My friend Sandra grows beautiful cucumbers, practically in one day! My favorite are the Armenian variety. They are so snappy and crunchy and the light green color is so cool and soothing. I like to cut the ends off, slice thickly and eat as a snack with only some good sea salt but I had purchased a melon the other day and I got to thinking about the combination of melon and cucumber. Here is the delicious result, an easy, refreshing summer salad that is a great side with any grilled meat or as a main dish just by adding some poached shrimp, You could even sprinkle with a bit of Feta cheese if you like. After I made this salad yesterday morning, I packed it up and took it to the lake! THE perfect picnic salad for a hot day.
Melon and Cucumber Salad
juice and zest of 1 lime
1 tsp honey
pinch of salt
1 T olive oil
1/2 Armenian or English cucumber or a combination, chunked
1/4 of an orange fleshed melon such as cantaloupe or orange honeydew, chunked
2 T red onion, sliced very thinly
generous pinch of hot pepper flakes
6 - 8 mint leaves, chopped fine
To make the vinaigrette, whisk the lime juice, honey and salt together in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the olive oil to emulsify.
Put the chunked cucumber and melon in a bowl and add the lime zest, pepper flakes and red onion. Toss with the vinaigrette and chopped mint. Chill and serve within the next few hours. Serves 4 as a side.
In Texas, where I grew up, the state fair is legendary. In fact, it's so famous that in 1962 Rodgers and Hammerstein made a musical about it called State Fair. I have always loved a good fair with the stuffed monkeys on a wand, the Ferris Wheel, felt hats with your name magically embroidered on in minutes, and of course CORN DOGS! Here in Calaveras County we also have a legendary county fair called the Jumping Frog Jubilee, made famous by Mark Twain's short story about the "celebrated jumping frog." Every third week in May people come from all over and bring or borrow a frog. They then compete to see how far they can get their frog to jump, hoping to be the next big winner. The Frog Jump is great, but the first thing I look for every year is the food trailer with the hand dipped corn dogs—none of those frozen, inauthentic ones for me! I am 'old school' about these crunchy, tasty dogs and eat mine with a side of mustard. They are also good with catsup if you must. See you out at the fair!
Miniature Corn Dogs
40 miniature sausages or cut regular hot dogs into thirds
1 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 t kosher salt
3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t cayenne
2 T plus 1 t sugar
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
3 T water
Mix the dry ingredients together. Mix the buttermilk and water together in a separate, larger bowl. Add the dry ingredients and stir. Mixture will be lumpy. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes. In a high sided 8 qt pot, heat 4 cups of veggie oil to 375 degrees (use a candy thermometer). Stick each sausage with a 4" skewer or a toothpick. Make sure you leave enough sticking out to grab on to. Give the batter a stir and transfer into a smaller, deeper container if easier. Dip each sausage into the batter and holding the toothpick end, drop into the oil, frying only 3 at a time. Turn with a slotted spoon until golden. Transfer to a sheet pan lined with paper towels. Serve with mustard and catsup or whatever your favorite condiment is. Makes 40.
I think I have told you about my book club, we meet for dinner once a month and always cook something inspired by the book. Last week I made this Cremini mushroom crostata. Cremini mushrooms are simply white button mushrooms allowed to grow a bit longer, so they have a bit more texture and flavor. We had just finished reading a book called "Circling the Sun" about a woman living in Kenya around the turn of the last century. In one of the chapters, she threw a party and made a mushroom crostata. A crostata is a rustic, free-form tart, usually filled with fruit but veggies work well too! It was actually easy to make the crust in the food processor and easy to handle so don't be intimidated. I served this as an appetizer but it would also be delicious as a light lunch dish served with a simple green salad.
Cremini Mushroom, Roasted Garlic, Fontina & Thyme Crostata
First, make the dough (it has to chill for an hour or make it a day ahead) and then get the garlic roasting.
