As I was making plans for my next summer party, it occurred to me that my favorite has become the Summer White Party. All white parties began in the Hamptons over 20 years ago and were a throw-back to the age of jazz and the Great Gatsby. The parties have since become very popular. Chic and elegant are the bywords for the event, where each of the guests comes dressed in white, from head to toe. To make the experience truly memorable, I prepare a white sauce-based dinner with white-themed Italian desserts, such as Floating Islands and Vanilla Panna Cotta.
Since the summer is unfortunately coming to a close, there is no better send-off than an elegant party to bid goodbye to the long summer days – and what better way to celebrate than with this modern classic – the Tutti Bianco. I have suggested some recipes for you to choose from, such as the tender Italian white asparagus and the delicious white corn chowder. Whichever recipes you select, your guests will undoubtedly enjoy both the dishes and the experience. My motto is “Any excuse to have a party!”
Cacio e Pepe Pasta
1 lb spaghetti
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp very coarse freshly ground black pepper
1-3/4 cups freshly grated Parmigiano, plus more for serving
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid before draining.
Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the foam from the butter subsides. Add the pepper and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Add the pasta and 3/4 cup of the reserved cooking liquid, tossing to coat. Sprinkle the Parmigiano on top and continue to cook, tossing, until the cheese is melted and the pasta is well coated, about 2 minutes. Add a little more of the cooking liquid to loosen, if necessary. Season with salt and divide among 4 bowls. Serve with additional Parmigiano.
Summer White Corn Chowder
8 ears fresh sweet white corn, husked and silks removed and kernels cut from cob
3 tbsp butter
5 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion chopped (1-1/2 cups)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 clove garlic, minced
5 cups water
1 lb potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup half and half
1 tbsp honey
2 – 3 tbsp chopped fresh chives
shredded white cheddar cheese, for serving
Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until onion has softened and just starting to brown around edges, about 8 – 10 minutes. Add in the flour and garlic and cook 1-1/2 minutes. While whisking, slowly pour in 5 cups water.
Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, then stir in corn kernels and potatoes. Add in thyme and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a light boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
Remove bay leave then transfer 2 1/2 cups of the chowder to a blender and blend until smooth. Stir the mixture back into the pot then stir in half and half and honey. Sprinkle each serving with chives and cheese.
Roasted White Asparagus
1 lb white asparagus
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp butter, cubed
1 large egg
Additional salt and pepper for seasoning
Fresh tarragon for garnish
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Wash and the clean asparagus, then peel the stalks and cut off the bottom part, about 1/2 inch worth. Layer asparagus stalks in a double layer of aluminum foil. Top with butter and then sprinkle with salt and sugar.
Roast in the oven on 375°F for 30-40 minutes, depending on how soft you like the asparagus. Meanwhile, hard boil your egg: Submerge the egg in salted water in a small saucepan. Bring the water to a boil slowly over medium low heat. When the water boils, turn off the heat and let the egg stand for 10-15 minutes. Run the egg under cold water to stop the cooking process. Allow the egg to cool while the asparagus finishes cooking.
Remove the asparagus and divide between serving plates. Grate the egg over the asparagus, drizzle with olive oil, then season with additional salt, pepper and fresh tarragon.
White Eggplant Pie
3 tbsp butter, unsalted, slightly cooled
1 cup breadcrumbs
6 firm white eggplants
1 cup Parmigiano cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a baking dish with a tablespoon of butter and sprinkle some bread crumbs into the dish. Peel and quarter the eggplants and immediately cool them in salted water for 10 minutes. Drain and press them on paper towels to remove excess water and remove big seeds, if any.
Mix the eggplant, eggs cheese and remaining breadcrumbs. Mix in the remaining butter. Place into the baking dish and cook for 20 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are golden. Serve hot.
Roasted Swordfish with Ligurian Herb Sauce
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup fresh basil leaves
3 tbsp fresh marjoram leaves
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 4 thin lemon slices
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chopped pitted black olives (Gaeta)
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 swordfish steaks, each 6 to 8 oz. and 3/4 inch thick
Preheat oven to 450°F. On a cutting board, combine the parsley, basil, marjoram and garlic. Using a sharp knife, chop them together finely. Add the lemon zest and 1 teaspoon salt and chop a few more times. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the walnuts, olives and the 3 tablespoons of olive oil to form a coarse, spoonable paste. Cover with a thin layer of olive oil and set aside.
Place the swordfish steaks in a shallow roasting pan. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the swordfish and rub it in gently. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Place a lemon slice on each steak. Roast until the fish is cooked through, about 15 minutes.
Arrange the fish on a serving platter or on individual plates and spoon the herb sauce on top. Serve immediately.
Italian Riviera Floating Islands
1 quart whole milk
4 oz powdered sugar
3 oz pistachios, chopped
1 tbsp of flour
a pinch of powdered cinnamon
Prepare the floating islands first. Pour the milk in a saucepan, keeping half a glass aside, place it on the stove and bring to a light boil. Meanwhile, separate the egg yolks from the whites and whip the whites until stiff adding 2 ounces of sugar. They should be pretty firm and shiny. Pour the mixture into the simmering milk a tablespoon at a time. The floating island will swell slightly. Turn them gently with a spoon. Cook them for about 1 minute, or until they are firm. Remove the islands with a skimmer and lay on a paper towel. Repeat until all the whites have been cooked.
To prepare the cream, remove the saucepan with the milk from the heat, add the remaining sugar and the beaten egg yolks and put aside. In a pan heat the half glass of milk left aside, add the chopped pistachios (reserve 2 teaspoons to garnish), cook for 2-3 minutes stirring from time to time, remove from the heat, strain and add to the cream. Put the cream back on the stove and cook over a very low flame, stirring until the cream coats the spoon.
Pour the cream into the cups, place two or three floating island on top of the cream and sprinkle with cinnamon and chopped pistachios.
Vanilla Panna Cotta
1 envelope unflavored gelatin (about 1 tbsp)
2 tbsp cold water
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup half and half
1/3 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
In a very small saucepan sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand about 1 minute to soften. Heat the gelatin mixture over a low flame until the gelatin is dissolved and remove pan from heat.
In a large saucepan bring the cream, half and half and sugar just to a boil over moderately high flame, while stirring continuously. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the gelatin mixture and vanilla. Divide the cream mixture among eight 1/2-cup ramekins and cool to room temperature. Chill the ramekins, covered, for at least 4 hours.
When ready to serve, dip the ramekins, 1 at a time, into a bowl of hot water for 3 seconds. Run a thin knife around edge of each ramekin and invert ramekin onto center of a small plate. Garnish with your favorite fruit.