Dîner la nuit passée (pour une partie de quatre) :

Le entree
Red Endive with Honeydew melon wrapped in prosciutto

This was really easy to make. Take chunks of honeydew melon, plop it on top of a red endive leaf, wrap the whole thing with a strip of prosciutto. Repeat twice more, then plate and send it out.

Repeat until you run out of ingredients (you'll most likely run out of proscuitto first).

Le potage
Creamy Leek and Carrot Soup

Take one large onion and chop it up. Put it in soup pot with some oil, and put on medium heat. Add some garlic cloves, and cook until the onions become translucent. Then add chicken stock (in a perfect world, I'd use stock I'd made myself. Second choice would be either frozen stock concentrate or that "Better than Bouillon" stuff. Since this is not a perfect world, however (which means that I plumb forget to get some of option 2 at the supermarket), I just grabbed four cans of College Inn Chicken Stock and used that. As a side note, if you keep your canned chicken stock cool, the fat will automagically harden, which means that you can cook with fat-free stock). Add two medium Idaho potatoes, cut into slices, and three large carrots, chopped (so that they'll cook faster). Add the whites of two large leeks, chopped up (I used very large leeks, where the whites were about 10 inches long. I used one of the leeks to practice cutting the leek into julienne; since leaks cook relatively quickly, it doesn't really matter what shape you cut them into); discard the tougher, green fronds of the leeks. Cook until the carrots are soft.

Then puree (traditionally, I've used a conventional blender, which works great but is a PITA, since you need a tureen to put the soup in after it's been blended, and you have to do it in stages, simply because you can't fit all that soup into a blender jar at once. This time I bought one of those hand-held immersion blenders (the Braun Multiquick MR 400, which is exactly the same thing as this model, except that it's $10 cheaper because it doesn't come with attachments), and tried it out, and I have to say that it works pretty well. It's not exactly really easy to control -- the liquid comes up through the bottom and out through the sides, which means that 1. it's easy to make a mess, and 2. it tends to attach itself to the bottom of the pot like a vacuum cleaner. Having said that, it really does do a pretty good job). After that, add cream/milk (I was going to experiment with a yogurt drink, instead of cream, but it was really sour, so I scrapped that idea. After adding some skim milk, it was still not right, so I tossed in about a tablespoon of butter (1/8 of a stick), and that really brought it together). You can actually add the dairy before you blend it. Your call. Add pepper and salt to taste (you probably don't need to add too much salt at all unless you made your own chicken stock). Serve garnished with little chopped up green onions on top for contrast.

You can actually make this soup with lots of different vegetables -- broccoli, asparagus, etc.

As a side note, the quantities described here will make a lot of soup -- probably enough for 10.

Le plat du jour
Mixed Pasta with Ginger Prawns and Artichoke Sauce

It's "Mixed Pasta" because I didn't have enough of any single kind of pasta to serve four. And even then it was pushing it, which is why I added the shrimp.

I used two kinds of pasta: some exotically multicolored pappardelle I found while I was in Paris, and some leftover pork tortellini I had sitting, sans sauce, in the fridge. The pappardelle cooked really fast -- in about four minutes, which must be some kind of record for dry pasta.

Drain the pappardelle and set it aside.

Heat some olive oil in a large pan, and add freshly grated ginger directly to the hot oil (I grated the ginger directly into the pan. Add 1 pound of shelled medium shrimp. Toss for about two or three minutes, until it's done. Take care not to overcook the shrimp, otherwise they'll turn into rubber really quickly. Also remember that they'll continue to cook once to you take them off heat. Add pepper to taste.

Take shrimp off heat and reserve. Put a small jar of artichoke sauce (you can find it at Fairway) into the pan at high heat, add the tortellini, toss, add the pappardelle, toss it some more, then add the shrimp and toss once more. Turn off heat.

Plate pasta on about 1/2 - 2/3s of the plate. Garnish with dried parsley flakes, and add an endive leaf (left over from the entree) for extra color on the side. Serve.

Le vin
1999 Echelon Pinot Noir from the Central Coast.