Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Fabulously Simple Dinner Party with Recipe!

If there’s one thing I really enjoy, it’s throwing a dinner party.

When friends are in town, it’s so much nicer to have them over rather than going out to a restaurant. It’s quieter, more relaxed and I take delight in preparing food for friends.

When I was in college my room-mates and I would host big spaghetti dinners. As we were always short on funds, we would save aluminum cans for a month or two, cash them in and head to the grocery store for pasta, sauce, and of course beer.
Depending on the amount of cans turned in, we night even get ground beef for meatballs. This was served on paper plates and after dinner more people would arrive and it would turn into a big party------good times…..

They were simple, fun and apparently memorable. Once in awhile, I run into a blast from the past, they say “Remember those spaghetti dinners you used to have?”

Well things have certainly improved since my college days but my one guideline is to keep it simple. After all, I want to enjoy the party too.

Paula Joerling
In the kitchen.

Here’s how I keep it simple.

Typically, I only make dishes that I can prepare ahead of time and either reheat or pop in the oven when the guests arrive. The salad is made a few hours in advance and kept in the refrigerator covered with a damp towel. If something has to be cooked after the guests arrive, it’s something quick and easy like garlic shrimp or pasta.

The key thing to remember is that you’re not trying to impress anyone; you are simply preparing a meal to share with your friends.

What could be better than that?

Here’s a recipe for one of my favorite things to make. This can be prepared the day before and assembled several hours before the guests arrive.
I got the recipe from a friend but embellished it a bit because I can’t seem to stop myself from doing that.

Do you like to keep it simple when throwing a dinner party? Feel free to leave some of your tips in the comment section. 
Paula Joerling
The Feast!
Paula Joerling
The host and hostess and the crazy guests. See how much fun we're having?
 Special thanks to the guest of honor, Thomas Dang Vu, for the beautiful photos.

Spinach Torta

4-10 oz. packages of frozen chopped spinach thawed with all moisture removed.
(you have to squeeze, squeeze, squeeze it)
4 tbl-butter
½ medium onion chopped
3-scallions trimmed and sliced thin
8oz-mascarpone cheese at room temperature
1/2c freshly grated parmesan cheese
¼ c milk
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs beaten (reserve ¼ of the beaten eggs to brush on the crust)

These can vary but mine are:
Sautéed mushrooms
Roasted red pepper

2 c flour
½ tsp salt
½ c plus 1 tbl water
4 tbl olive oil

Parchment Paper

Make the Crust:
Put flour and salt in a bowl, add olive oil and water and mix until a dough is formed.

Let dough rest for 20 minutes or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
If you refrigerate it, form it into a crude rectangle first. It will be easier to roll out.

To Make the Filling:
Place drained, moisture free (this is important, you don’t want a soggy torta) spinach in a large bowl.
Sauté onions, garlic and scallions in the 4 tbl of butter until translucent.

Combine cheeses, cooled garlic onion mixture, milk, salt and pepper (to taste).
Add the beaten egg.
I normally mix this all-together using my hands. It’s way easier.

To Assemble:
Roll out dough on a piece of parchment paper that is a little larger than the size of a cookie sheet. The dough should be about the thickness of thin cardboard and as large as the cookie sheet.

Spread the spinach mixture over the top of the dough leaving 2-3” on all sides. Again, I use my hands for this.

Fold the edges of the dough over the top of the spinach mixture and brush with the reserved egg.

Top with the sautéed mushrooms and peppers.

Bake in a 425 degree oven until crust is golden brown (about 20 minutes)

Let rest a bit, cut into squares and enjoy!

Paula Joerling
What the torte looks like before going into the oven


  1. That is just fabulous! I'm going to try this recipe for sure girl! Love the photos! OX

  2. It was so Delicious!!!! The BEST Spinach Torta I ever had! Thank You Paula and Tom!