Hosting dinner parties is a great opportunity to test out new recipes and techniques. I've had this spinach and cannellini bean dip recipe saved for quite some time, and finally got a chance to try it. If you're sick of hummus or just want a mild, healthy dip, it's definitely worth making. It would also be good as a sandwich spread, and it's useful if you need to use up fresh (or not so fresh) greens. My version ended up containing some leftover arugula that wasn't going to last much longer in my produce drawer.
As I've mentioned before, inviting guests over for dinner also gives me an excellent reason to shop at River City Cellars and The Belmont Butchery. They're both locally-owned and employ friendly, knowledgeable people to answer questions or help you decide on the most fitting product for your situation. We chose two cheeses from River City Cellars, along with the spicy plum chutney that's a signature part of the cheese and meat plates at Secco.
I'd called ahead to reserve two center cut pork loins from the butcher, one of which they butterflied for me. We slathered about 1/3 of the jar of chutney on the cut pork loin, and then rolled and tied it with string provided by the butcher.
I brined the other loin, which was left whole. My dad recently had luck with a Tyler Florence recipe, and I loosely followed the instructions for my brine. I halved the amount of salt called for, which is suggested in many of the comments, and used rosemary sprigs instead of juniper berries and thyme. I didn't have mustard seeds, so I substituted fennel seeds when I toasted the coriander seeds and peppercorns. The pork was only in the brine for about two hours, but the flavors really shined through in the finished product.
Instead of grilling, we used our grill pan to sear both of the pork loins, and then roasted them at 375 degrees.
After an hour, I checked the pork using a meat thermometer and decided to put them back in for another 10 minutes. I think at that point I should have taken them out to rest, but they were still fairly juicy when we served them. I made an impromptu yogurt sauce to go with the pork: plain yogurt, whole grain mustard, wasabi powder, lemon juice, olive oil, and a little salt.
Davy slices beautifully, even without an electric knife!
As soon as I spotted this cake on How Sweet It Is, I knew I'd have to bake it. Instead of using a boxed mix, I made a chocolate cake that Shannon tried in October. Unfortunately the website with the recipe doesn't seem to be functioning right now, but it's a delicious chocolate cake enhanced by a cup of coffee. I'm not a coffee drinker, but the inclusion in baked goods and other sweets results in a deeper chocolate taste.
After mixing and baking the cake, I cut the two layers in half. I made it the day before, and following tips from The Picky Palate (where Jessica got the recipe), I stacked the layers with wax paper and put them in the freezer. Freezing cake before frosting it helps reduce crumbs in the frosting, and also makes it easier to transfer the layers.
I was hesitant to make all of the frosting, since four blocks of cream cheese seems like a LOT, but I went for it and ended up using it all. I may have needed more sugar, which would have bulked it up a little more, because it ultimately tasted a little less sweet than I would have liked. I'm not complaining - this cake is unbelievably rich and hits all of the right notes for chocolate/peanut butter lovers. I also wouldn't make the frosting green next time, because it makes everyone think of mint, but the cake still looked pretty, and the color didn't stop me, or anyone else, from eating too much of it.