My new friend Susan asked me if I wanted to be a part of a cooking group where a few women would get together every other month or so to cook, drink, eat (not necessarily in that order) and share stories and their love of all thing digestible. What could I say but YES!
Last night was our first gathering. The theme of the night was Tuscany and I was asked to think up something to pair with a Tuscan Lemon Chicken (Ina Garten),Bistecca all Fiorentina (MIchal Chiarello) and a panzanella salad. I had some squash in the garden so I went in search of inspiration and found a recipe for Sformati, a soufflé-like side dish that is delicious, versatile and easy. Everyone loved it and the dinner was delicious. I can't wait until next time...what will we choose for a theme?
2# zucchini or any mix of summer squash (about 4 medium), or any other veg, carrots, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, etc
2T olive oil
1/2 c onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
salt & pepper
2/3 c parmesan cheese + 2T for sprinkling on top
1 T butter (for greasing ramekins)
1/2 c fine bread crumbs for dusting ramekins
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter eight 6-ounce ramekins. Coat with fine bread crumbs and set aside on a baking sheet. Make the balsamella (see below) and set aside to cool.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet, add the onion and garlic. Cook until beginning to soften, 5 minutes. Add the squash (or whatever veggie), season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10-15 minutes. Puree all in a food processor until smooth. Meanwhile, beat 2 eggs lightly in a bowl; stir in the cooled balsamella. Add the squash puree and 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine. Divide the mixture among ramekins. Sprinkle with the rest of the parmesan and bake until a light golden crust forms on top and sformati are firm, about 30 minutes. Let settle for several minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the ramekin, hold a plate over the ramekin and invert onto the plate, then turn back over to expose the browned tops...or not! Garnish with fresh herbs or more parmesan. Serves 8.
1 c whole milk
1 T butter
1 1/2 T flour
1/4 t salt
freshly ground nutmeg
Heat 1 cup whole milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat until small bubbles form at edges. (Do not allow to boil). Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in a saucepan over low heat. When the butter has melted, stir in the flour all at once with a whisk. Cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Add the hot milk all at once while stirring continuously. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is smooth. Break up any lumps by pressing them against the sides. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is as dense as thick cream, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and a pinch of ground nutmeg. Set aside until ready to use, placing plastic wrap on the surface so a film does not form.
I had the pleasure of entertaining my book club ladies at my house last Monday night and although I wouldn't call it a 'bad girls' book club (because we actually DO read the book) we love to eat great food and drink nice wines at our monthly meeting. I knew that I wanted to grill something outside because it's been so bloody hot lately, and pork tenderloin is so easy to prepare, with a chilled fresh fruit salsa, it would be perfect! I know, I know, nectarines again but they are simply everywhere right now and I just can't help myself from using them as much as possible. I'm sure you'll forgive me when you take a taste but feel free to substitute any stone fruit (apricots, peaches, plums, pluots???), pineapple, mango or tomatoes...even a combination, it's summer, have fun!
Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Basic BBQ Dry Rub
4 pork tenderloins, silver skin removed, rinsed, patted dry
4 T Wren's Basic BBQ Rub (see recipe at bottom of page)
Place the tenderloins on a sheet pan and rub all over with Basic BBQ Rub. Let sit for an hour at room temp while you prepare the grill (or refrigerate for a longer time but pull out one hour before grilling). Grill over a medium hot fire for about 10 minutes each side until a meat thermometer reaches 140-145. Let rest for 10 minutes, slice and serve with the nectarine salsa. Serves 12
4 nectarines, halved, pitted and chunked to 1/2"
juice of 2 limes
1 large jalapeño, split, seeded and diced to 1/8"
1/4 red onion, diced to 1/2"
1/2 c cilantro, chopped coarsely
pinch of sea salt
Mix all together and let sit and chill for an hour or more to blend flavors. Serve alongside the pork. Makes about 4 cups.
Wren's Basic Dry Rub
1/4 c firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 c sweet paprika
3 T ground black pepper
3 T sea salt
2 t garlic powder
2 t onion powder
2 t celery seeds
1 t cayenne powder
Combine all in a mixing bowl and stir to blend. Store in an airtight jar away from heat or light and it should keep for about 6 months. Use on beef, pork, chicken or fish.
