It all started with a simple, round, wooden tray that I bought a couple of weeks ago at a yard sale for $2.00. On my way to a swim party, I grabbed the tray and opened the fridge. Amazingly, I had a few things in there to start building an appetizer platter. A few olives, an Armenian cucumber from Susie's garden, some tomatoes from Annie's garden, leftover store bought hummus, half of a melon leftover from breakfast, a bit of prosciutto, lovely goat brie and fresh mozzarella balls (I always have some on hand during the summer tomato season) with some of my very own fresh basil leaves and some good crackers and parmesan crisps...honestly, I didn't even go to the store. I started with the cheese in the middle and with the help of some cute, small bowls for 'interest', I just kept the arranging going. Once you get started and have your focal point, it is pretty easy, fun and creative. I like the fact that guests can pick and choose what sort of bite they will have, it's interactive!
Sometimes inspiration can come from a platter, bowl or plate that simply "speaks to you".
Other ideas might include a tray of smoked salmon, sliced red onion, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocados, capers, cream cheese and bagels. Or chips, salsa, guacamole, black olives, baby tomatoes, queso chihuahua or Monterey Jack, fresh strawberries and some good crackers. Basically, use your imagination and have fun.
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!
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!"