Fridays are my favorite day of the week. It has long been our date night and we rarely make plans to do anything because we are both ready to just relax at home by then. This is even more true lately, because life just seems more fraught and busier than ever these days.
The leisure of a Friday night, cooking together and catching up, is as welcome as a warm afghan on a cold day. We start texting each other by mid-afternoon with ideas for dinner. The Kitchen Genius’ ideas usually trump mine because he seems to be fussier on any given day than I am. Not that he’s actually fussy. Far from it. That man will eat just about anything.
But he has a fickler palate on a day to day basis. It’s not worth arguing about because we always eat very well. What difference does it make to me whether we eat linguini with white clam sauce or marinated lamb chops? I love it all.
Around 6 p.m. on Fridays, I turn off my laptop and he pulls into the driveway. I put Pandora “Dinner Party Radio” on my phone and turn on the speakers. Then I make cocktails while he unloads whatever groceries he picked up on his way home. His new favorite cocktail is a bourbon Negroni, which is equal parts bourbon, Campari and sweet vermouth, shaken and served straight up. I generally have an old-fashioned on the rocks because it’s perfect for slow sipping.
Friday is the only night we always make an appetizer to go along with our cocktails. Some weeks they are simple, like cheese stuffed mushroom caps or oysters with mignonette. We were so in love with oysters ceviche a while back that we ate it every week for a month. Stuffies are another favorite along with clams casino.
Our new favorite appetizer is a new recipe we tried on Easter. Our crowd of over 20 could not get enough of the crostini topped with roasted garlic and white bean hummus we made. It is one of the simplest recipes you can make, so this will certainly be on the menu at our next dinner party.
Foods come and go from favor all the time. Roasted garlic was the darling of most chefs a few years ago. Then it kind of got forgotten, although my son in law tells me the roasted black garlic is a current rage.
Roasting garlic is incredibly easy. You simply slice the top off of a whole bulb of garlic cloves, drizzle it with some olive oil and wrap in up in a little foil packet. Tuck it into a 300-degree oven for about 45 minutes. Slow cooking garlic in its skin transforms it from something with a lot of bite to something that is incredibly smooth and sweet.
To remove the garlic from the skins, turn it upside down over a bowl and squeeze. Each tender garlic bulb will pop right out. At this point, no one would fault you if you smothered a few cloves of it onto a waiting slab on a nice crusty piece of bread, but patience offers a bigger reward. When the roasted garlic is pureed with cannellini beans, olive oil and fresh rosemary, the result will make you forget that butter exists as a condiment for bread.
To make crostini I start with a long baguette, cut into fairly thin slices, which I arrange on a baking sheet. First I take a peeled clove of garlic and slice it in half. Then I run the cut side of the garlic over the top of each crostini. I use a small pastry brush to spread a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil on each slice. A light sprinkling of salt adds flavor. Broil the crostini for about one minute until golden brown.
You want to make these at the last minute so they stay crisp, rather than becoming chewy. To serve, arrange the crostini on a platter and put the hummus in a small bowl. Place colorful toppings like Kalamata olives, marinated sweet red peppers and marinated mushrooms in other bowls so guests can create their own crostini.