Robert Stehling's Buttermilk Pie
Alton Brown's Steel Cut Oatmeal

A Girls Night Dinner Party

At the dinner party I had last weekend, our menu started with Fresh Herbed Ricotta, served with slices of Amy's peasant bread. Buonitalia Italian Imports, in Chelsea Market, has the only ricotta worth buying in New York. While even this ricotta romana can't hold a candle to the stuff found in Italian caseifici, it certainly is better than the tubs of Polly-O lining American dairy shelves. If you can't find imported ricotta near you, then roll up your sleeves and make your own - it certainly looks easy enough. I'll be trying this soon myself. I snipped a handful of chives onto the plate of cheese, then gently forked the herbs into the cheese, taking care not to totally declump the ricotta. I sprinkled the white mound with salt and freshly cracked pepper, then drizzled it with a small amount of olive oil. I left off the Cherry Tomato Confit as some of guests loathe tomatoes (I will never understand this, but a chacun son gout), and there wasn't much room left in the oven anyway.
Despite having planned the cooking schedule, I found myself still in the kitchen working when my guests arrived. Luckily, the ricotta was already plated and ready to go. I sliced some bread and had my friends go at the fresh cheese as we stood around in the hot kitchen, sipping white wine. The cheese was soft and milkily sweet, with a nice, oniony undertone from the chives. (Incidentally, the leftovers, swirled into a bowl of beaten eggs the next morning and fried up in a knob of butter, made for a tasty breakfast.) When the rest of the meal was ready, we moved to the patio outside, where the sun had already gone down and a cool breeze had set in.

We had Roasted Zucchini with Feta and Mint, an herbed pork tenderloin served with Plum Ketchup, and a brown rice salad. The recipe for the zucchini was simple and totally delicious. I cut up four large and two small zucchini, tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper on a baking sheet, put them in the oven at 450 degrees and took them out when they were tender and browned. I sprinkled them with crumbled feta cheese and a handful of chopped mint. The dish was still warm when I served it, and the slightly melted but still cool feta was a nice counterpoint to the softened vegetables.
Earlier that day, I had bought a 2-pound pork tenderloin at Frank's Butcher Shop, also in Chelsea Market. Once it had come to room temperature, I covered it with an herb rub from Barbara Kafka's Roasting - A Simple Art. Combining dried oregano, thyme, rosemary from my grandfather's yard in Italy, chopped garlic and a glug of oil, this rub is smeared all over the raw roast

and the entire thing is put into the oven at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. When the forty minutes were up, I let the tenderloin come to room temperature in the kitchen. By the time we ate dinner, the pork was moist and juicy, barely pink and just delicious. I realize I might be the only person left on the planet who up until last week thought that pork was a dubious choice for those following a healthy lifestyle, but I'm thrilled to add that pork tenderloin has nearly the same nutritional content as white chicken meat.

To serve with the pork, I made the Plum Ketchup from Christopher Idone's odd article about an end-of-summer Thanksgiving feast. I cut up a bunch of Italian prune plums, squeezed in an orange juice and part of its rind, added a square of cheesecloth filled with spices and lemon peel,


and brought the whole thing to a slow and careful simmer, until the liquids reduced and I was left with a concentrated sauce. To punch up the flavor a bit, I added a few grinds of peperoncino, something I regretted doing the next day. Because it's a lot easier to work your way through plum compote leftovers if you can spoon them into yogurt, instead of trying to find something savory to pair it with. In any case, the pork was flavorful enough without the extra sauce.
The feast ended with the buttermilk pie from the previous post.

So far, The New York Times has been winning the food section race. The L.A. Times last week published Nancy Silverton's burger recipe and two complicated recipes involving blueberries, which are no longer available at my farmer's market. I'll try my best to give any one of these a chance over the next few days, but secretly I'm hoping that tomorrow provides me a more inviting set of Californian recipes to choose from.