This meal marked the end of an era. My good friend Megan is moving away this weekend. I spent the better part of two years cooking dinner for her weekly, experimenting with all sorts of dishes. She is one of the most delightful people to cook for because she’s game to try anything. (Plus, she insists on doing the dishes!)
It was Megan’s Instagram following that really prompted me to start this blog. Last summer she posted a photo of a pizza I made and the demand for the recipe was overwhelming. I blogged about it and the rest is history. Megan was one of the first people who ever heard the name The Rose Table, so I knew I had to make something really special for her farewell dinner.
Megan and I bonded early over our mutual love of bacon, which is why all three courses involve bacon. In the afternoon, I cooked a whole pack of Central Market‘s Cherrywood Smoked Bacon in the oven. To cook a lot of bacon at once, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and lay strips on a greased cooling rack nestled in a jelly roll pan. (This keeps the bacon out of its grease.) Cook for 8-10 minutes, use tongs to flip the bacon upside down and cook for another 8-10 minutes.
I glazed two slices with maple syrup for the ice cream. Oh yes. You heard me. Bacon ice cream. That’s coming later. Let’s start at the beginning. It’s not even fair how good this salad is. Why aren’t we eating cabbage every day? It looks so pretty and the crunch is delightful.
Bacon & Avocado Cabbage-Spinach Salad
3 cups baby spinach, chopped
1/2 head red cabbage, chopped
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
2 strips cooked and crumbled bacon
1 avocado, cut into cubes
4 oz feta cheese
1) Toss chopped baby spinach and cabbage in a serving bowl.
2) Add sunflower seeds, bacon, and avocado.
3) Toss well with Greek dressing.
4) Serve with hunks of feta.
With the salad, I served this simple ciabatta appetizer, inspired by one of my favorite appetizers at Bin 303.
Kalamata Olive & Goat Cheese Crostini
1/2 loaf Ciabatta bread
1 Tbsp roasted garlic olive oil
1 cup kalamata olives
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp olive oil
2 Tbsp Italian parsley
8 oz goat cheese
1) Stand Ciabatta bread on its heel and cut in half through the center, splitting the top from the bottom. (Reserve the top half for sandwiches or simply double the rest of the recipe.) Brush olive oil (I used roasted garlic olive oil – yum!) on the cut side of the bread.
2) Grill Ciabatta cut-side down over medium flame about 2 minutes. You want nice grill marks and crunch on the outside but fluffy bread on the inside.* Remove from grill and set aside.
3) Toss Kalamata olives, garlic cloves, a bit of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and some Italian parsley in a food processor and process until you have a tapenade consistency. I’m crazy about garlic so I used two cloves but if you’re not a big garlic lover, stick to one clove.
4) Cut ciabatta into slices and spread goat cheese and Kalamata mixture on top. Sprinkle a bit more chopped Italian parsley on top. Rosemary would also be delicious!
Megan requested pasta for the main course. You often see pasta drowning in sauce but I see pasta more as a vehicle to let fresh ingredients shine. I have loads of variations of this same pasta dish but here is one of my favorite combinations.
The Rose Table’s Zucchini Pasta with Chicken Sausage
1 box rigatoni
5 links chicken sausage
2 zucchini, halved and sliced
1 heirloom tomato, cut into chunks
3 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan
1) Cut chicken sausage into even slices. Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil (I’m having a moment with roasted garlic olive oil) over medium heat in a large pan. Cook sausage slices until browned on both sides. Because you’ve sliced the sausages, this only takes a few minutes so keep an eye on it!
2) Remove sausage with a slotted spoon and reserve. Lower heat and add zucchini. Let caramelize low and slow while your pasta boils. (Now is also a good time to enjoy a glass of wine!)
3) Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions. Mine took 12 minutes. Every few minutes I gave my zucchini a stir.
4) While pasta is boiling, use 1/2 cup of pasta water to deglaze your zucchini pan. The starch from the pasta acts as a binding agent. Add heirloom tomato chunks to the zucchini pan. The tomato will break down and add fresh, summery flavor to your dish.
5) Always test pasta before you drain it to make sure it’s done to your liking. Drain pasta and add to your zucchini pan.
6) Add sausage slices, crumbled bacon, Italian parsley, and parmesan to the dish. (Don’t measure the parmesan. Be bold. You really can’t have too much parmesan.) Stir well to let all the flavors get acquainted. If you want to be super Italian, add a drizzle of high-quality olive oil right at the end.
Now that you’re too stuffed to move, we can finally talk about that bacon ice cream. If you’re anything like me, you’ve never once been eating ice cream and thought, “You know what I could go for? Bacon!” But after eating this, you just might.
Chocolate Maple Bacon Ice Cream in Maple Cookie Cups
For the Maple Cookie Cups:
2 egg white
7 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp maple extract
1/8 tsp salt
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, stir together the egg whites, sugar, and maple extract. Stir in the salt and 1/3 cup of flour. Mix in melted butter. Beat in remaining 1/3 cup of flour until smooth.
2) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and use the back of a spoon to spread 2 tablespoons of the batter into two 6″ circles. I used a small cookie sheet and could only fit two circles in the middle.
3) Bake for ten minutes or until golden brown. While in the oven, choose the glasses you want to use for your bowl molds.
4) Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Use a thin spatula to transfer cookie disks from the cookie sheet to your glasses. Gently press the cookie around the glass. (I had oven mitts on so the heat didn’t bother me.) Repeat the process using the remaining batter.
5) Let the bowls cool until firm. If desired (when is this not desired?!), melt two ounces of semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate and dip the edges in the chocolate. Just pop each bowl in the freezer for a few minutes to set the chocolate. I kept the finished bowls in the fridge until dessert.
For the Ice Cream:
3 cups half & half
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into chunks
2 strips maple-glazed bacon, cooked, cooled, and crumbled*
1) Whisk the first five ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Have patience with the cocoa powder. It will evenly incorporate, I promise.
2) Transfer to an ice cream maker and churn according to manual instructions. Mine took about 20 minutes.
3) Add chocolate chunks and maple-glazed bacon* and let churn for two more minutes to thorough mix in your delicious add-ins.
4) You can eat it right then and there but homemade ice cream will be soft-serve unless it hangs out in the freezer for a few hours. Simply transfer the ice cream to a tupperware container and pop in the freezer for 2-3 hours before serving.
5) Serve in chocolate-dipped maple cookie bowl. Garnish with a chunk of maple-glazed bacon.
*To make maple-glazed bacon, cook bacon strips on a greased cooling rack nestled in a jelly roll pan in a 400 degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Brush with maple syrup, turn over, and cook for another 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and brush second side with maple. Let cool. The bacon will firm up as it cools.
Until we dine again,
The Rose Table