Meal with the Missionaries

We had four of our full-time missionaries over for dinner last night, and I served one of my favorite crowd-pleasing meals. I tried a new salad recipe, which was fantastic, and a friend gave me her easy breadstick recipe which finished the meal perfectly.

The main course is from one of my favorite cookbooks called Keeping Good Company: A Season-by-Season Collection of Recipes, with Entertaining and Homemaking Ideas. It’s illustrations and seasonal menus are beautiful and fun. I’ve made “Incredible Cavatini for a Crowd” many times, and it never fails to please. I think the magic ingredients are the sausage and the salsa. This is the recipe:

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. medium or milk ground pork sausage
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 1 (3-1/2 oz.) pkg. pepperoni slices, chopped
  • 1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes with roasted garlic
  • 1 (28 oz.) jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1 (16 oz.) jar mild salsa
  • 1 (16 oz.) pkg. shell macaroni, cooked and drained
  • 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 c. (16 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • (I like to add a pinch of crushed red pepper and a little brown sugar, too)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook ground beef, sausage, and onion together until meat is done. Add sliced mushrooms and saute until mushrooms are limp. Drain well; set aside. Combine the next five ingredients with meat. Spoon half of this pasta mixture into 2 lightly greased 11 x 7 x 1-1/2″ baking dishes; sprinkle with half of the Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Top with remaining pasta mixture. Bake for 30 minutes; top with remaining cheeses; bake 5 minutes longer.

The Spinach Salad has pears, craisins, red onions and toasted walnuts in it. I slightly adapted the recipe from Epicurious.

Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Salad:

  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries
  • 8 cups lightly packed fresh baby spinach leaves, stemmed if needed
  • 2 firm but ripe Bosc pears (do not peel), quartered lengthwise, cored, and cut into long, thin slices
  • 2/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup Feta cheese

To make the dressing, in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Cover tightly and shake vigorously to blend. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Set aside.

Place the onions in a medium bowl and cover with cold water. Let stand for 30 minutes. This crisps the onion and takes away the raw onion taste. Drain well and pat dry on paper towels.

In a small bowl, toss the cranberries with 2 tablespoons of the dressing to soften them. Set aside for at least 20 minutes or until ready to serve the salad.

To assemble the salad, place the spinach, onions, and pears in a large bowl. Give the remaining dressing a last-minute shake and pour over the salad. Toss to coat evenly. Arrange the salad in a large serving bowl or divide it evenly among 8 salad plates. Scatter the cranberries and hazelnuts over the top(s). Serve immediately.

Do Ahead: The dressing can be made up to 1 day in advance, covered tightly, and refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator 2 hours before serving. The nuts can be toasted up to 1 day in advance; store at room temperature in an airtight container. The onions and cranberries can be prepared up to up to 4 hours in advance. Set aside at room temperature.

Finally, here is the recipe for Debbie’s quick breadsticks:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1-2 tablespoons dry milk

Mix ingredients together in the order listed, into a soft dough, and knead with mixer for 10 minutes. Divide dough into 2 pieces, and stretch onto greased sheet pans. Cut into strips, and let rise for at least 30 min. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 min, adjust according to your oven. Remove from oven and immediately run a stick of butter over the bread, then sprinkle with garlic salt and grated parmesan cheese.

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