Recipes: A Special Dinner for Special Guests

Last month when I posted the LadyFingers recipes I hinted a little bit that we were hosting a few special guests in September.  Well, last Friday night we were really sneaky and had a LadyFingers/First Comes Health dinner and didn’t tell a single soul about it.  No Twitter contest, no hyped Facebook posts.  We just had a really great dinner with some cool people.
So, who were our special guests?

Hayley Mason and Bill Staley from the Food Lovers’ Kitchen!
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been buddies with these guys for a while now and I can’t think of a better way to spend time with friends than to cook and eat with them.  We thought it would be fun to invite some awesome people/Internet luminaries to share in a very special menu.  We had a great time in the kitchen talking about food, wine, being Paleo, and their upcoming wedding.  And then we sat down for dinner to a tailor-made feast.  Diane didn’t disappoint!  Three courses that were not only delish, but looked fab too.
Let’s get to the recipes!
Hard-Boiled Quail Eggs with Tapenade Trio – serves 6
12 quail eggs
10 Kalamata olives
10 large green olives
10 large pink olives
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Place quail eggs in a pot and cover with water.  Heat on high just until water comes to a boil.  Remove pot from heat and allow eggs to stand for 7 minutes. Carefully transfer eggs to an ice bath to cool.
Pit olives as necessary.
Using one type of olive at a time, place olives in a mini food processor.  Add 1 teaspoon olive oil and process until finely chopped.  Add additional olive oil if mixture is too dry.  Transfer olive mixture to a bowl.
Stir in 2 teaspoons of chopped parsley to each olive mixture.  Add a third teaspoon depending on quantity of olive mixture.
Remove the quail eggs from the ice bath and carefully peel.
Slice each egg lengthwise and place 4 halves on each serving plate.
Place a small mound of each olive mixture between egg halves and serve.

Jill’s note: This is, by far, the most visually striking dish we’ve ever prepared.  And uniquely yummy too!  It’s worth it to find some quail eggs in your area.  In preparation for this dish Diane and I thought we would have to span the globe to find quail eggs.  Turns out they were readily available at our local Asian supermarket.  We were a bit intimidated by them at first, but we practiced a few hard boiling methods and settled on the one described above, and there was nothing to be afraid of.  Easy!  And they make for a really special plate.
Tomato and Spaghetti Squash Salad with Chive Oil – serves 6
1 bunch fresh chives
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium spaghetti squash
1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh thyme
8 plum tomatoes, finely diced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
For Chive Oil:
Rinse fresh chives and shake to remove water.  Pat dry with a paper towel.
Place chives in a blender, reserving 6 chives for garnish.
Add ¾ cup olive oil to the blender.  Cover and puree until smooth, adding more olive oil if necessary.
Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and pour chive puree into the sieve.
Using the back of a spoon or a pestle, swirl puree around the bottom of the sieve until oil has been strained into the bowl and pulp remains in the sieve.  Discard pulp.
Transfer chive oil to a squeeze bottle and set aside.
For Spaghetti Squash:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut the squash lengthwise and place cut-side down in a glass baking dish.  Fill the dish with ½-inch hot water and tightly cover with aluminum foil.  Bake for 45 minutes.
Carefully remove the foil and turn the squash halves over.  Using potholders, re-cover the dish with the foil.  Bake for an additional 15 minutes.
Allow the squash to cool until it can be easily handled.
Using a spoon, remove the seeds and discard.  Using a fork, remove the squash strands and place in a bowl.
Refrigerate the squash until well chilled.
To Assemble:
Place a ring mold on each serving plate.
Spoon ¼ – ½ cup spaghetti squash into each ring mold and tamp down.
Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon finely minced thyme over the squash layer.
Toss diced tomatoes with just enough olive oil to coat lightly and then spoon ½ cup tomatoes into the mold atop the thyme layer.  Gently tamp down.
Using the squeeze bottle, squirt a ring of chive oil around the outside of the mold.
Carefully remove the molds, garnish with reserved chives and serve.

Poached Duck Breast Rolls – serves 6
2 large fresh duck breasts
salt and pepper, to taste
dash of allspice
Place a large pot of water over high heat.  Bring to a boil.
Pound duck breasts flat and trim each breast piece to roughly form a rectangle.  Season with salt and pepper and allspice.
Place two 15-inch pieces of plastic wrap on a flat work surface.
Tightly roll each duck breast lengthwise into a cylinder and place on long edge of plastic wrap.  Keeping breast rolled tightly, roll in plastic wrap.  Take one end of plastic wrap and twist tightly against breast roll.  Take the other end and twist tightly in the opposite direction.  Tie twisted ends together to secure rolls.
Place breast rolls in pot with boiling water and poach for 7-8 minutes for medium-rare.
Remove breasts from boiling water and let cool briefly.  Remove plastic wrap and cut each breast into three sections.
Spoon sauce of choice onto serving plate, top each with duck breast section and serve.
Raspberry and Red Wine Puree – serves 6
4 packages raspberries
4 ½ tablespoons red wine
Rinse and gently pat raspberries dry.
Place raspberries in a blender, reserving 18 berries for garnish.
Add 4 ½ tablespoons red wine to the blender.  Cover and puree until smooth.
Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and pour raspberry puree into the sieve.
Using the back of a spoon, swirl puree around the bottom of the sieve until liquid has been strained into the bowl and seeds remain in the sieve.  Discard seeds.
Serve raspberry sauce with meat or poultry, using reserved raspberries as garnish.
Variations: Substitute orange juice for red wine for an alcohol-free puree, or substitute pure maple syrup for a sweeter puree.

Maple-Roasted Parsnip “Fries” – serves 6
6-8 medium parsnips
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cover large baking sheet with non-stick foil.
Peel parsnips and cut into 4-inch “fries”.
Place parsnip fries in a large bowl and toss with olive oil.  Add maple syrup and toss again until evenly coated.
Spread parsnip fries on prepared baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes.
Turn fries and roast for an additional 10 – 15 minutes until fries are tender and maple syrup is caramelized.
Serve immediately.

This is a slightly more complicated menu with some more complicated techniques than Diane and I usually provide.  Some of the ingredients aren’t always readily available at the run-of-the-mill supermarket, but they are definitely worth seeking out.  I encourage you to give these recipes a try the next time you have a special occasion!  Duck isn’t a meat that is typically eaten regularly in the American household, but it’s so gosh darned delicious and easy to prepare that it ought to be!  Branch out and try something new and be brave!
Very special thanks to Hayley and Bill for being our special guests.  They took some beee-yooooo-tiful photos of the meal which put our little iPhone shots to shame!  Ha.
In the coming weeks I will be announcing a all new LadyFingers/First Comes Health contest. Stay tuned for this because the very special prize is something you do NOT want to miss!
As always, printable versions of this month’s recipes:
Hard-Boiled Quail Eggs with Tapenade Trio
Tomato and Spaghetti Squash Salad with Chive Oil
Poached Duck Breast Rolls
Raspberry and Red Wine Puree
Maple-Roasted Parsnip Fries 


  1. CAL
    September 25, 2012 12:02 pm

    Looks positivitly SCRUMPDILLYICIOUS!! The only recipe that looks even remotely doable to me is one for the parsnip fries, lol. I ADORE parsnips. Hmmm, I’ll be in Pgh in 3rd week of Dec for my niece’s graduation from Duquesne…do you guys ever cook for NON-internet luminaries?!! 😉

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