(photos from Rustico website)
Yesterday was my close friend's 30th birthday, and so we converged on midtown to honor him with food and wine, as usual. However, this dinner was different. All 8 of us cooked it together at Rustico Cooking. My friend enjoys cooking as much as I do, and we usually take turns making our other friends salivate in anticipation of our dinners. Last night some of us were old friends, and we met some new ones as well. We all participated with the direction of Rustico owner Micol to prepare the birthday dinner. We arrived and were greeted with wine and appetizers. Then Micol showed us how to assemble each part of the dinner, so that everyone was busy doing part of the cooking, prep or assembly. She had everything timed and organized so that we would be eating within an hour. It was impressive how with so many hands in the kitchen things come together like magic. It's been years since I had any cooking instruction outside Food Network, so I learned a few things. Apparently I pour on the olive oil a little heavily and I don't need to use so much. I'm a heavy oiler! I may never buy frozen gnocci again, either. There are so many variations you can create with a few simple ingredients. We made a chive-ricotta gnocci with caraway and sage. I thought all gnocci was made from potatoes, but Micol told us that using potatoes is relatively new, since potatoes only arrived in Italy in the 1700's. She said you could make gnocci out of lots of things, including butternut squash... I'll be trying that one this fall! We also made 3-cheese asparagus strudels with arugula, cauliflower bacon au gratin, chicken with mushroom marsala cream sauce and molten chocolate cakes. It was the most intimate and relaxing birthday party ever. Rustico Cooking was awesome, I can't wait for an excuse to go back and learn more!
Rustico Cooking's website also has lots of great recipes to try.