Made dinner with and for a bunch of friends this evening. Experimented with a few ideas, some seemed to work. Thought I'd share them in hopes of gaining some feedback. Apologize in advance for lack of measurements and timing; I don't really measure how much stuff I use.....always went by taste.
lemon risotto with ricotta and chives. Derived from a linguine with lemon sauce that I had once at Mescolanza in SF. Made risotto with lemon juice, a lot of lemon zest, and chicken stock. finished it by blending in ricotta cheese and plenty of chives for colour and texture (should have used twice as much as I did in retrospect). I'm going to try a fish or seafood stock next time; think that fish and seafood would go well with lemon.
tea braised lamb. Read about fifth floor's jasmine tea sauce with lamb and decided to try something along the same lines, but with a better tea. Marinated lamb with soy sauce, herbes de provence (probably overkill, perhaps thyme and rosemary migh have been enough), red wine, salt, pepper, sesame oil (small dash), dried red chilli, olive oil, chopped ginger, garlic and shallots. Heated up some olive oil with garlic, ginger, shallots, browned lamb and braised with da hong pau (big red robe) tea (made first and then poured onto lamb, subsequently added more tea leaves). Also added whole hazelnuts, prunes, and plum jam (in moderation). (Original idea was to braise the lamb in tea, along with gingko nuts and dried red dates, but I improvised.) Idea was to contrast lamb with fruit and use the red tea's tannin against the meat as well as to use the tea's richness and complexity in a savoury contextl seemed to do quite well. Served with savoy cabbage boiled in the braising liquid and mashed butternut squash (added salt, olive oil, sage).
Cauliflower soup (reverse engineering of a soup I had at Cafe Desiree in SF). Pureed boiled cauliflower with some water and chicken stock. Boiled and added coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, fennel seeds, white pepper, ginger powder, tumeric (use tumeric sparingly). Stirred in heavy cream near the end. Garnished with matchsticks of apple and a dollop of ricotta (had that around for the risotto). Sour cream or yogurt might have been better.