Since we wouldn't be eating dinner until somewhat late, I decided to prepare my go-to appetizer, Baguettes with fig jam and brie cheese. This is inspired by my favorite panini at Whole Foods which features fig jam, brie cheese, turkey deli meat and a spring mix. My appetizer is so easy to prepare- just cut the bread, slather on about a tablespoon of fig jam, and then add a slice of brie cheese. Toast in the broiler for about 2-3 minutes until the cheese starts to melt and serve hot!The main course, Herbed Chicken Parmesan, comes from the Cooking Light Italian cookbook, which I tried once this spring and absolutely loved. The two different cheeses add dimension, and I love the idea of adding balsalmic vinegar to pasta sauce to jass it up. I also sauteed 4 or 5 garlic cloves to add to the sauce.
1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1 pound chicken breast tenders
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups bottled fat-free tomato-basil pasta sauce (I used Central Market brand Basil and herb)
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) shredded provolone cheese
*Note, I doubled this recipe as I was serving 8 people, not 4
Combine 2 tablespoons of Parmesan, breadcrumbs, parsley, basil, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a shallow dish. Place egg white in a shallow dish. Dip each chicken tender in egg white; dredge in the breadcrumb mixture. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Set aside.
Combine 1/8 teaspoon salt, pasta sauce, vinegar, and pepper in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap; vent. Microwave sauce mixture at HIGH 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Pour the sauce over chicken in pan. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining Parmesan and provolone cheese. Wrap handle of pan with foil, and broil 2 minutes or until the cheese melts.
I know it's cliche, but I served this with a big pot of spaghetti with plenty of the extra balsalmic pasta sauce to go around. To add some greenery, I created a fun new Italian salad to go with it:
Balsalmic Italian Salad
8 oz. romaine lettuce
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into disks on the diagonal
1/4 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup grapes, cut in half
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 lemon, zested then juiced
3 tablespoons balsalmic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Combine in a large bowl and toss to combine dressing. Note that the amount of vinegar and olive oil can vary depending on your tastes. I love using the citrus to brighten the flavors and add some zest!
The final product, served of course with champagne in honor of Project Runway. What a great first dinner party!
What's your go-to appetizer for simple, but impressive, entertainment?