1. PRE-DINNER SNACK: Roasted Fennel & White Bean Dip on Whole Wheat Crostini
Serves 12 as an appetizer
For roasted fennel:
1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 to 3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, still in papery shell
salt and pepper
For the cannellini bean puree
¾ cups olive oil
2 garlic cloves, Peeled and minced
2½ cups cooked cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
Sliced and toasted whole grain bread
First make the roasted fennel. Preheat the oven to 400º. Toss the fennel and garlic cloves in the olive oil and spread on a sheet pan. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, turning twice during cooking. Take out and let cool. When cool, squeeze the roasted garlic out of their skins.
Start the cannellini bean puree. In a small frying pan heat ½ cup olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic cloves and cook until lightly golden, add rosemary and cannellini beans, and cook for 1 minute more. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Take it off the heat.
In a food processor combine the garlic bean mixture, fennel, roasted garlic, lemon juice, remaining ¼ olive oil, and all but 3 tablespoons of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Puree until smooth.
Raise oven temperature to 450º. Transfer puree into a small baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Feel free to add more. If your dish is near full, place it on a baking sheet, in case it bubbles over in the oven. Bake until cheese is golden on top, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with crostini.
3. MAIN: Foil-Roasted Salmon with an Aromatic Jus
5. DESSERT: Ginger Poached Pears with Honeyed Vanilla Custard
6. TO DRINK: Mulled White Wine with Pear Brandy
Serve this to your guests as they arrive.