3/4 c all purpose flour
3/4 c (6 oz) cold butter, diced
1/2 t salt
1/4 c ice cold water (you will add 1/8 c first and more as needed)
1 egg (for egg wash)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix flour and salt in a food processor. Add cold butter and pulse until sandy. Add 1/8 cup cold water. Mix or pulse until dough begins to form. Add more water as needed until dough forms. Gather dough, flatten into a pancake, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for one hour or refrigerate over night. Flour surface and roll out dough to a 1/8 inch thick round (won't be perfect, this is rustic!). It will be thinner than you think necessary, but this makes for a great crust. Roll the edges of the crust inward a few times to form a proper edge. Place dough on cookie sheet. Cover dough with a piece of aluminum foil, add weights or dry beans, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, remove foil and weights, poke all over the bottom with a fork and bake for 7 minutes. Beat egg. Coat entire dough in egg wash and bake for 3 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool for 10 minutes.
8 medium sized cloves of garlic, whole & unpeeled
1 T extra virgin olive oil
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap garlic cloves in aluminum foil and drizzle with oil. Throw in some fresh thyme stalks and bake for 40 minutes, until soft. Cool. Peel garlic cloves and spread the soft roasted garlic over the bottom of the crust in a light even layer.
1 lb Cremini mushrooms (you could mix in some wild ones too, if you like)
1 T fresh thyme leaves stripped from their stem
4 oz Italian fontina cheese, shredded (any soft, melting cheese with good flavor works)
2 T butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1 T extra virgin olive oil
After you have prepared the crust with the roasted garlic spread, raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Clean, trim, and chop mushrooms and stems. Put the mushrooms aside in medium size bowl. Drizzle 1 T olive oil over mushrooms, add a large pinch of salt, and toss. Melt butter in large sauté pan until sizzling and then add the mushrooms. Sprinkle with half of the thyme leaves. Cook over medium to medium high heat until all liquid is absorbed, about ten minutes. Toss in the rest of the thyme, a big dash of salt and pepper and cook for a minute. With a slotted spoon remove mushrooms from the pan. Put back into medium sized bowl. Let cool for ten minutes. Add shredded cheese and combine. Spread mushrooms and cheese evenly across the garlic schmeared crust. Return to oven and cook 10 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes and serve. This is also great at room temperature or the next morning cold from the fridge.
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!
A friend of mine had a milestone birthday yesterday so his wife threw him a big pot luck bbq party in our sweet ‘right out of Mayberry’ park here in Murphys. Since it’s the middle of summer and it has been blazing hot, I figured everyone would be bringing tomato and cucumber salads so in an attempt to be different I decided to bring deviled eggs. Everyone LOVES deviled eggs, right? I wanted to be a bit more original though so I decided to cut mine through the center instead of end to end and then add a bit of the devil, in the form of curry powder. Thanks to my friends from next door Paul and Bill and their beautiful hens, Claire and her sisters, I had plenty of fresh eggs!
Curried Deviled Eggs (makes 36)
18 eggs, hard boiled and peeled 3/4 cup Best Foods mayo, more if needed
1/4 of a red onion, chopped finely (sub green onion if you like)
1 stalk of celery with leaves, chopped finely
1 small jalapeño, cut in a tiny dice (optional)
1/4 cup parsley, chopped (you can also use cilantro)
1 T plus 2t good curry powder
sea salt and pepper, to taste
mango chutney (I like the Major Grey’s variety)
chives, chopped roughly, for garnish
Cut the eggs around the ‘equator’ and squeeze out the yolks into a fine sieve. Press through the sieve with the back of a soup spoon into a medium bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend. Stuff back into the whites ( you may have to cut a bit of white off the bottom so they sit flat). Garnish with the chutney and chives and chill until ready to serve.
*see my instructions for hard boiling eggs under Wren’s egg salad post in the June 2016 archives
As a caterer for over 30 years, I have established a reputation for consistently creating original menus inspired by the occasion and the season, presenting them with an ease and elegance uniquely my own. Fresh, locally-sourced ingredients are the basis of my creative “from scratch” menus, which range from the classically elegant to rustic and whimsical.
"Love your recipes! Pat made your avocado toast a few weeks ago, delish! I'm taking them to a party in a few weeks, although the mushroom crostata looks pretty darn good!"