Roasted Red Grape and Ricotta Crostini, Kale Avocado Salad, and Killer Romesco Sauce

IMG_4315It’s a day too cold to spend much time outside, so why not see a mid-day movie and then have an impromptu dinner party? For this type of relaxed dinner, I am one to look to a couple reliable favorites, a new recipe that looks foolproof, and crostini.

Here’s our menu:

Crostini with fresh ricotta and roasted red grapes
Kale and avocado salad with lemon-pecorino dressing
Roasted butternut squash with figs
Multicolor quinoa pilaf
Roasted shrimp with Romesco sauce (the new recipe that turned out to be foolproof)

Before our friends arrived, we did the prep—making the Romesco sauce, washing kale and stirring together the dressing, peeling and slicing butternut squash,  rinsing quinoa, and chopping onions for the pilaf and cilantro for a garnish.

IMG_4310We started with crostini, first by slicing red grapes, tossing them with olive oil, fresh thyme leaves, and salt, and roasting them at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. As the grapes cooled, we turned the oven temperature to 350 degrees, sliced a seeded baguette and toasted the slices for just a few minutes. We topped the toasted bread with a generous slather of ricotta and the roasted grapes, and a pinch of fresh thyme leaves.

kale avocado saladNext the kale salad, basically this recipe, with chopped avocado instead of the bread crumbs. I’d make my own version, but why tinker with perfection? This salad turns kale haters and kale ambivalents into kale cravers. The lemon-pecorino dressing takes any bite or bitterness out of the kale. Just don’t skimp on the salt or the cheese.

While we were enjoying the kale salad, cubes of butternut squash tossed with olive oil, butternut squash and figsherbs de Provence, and salt were roasting at 400 degrees. In the last 5 minutes of roasting, we added thinly sliced dried black Mission figs. We had also sautéed a handful of green onions and multicolor quinoa, and simmered them with vegetable broth until the quinoa was fluffy.quinoaWhen the butternut squash was finished cooking, we put a pan of shrimp, tossed with salt and olive oil, into the hot oven and roasted it for about 8 minutes until the shrimp lost their translucency.  We quickly heated the Romesco sauce and served it with the shrimp.

shrimp and romescoThe Romesco sauce was the favorite dish of the night. Toasting the almonds, garlic, bread, and tomato gave it a rich earthy flavor. We decided we would like to drizzle it on everything—roasted cauliflower, toasted bread, scrambled eggs, roasted chickpeas….

cooper christmas

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