I was in Santa Barbara last week at the invitation of some of my Murphys friends who also live down there half of the time. I had never been to Santa Barbara before, no really. I LOVED it! Of course the ocean and beaches are beautiful, the sailboats, the mission and architecture...but the FOOD is over the top delicious. I had plenty of amazing eats, the pork tacos at Lilly's Taqueria downtown, the chicken meatball pizza from Honor Bar in Montecito, Huevos Rancheros at Delgados in Carpenteria and this wonderful nectarine salad at Garden Market, also in Carpenteria. I took notes as I was eating it and a picture for memory's sake and decided it would be a great blog post. I loved the yellow-orange of the fruit against the dark green of the kale, so pretty. Here is my rendition. Thanks Susie, Roxie, Pamela, Rob and Mikey for showing me a great time. Mu-wah!
Nectarine+ Kale Salad
2 nectarines, halved, pitted and sliced thinly
4 green onions, sliced thinly, crosswise
2 bunches of kale, stems removed (either cut them out or just hold onto the stem and pull the leaves off)
1/4 c shelled, toasted pistachios, chopped coarsely
1/2 feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper
Mix the vinaigrette first and have ready. Coarsely chop the kale into 2" x 2" pieces.
toss with the vinaigrette and massage with your finger tips for a few minutes so that the dressing starts to break down the kale. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss. This can hang out in your fridge for a couple of hours so it's a great side to take to a bbq.
2 T *Gravenstein apple-white balsamic vinegar
1 t honey
1 t dijon mustard
6 T extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon or lime
pinch of salt, grind of pepper
Mix together the vinegar, lemon or lime juice, honey and mustard. Slowly add the oil, whisking to emulsify. Add salt and pepper.
* I get my vinegars at Marisolio here in Murphys. They ship!
My friend Susie lives here in Murphys but also lives in Santa Barbara half the time. She put her garden in a couple of weeks ago and then headed south for awhile. She asked me to check on how things were growing and take anything that I wanted...what a nice offer. I headed over to check out the bounty, only to find that the bugs were having a party and the only thing I could grab was a big, beautiful, fat summer squash. Okay, fine, I can use this! When I got home, I went to check out Annie's (in my back yard) garden and found a couple of golden zucchini, perfect. I had seen a recipe for a squash gratin in Food and Wine magazine that I wanted to try, it looked so interesting the way the squash were arranged. I changed a few things about it but the result is still the stunning, summer casserole that will delight your friends and family. Oh, and it tastes pretty good too. Take THAT bugs!
Summer Squash Bake
1/4 c extra virgen olive oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into quarters, sliced thinly
1 t sugar
1/4 white wine
6 pieces of summer squash, zucchini, yellow crookneck, striped globe, any combo will work, cut lengthwise into 1/8" slices, use a *mandoline for best results
1 c grated sharp white cheddar (you could sub gruyere or other tangy, sharp cheese)
6 - 8 baby tomatoes cut in half
sea salt and pepper
2 T parmesan to sprinkle on top
a few leaves of basil torn for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Heat 2T of the olive oil in a skillet and add the onions, a bit of salt and a grind of pepper. Cook until soft and slightly browned. Sprinkle with the sugar and cook for a minute more. Pour the wine over and cook for a couple of minutes more until the wine has evaporated. Place the onions in a gratin dish or shallow pie plate distributing evenly.
Slice the squash lengthwise on a mandoline and place on a sheet pan. Brush with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the grated cheese over and let sit for about 5 minutes to soften. Take a piece of squash and roll it up, setting it on the caramelized onions. Repeat with the remaining slices of squash working outward from the center until you reach the edge of the dish. Tuck the tomatoes in between the squash at various places. Whatever cheese is left on the baking sheets, just add that to the top of the bake. Bake for 30 minutes and then run under the broiler for a few minutes if it isn't browned enough. Sprinkle with parmesan and torn basil. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 6-8.
* a mandoline is invaluable in my kitchen and should be in yours too. They are available on line for about $25. I have had mine forever and it stays super sharp so be careful!
Lately, a few friends have been asking me for my tuna salad recipe, the one we used to make at Alchemy Market and Wine Bar and Wren Café. I don't blame them, it is different and delicious. It is also really simple. I think it's absolutely a summer picnic staple. I am happy to share this recipe because I know you will love it so much! Serve as a salad on lightly dressed greens with arugula and avocado or as a sandwich. It's great on country style bread or, (Alchemy style) on a croissant with alfalfa sprouts and avocado. You can also eat it like I do, on buttered crostini right out of the mixing bowl. YUM.
Dilled Tuna Salad
1 5 oz can albacore tuna, drained
2 T red onion, cut in 1/4" dice
2 T celery, cut in 1/4" dice
1 T dill, chopped finely
pinch of salt & a few grinds of pepper
1 T capers
1/4 c Best Foods mayonnaise
Mix the tuna with the onion, celery, dill, capers, salt and pepper and mayo. Chill for an hour or so. Serves 2.
Voted Best Caterer for Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties 2016