It happens, especially in these long gray and rainy afternoons, to regret for a little while summer, the season of garden parties, barbecues and cocktails under the stars, caressed by a gentle breeze. It is a feeling that does not last long, though, because the autumn and winter have their unquestionable winning points, just think of cosy dinners at home, next to a fireplace to roast chestnuts in an old cast iron pan with holes, rocked by the a good smell spreading in the room, a dry and reassuring smell of fire, wood and old times.
During summer the available spaces are often larger, while the good weather and the sun tun turn everyone’s mood into a happy and open one. When the warm season surrenders to the rainy winter, though, you have to squeeze all your friends and festive ideas into rather small rooms with a stormy weather outside and creepy branches rustling against your windows. As a perfect host, your task is to put everyone at ease, giving a feeling of warm hospitality.
How to do that? How to make pleasant and memorable even the last minute improvised dinner? How to make everyone feel welcomed and involve them into the party?
I try to involve my friends in the imaginative construction of their plate, so that everyone can customize his own sandwich, or pizza, or tigella according to his taste and preferences. As a former marketing student, I strongly believe in the importance of the customized service and the totally involving experience… a few memories left from my University years!
Involve the clients – in this case your guests – and make them feel pampered and unique. Draw them into an event and this will be memorable for them. Translated into few words, what has it to do with a dinner at home?
It works just like during the cooking classes for the little ones: at the beginning the children didn’t even dare to taste fava beans, but eventually they shelled them, mashed them with fresh pecorino cheese and olive oil and then spread the green velvety cream over toasted slices of bread… at the end of the morning they were licking their fingers after having enjoyed a whole tray of fava bean crostini! You involved them into a messy and fun experience and they trusted you.
With adults it works in much the same way, it is often the background, the experience that counts and that leaves them with a good memories or makes them feel open and creative. If during a party you want to involve different groups of friends, to integrate even the most shy person into a laugh or a chat and to make Little Miss Perfect who stands in her corner with not a hair out of place loosed a bit, the best thing to do is to draw everyone into a fun and creative activity.
Your task is to make crêpes, tigelle, omelettes, tacos or quesadillas, whatever you want provided it is warm, fragrant and made with quality ingredients, then arrange on the table small bowls with different spreads, fresh herbs, cheese sauces and cold cuts, and let everyone create the dinner according to his taste.
You will see that everyone will be involved gradually, your friends will pass from hand to hand the bowl you filled with smoked salmon and goat cheese spread or will declare loudly that the best combination is definitely rosemary potatoes with crispy bacon crumbs.
On the occasion of a dinner with friends I made these crepes made with organic chickpea flour, inspired by an appetizer I had in one of my favourite restaurants, the Trattoria Bel mi’ Colle in Colle di Val d’Elsa, and seasoned with mashed rosemary potatoes and crispy bacon.
I used rosemary as predominant herb because for me – from Tuscany – chickpeas recall the rosemary, no ifs and buts, but you can play along with the herbs and spices you prefer.
- 4 eggs
- 4 heaping tablespoons of chickpea flour
- 3 tablespoons of sparkling water
- 1 pinch of salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
- 4 medium potatoes
- freshly ground pepper
- 200 g smoked bacon, diced
- Break the eggs into a bowl and beat them with a whisk. Add 4 heaping tablespoons of chickpea flour, a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper, then whisk in 3 tablespoons of sparkling water and beat until the batter is smooth and without lumps. Let the batter rest for half an hour.
- Meanwhile, rinse and peel the potatoes, then cut them into cubes and boil in salted water until they are cooked through. Drain them.
- In a pan heat a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a sprig of rosemary, so that it will slowly release the essential oils. Add the potatoes previously drained, grind black pepper on top and stir so that the potatoes are well seasoned, crushing them with a wooden spoon to mix all the flavours. Let them cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, and put them aside.
- In another frying pan cook the diced bacon with a sprig of rosemary over a high flame for 5 minutes, so that it becomes crispy. Drain the bacon from the fat and place it on a sheet of kitchen paper.
- Now it's time to cook the crepes: brush a 15 cm large non-stick pan with extra virgin olive oil, heat it, pour in a small ladle of batter and roll the pan so the batter spreads evenly.
- Cook the crepe on one side for about 1 minute, then flip it with a flat spatula or with a nimble wrist movement and cook it for another minute, then remove from the pan and make a stack of crepes on a warm plate.
- Now start the party, filling every chickpea crepe with a generous tablespoon of rosemary potatoes, crispy bacon crumbs and freshly ground black pepper.