese-fied that they could barely make it home! Not the kind of end you want to a dinner party;) 

Mushroom paprikas with scarlet barley. 
Unfortunately, I don't have a great camera yet and it was dark so I wasn't able to get a good photo of the dinner. But I found one online from, so I'm giving credit where it's due! 

Since I made both a main course and dessert, I'm counting that as TWO dishes towards my weekly goal of cooking 6 dishes in 7 days. That puts my total at 5, if I remember correctly. I only have today and tomorrow until I leave town for the weekend, so hopefully I can make one more dish by then. 

I think it's important to set little goals for yourself like this. It's fun and it's a great way to challenge yourself and maybe even learn a few new things about yourself. I definitely learned that it's not out of the question to cook every other day and that I love feeding my friends. So here's to more dinner parties! 

I know the photo is terrible:( 
A note about the cookies: I used this recipe by Martha Stewart. I don't care much for the raisins sold here in Istanbul, so I replaced them with dried cranberries. Cranberries, however, are much sweeter than raisins, so I think next time I will reduce the amount of sugar. Also, there was WAY too much chocolate for my liking. My sister agrees, and next time I think I will again, halve the amount. Finally, I like my oatmeal cookies very oatmealy, and these had too little oatmeal and too much flour in my opinion. Next time I will reduce the flour and up the oatmeal perhaps. Otherwise, my girlfriends all loved them and even took home extras! That always makes the chef feel great:) 

Mushroom and Cannellini Paprikas Recipe

1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, sliced thinly
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb cremini mushrooms, sliced
Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup vegetable broth
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp fresh chopped thyme
1 (16 oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1. Preheat a 4 quart pot over medium-high heat. Saute the onions in the oil until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms, pepper and salt, cook until lots of moisture has been released, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
2. Add the wine, broth, smoked paprika, and thyme. Turn up the heat and bring the mixture to a low boil. Boil for about 3 minutes. Lower the heat and add the beans. Cook to heat through, about 5 more minutes. Use a strong fork to lightly mash some of the beans, to thicken the sauce. Taste for salt and serve.

Note: I doubled the recipe and it was just enough for 4 plus leftovers for 1. Actually, most of the recipes in 'Appetite for Reduction' are small (possible because it's a diet book?) so keep that in mind when cooking from it. 

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